Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson appointed to position in White House, Crit Luallen appointed to replace him

11/06/2014 12:01 PM

UPDATED WITH VIDEO: It took two months for Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson to clear all the requisite White House applications and background checks before he was named a deputy assistant to President Barack Obama and director of the administration’s intergovernmental affairs.

For former state Auditor Crit Luallen, who will replace Abramson once his resignation takes effect next week, the process took about 30 seconds in a meeting with Gov. Steve Beshear Oct. 15.

Abramson announced his resignation effective as lieutenant governor effective 5 p.m. Nov. 13 during a press conference at the Capitol Thursday, telling reporters he will help the president’s domestic agenda with state and local officials throughout the U.S. in his new role and focus on issues like infrastructure improvements, health care, minimum wage and affordable housing.

“The position is exciting, but let me just stop for a moment and say it has been an exciting opportunity to work with Steve Beshear and the team that he has around him here in the governor’s office,” said Abramson, who joined Beshear’s 2011 reelection campaign after serving five terms as Louisville’s mayor.

An opportunity to work with the president—in an office Abramson said will be in the West Wing nearly directly above the Oval Office — was too good to pass up after talking it over with his family, he said.

“I really felt I had some experience and background that I could add value, and finally they called and made a request of me as to whether I would take the position,” Abramson said.

Beshear bragged on Abramson’s time in the position, saying he has been the most active lieutenant governor in the state. Abramson ran on the ballot with Beshear in 2011 after Daniel Mongiardo left the administration to run for U.S. Senate in the Democratic primary.

“In ways big and small, these appointments will bring tangible benefit to the nation, to Kentucky and to the lives of its people,” Beshear said. “… Jerry knows the challenges confronting state, county and city governments better than almost anybody, so it’s no surprise that President Obama and his advisers recognize that expertise and stole him away from me.

“Well, they are fortunate to have him. I am confident that he will continue to make Kentucky proud in his career, and we look forward to working with him as a friend an ally in Washington.”

Beshear said his search for a replacement to Abramson was similar to the process he went through in 2011.

“My search began and ended with one person — Crit Luallen,” Beshear said.

Luallen, a two-term state auditor, will be the third person to serve in the job since Beshear took office in 2007. She will be sworn in at a private ceremony Nov. 13 with a public event planned for 2:30 p.m. Nov. 14, Beshear announced.

She congratulated Abramson on his appointment and the opportunity for the former Louisville mayor to continue his public service at a national level. She said she looks forward to helping Beshear advance health initiatives and help his administration in any way she can.

Luallen, who decided against a run for governor in 2015, said that the decision to become second-in-command was simple.

“This decision was an easy one for me because in every aspect of his leadership responsibilities, Gov. Beshear has led with integrity, always making his decisions based on what he believed was right for the people he serves,” she said. “It is a high honor to stand here today in partnership with this governor.

“My life to date has been an interesting journey, where doors of opportunity have opened for me in fortunate and sometimes surprising ways. I see this step as yet another opportunity, one where I can continue to serve Kentucky and offer my experience and perspective to Gov. Beshear and the fine team that he has assembled.”

When asked about the possibility of her reconsidering a run for governor next year, Luallen joked about the idea by saying, “Yes, I am announcing today. Sorry Jack!” She reiterated her support for her close friend Attorney General Jack Conway, who attended Thursday’s event, in the 2015 race.

Luallen said she will continue to support Conway’s bid for governor, but she will not take an active role in the campaign “if there is a Democratic primary” once she becomes lieutenant governor.

“We (she and Beshear) expect to both be very involved once that Democratic nominee is chosen and helping to elect a Democrat to the governor’s office next fall,” she said.

Conway, speaking to reporters after the press conference, said Luallen was set to work as a policy adviser to his campaign, which may change the amount of time she has to work for his candidacy now that she’s a member of Beshear’s administration.

“I don’t think it affects it all that much,” he said. “I think the fact that she endorsed was a huge asset in the first place because Crit has a lot of followers in the commonwealth of Kentucky.”

Conway added, “Crit will always be someone whether she’s lieutenant governor, whether I’m governor, whether she’s a private citizen, anything, Crit will always be someone that in the evening I can pick up the phone and talk to about policy issues, can talk to about friendship, can talk to about how to handle my 5- and 3-year-old daughters. I mean, that’s just kind of the relationship we have.”

After the announcement, state Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, sent out a statement congratulating both Abramson and Luallen.

“I have great respect for Crit Luallen. She and I have always worked well together, professionally and personally, and I look forward to that relationship continuing with Lt. Gov. Luallen,” Stivers said. “On behalf of the Kentucky Senate, I would like to wish Jerry Abramson the best in his new role in the Obama administration.”

House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, wished Luallen the best in her new role with the Beshear administration.

“Crit Luallen has served state government in a variety of ways over the years, so she certainly will bring a wealth of information to the administration,” he said in a statement.

Kevin Wheatley

Kevin Wheatley is a reporter for Pure Politics. He joined cn|2 in September 2014 after five years at The State Journal in Frankfort, where he covered Kentucky government and politics. You can reach him at kevin.wheatley@charter.com or 502-792-1135 and follow him on Twitter at @KWheatley_cn2.

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