Louisville Rep. Denny Butler switches party affiliation to GOP

11/19/2015 10:16 AM

UPDATED WITH REACTION FROM STUMBO, STIVERS, MCCONNELL: Rep. Denny Butler of Louisville has switched his party affiliation from Democrat to Republican.

Butler has served two terms in the House of Representatives as a Democrat, but according to a filing with the Secretary of State’s website he has changed his registration to Republican when he filed for re-election on Wednesday.

Republican House Leader Jeff Hoover tweeted out the change in party affiliation and welcomed Butler into the GOP caucus.

Hoover’s office later sent an official statement welcoming Butler to the GOP.

“Representative Butler informed me this morning that he had officially switched his registration to Republican late yesterday afternoon, and would be seeking re-election as a Republican,” Hoover said in the statement. “Representative Butler and I have had a very good relationship over the years and have developed a strong friendship.

“His extensive background in law enforcement is only matched by his unwavering integrity and desire for more transparency in state government,” Hoover continued. “He is a welcome addition to the House Republican ranks which now stands at 47 members.”

Butler did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Pure Politics.

The Louisville lawmaker is a retired police sergeant and the son of the late former state Rep. Denver Butler.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo, noting that he served alongside Denny Butler’s father in the General Assembly, said he heard the news Thursday morning but had not heard from Butler himself.

The impetus for Butler’s decision to move from the Democratic ranks to the Republican column may stem from retiring Rep. Larry Clark’s endorsement of Alan Gentry in the Democratic primary to replace him in the 46th House District. Butler’s brother, Matt Butler, also filed for the seat as a Democrat but has since withdrawn.

“I know there’s been a, sort of a feud down there in the district that Larry Clark represented,” Stumbo said at the Kentucky Association of Counties conference in Lexington. “I assume that has something to do with it, but I hope that he will reconsider. He comes from a very long line of Democrats.”

“I’ll wait to see what he has to say about it,” Stumbo added, noting he has a call in to the lawmaker.

Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, he has heard rumors of other Democrats looking to join the House GOP caucus, but he believes Butler’s decision has more to do “with that political situation in Louisville than it is an effort by Republicans to reach out to members.”

Senate President Robert Stivers, however, said he has been aware of talks between Butler and House Republicans “for a while — the definite date I can’t say.”

The Manchester Republican hinted that more Democrats could be joining the House Republican caucus in light of this year’s election results, with the GOP taking five of the state’s seven constitutional offices.

“We welcome Denny over, but I don’t think he’ll be the last one,” Stivers said at the KACo conference. “… I think there’s a lot of communications going on with a lot of different people. It’s a big process, and I think it just goes to show the changing of values of the people that are involved in this state in politics.”

Asked whether the House could be in Republican hands by the time the session starts in January, Stivers said, “There’s always a chance. It’s kind of like forecasting the weather.”

“It’s not anything personal against the speaker,” he said. “It’s just the changing attitudes and philosophies of this state becoming a more conservative state, and I think it’s just a matter of time before it does happen.”

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, also welcomed Butler into the GOP today.

“The Republican Party continues to grow in the Commonwealth, and today, I welcome Rep. Denny Butler to our party,” McConnell said in a statement. “I am confident he will deliver for Kentucky and do an outstanding job representing his constituents in Frankfort.”

The change in registration moves the GOP one spot closer to controlling the state House, which has been in the hands of the Democratic Party since 1921. The move from Butler shifts Democratic control in the House to a 53-47 lead.

However, two of those elected to constitutional offices — Auditor-elect Mike Harmon and Agriculture Commissioner-elect Ryan Quarles — will vacate their seats in January, paving the way for special elections.

Additional reporting from Lexington by Pure Politics reporter Kevin Wheatley

About Nick Storm

Nick Storm is the Anchor and Managing Editor of Pure Politics, the only nightly program dedicated to Kentucky politics. Nick covers all of the political heavyweights and his investigative work brings to light issues that might otherwise go unnoticed, like the connection between the high profile Steubenville, Ohio rape and a Kentucky hacker whose push for further investigation could put him in federal prison. Nick is also working on a feature length bio documentary Outlaw Poet: A documentary on Ron Whitehead. Follow Nick on Twitter @NickStorm_cn2. Nick can be reached at 502-792-1107 or nicholas.storm@twcnews.com.

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