McConnell, Bevin say political changes on the horizon for Democrat-led House

01/06/2016 05:18 PM

FRANKFORT — Two Kentucky Republicans who won lopsided victories over their Democratic opponents — U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Gov. Matt Bevin — predicted Wednesday that the last southern legislative chamber in Democratic hands would soon come under GOP control.

McConnell, who met with Bevin privately in the governor’s Capitol office, called the political outcome “inevitable, and Bevin said Republicans would triumph in the upcoming election cycle.

“It is a matter of time,” Bevin said. “It’s a function of when the House turns. It will happen in 2016. There’s no question about that.”

McConnell noted that he has helped state Rep. Jonathan Shell in his efforts to recruit candidates for this fall’s legislative contests. Shell, R-Lancaster, has chaired the House GOP’s campaign committee since its inception last year.

McConnell says he will have a role on the campaign trail this year, but recruitment is an integral step in assuming control of the chamber for the first time since 1921. He harkened back to his nearly 15-point win over Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes in 2014, a year in which his fellow Republicans made no gains in the House’s 54-46 Democratic majority.

“In my election where we had a really good election, carried 110 out of 120 counties and won by 15 points, there were five state representative seats where we didn’t even have a Republican opponent,” McConnell said. “Obviously you can’t win if you lose the election on the filing deadline.”

Bevin said McConnell’s political insight has proven beneficial as Republicans ready for contentious legislative races.

Democrats maintain a 50-46 majority in the chamber after GOP Reps. Denny Butler, of Louisville, and Jim Gooch, of Providence, left the Democratic ranks and Bevin appointed two House Democrats to other positions — Justice and Public Safety Cabinet Secretary John Tilley, of Hopkinsville, and Tanya Pullin, of South Shore, as an administrative law judge.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo has shown that he won’t go down without a fight, however.

The Courier-Journal reported Tuesday that Stumbo said the Kentucky Democratic Party is considering filing a lawsuit against former Democratic representatives for defrauding the party and donors, suggesting that some may have been bribed to leave the party.

McConnell didn’t recall any quid pro quo offers in any recruitment meetings.

“In the meetings I was in we wanted to convince people to help change Kentucky, and until you change Kentucky legislatively you can’t make us competitive with surrounding states, which is what the governor talked about all during his campaign,” said McConnell, R-Ky. “

Bevin offered a harsher criticism of the House speaker.

“His comments are embarrassing, frankly, to him,” Bevin said. “They’re embarrassing to his party. They’re embarrassing to the state of Kentucky. They smack of a desperation that’s frankly beneath even him.”

Speaking after the House adjourned today, Stumbo said he believes the idea that the Democratic Party could file suit has merit.

He also referenced remarks from U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara of New York, who spoke to lawmakers on Wednesday as part of their ethics training.

Part of Bharara’s speech centered on bribes accepted by New York assemblymen in recent criminal cases. In one case, a Republican senator secured a job for his son, according to Bharara.

“If in fact those types of offers or conversations were had … and if members are doing that and if the governor was a part of that, I would be concerned if I were them,” said Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg.

“I don’t have any firsthand knowledge, but there’s a lot of rumors,” he added.

Butler and Gooch declined to comment on Stumbo’s remarks.


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