Meet the freshmen: New lawmakers add a mix of youth and experience to Frankfort

12/10/2012 09:17 AM

Though not the most diverse class, the newest 19 members of the Kentucky General Assembly does skew younger than most incoming groups of legislators with seven new lawmakers who are 40 or younger.

Otherwise, of the 19, all but one are men. Fifteen are Republicans. Six will go to the Senate, 13 to the House.

Two other notes:

  • Two already have been sworn in to fill unexpired terms: Republican Rep. Richard Heath, R-Mayfield in the 2nd House District, and Sen. Morgan McGarvey, D-Louisville of the 19th state Senate District.

  • And one isn’t really a freshman at all. Sen.-Elect Albert Robinson, R-London, returns to the Capitol after an eight-year hiatus after Tom Jensen defeated him in the 2004 Republican primary in the 21st Senate District. Jensen won partially by criticizing Robinson for slipping a legislative pension increase into a convoluted provision in a 2000 bill — a move that the courts overturned three years later.

Pure Politics covered many of these new lawmakers during the campaign season. And last week, we caught up with several of them as they absorbed their first taste of what it will be like to be a lawmaker. Here’s a first look at the 2013 class:

The seven members of the kiddie corps of the new class are: Rep.-Elect Jonathan Shell, R-Lancaster (25); Sen.-Elect Whitney Westfield, R-Hopkinsville (32); McGarvey, who turns 33 on Dec. 23; Sen.-Elect Chris Girdler, R-Somerset (33); Sen.-Elect Chris McDaniel, R-Taylor Mill (35); Rep.-Elect David Meade, R-Stanford (36); and Rep.-Elect Brian Linder, R-Dry Ridge (40).

Next up for the freshmen is finding out which committees they’ll join. Most of those assignments will be doled out by legislative leaders during the organizational portion of the 2013 General Assembly from Jan. 8-11.

In the Senate, one of the six freshmen already landed a key committee chairmanship. Westerfield was named Senate Judiciary Chairman. Westerfield is a lawyer who formerly served as an assistant prosecutor in Christian County.

Shell, the youngest member of the class who turned 25 on Dec. 1, will represent the 36th House District covering Garrard and part of Madison counties. As a farmer, he said he hopes to serve on the House Agriculture Committee, Banking Committee and Health and Welfare Committee.

Democrat Denny Butler of Louisville is familiar with the legislature as the son of the late Rep. Denver Butler, who served 18 years in the House. The younger Butler, a retired police detective, is hoping for the Judiciary Committee.

And Gerald Watkins, the new Democratic representative from Paducah, says he hopes to land on the Judiciary and Education committees. Watkins is a political science professor at Western Kentucky Community and Technical College and has served as a Paducah city commissioner.

About Ryan Alessi

Ryan Alessi joined cn|2 in May 2010 as senior managing editor and host of Pure Politics. He is now pursuing an advanced degree in non-fiction writing from Murray State University and is a regular contributor to Pure Politics. Ryan has covered politics for more than 14 years, including seven years as a reporter for the Lexington Herald-Leader. Ryan can be reached at purepolitics@twcable.com or @mycn2 on Twitter.

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