Political resolutions for 2017: What some Kentucky politicos may hope to accomplish in the year ahead

12/31/2016 07:30 PM

People make New Year’s resolutions every Jan. 1, and politicians are no different.

As you start 2017 with your goals in mind, here are some possible New Year’s resolutions for Kentucky’s political class as they head into Tuesday’s 30-day legislative session and gear up for the next rounds of elections.

Gov. Matt Bevin: Maintain good relationships with Senate President Robert Stivers and House Speaker-elect Jeff Hoover

With Republicans in complete control of the executive and legislative branches of state government, expect a lot of movement on priority legislation for the GOP in the 30-day session that starts Tuesday.

Republican leaders have been harmonious in saying the 2017 session will primarily focus on economic issues, and Bevin has indicated that he expects lawmakers to ratify reorganizations he’s made in the past year, notably the University of Louisville’s board of trustees.

Bevin has also said he plans to call a special session sometime this year to address tax reform, a complex endeavor that has been studied but never acted upon for years.

To ensure a smooth special session and passage of his pet issues in 2017 and beyond, Bevin will have to keep up his working relationship with the legislative gatekeepers and his fellow Republicans in Stivers, R-Manchester, and Hoover, R-Jamestown.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell: Coax Senate Democrats into voting with the GOP

McConnell’s Republican majority in the U.S. Senate dropped from 54 to 52 in the 2016 election cycle, meaning he’ll now need to convince at least eight Democrats to break rank to reach the 60 votes necessary to pass legislation in the upper chamber.

McConnell has said he will look to the midterm electoral map, in which 23 Democrats and two independents who caucus with them will be up for re-election compared to eight Republicans, to peel away some votes.

If he hopes to keep some of the promises he and others have made on the campaign trail, chiefly repealing and replacing President Barack Obama’s signature health law known as Obamacare, he’ll have his work cut out for him in 2017.

Andy Beshear, Alison Lundergan Grimes, Adam Edelen and other Kentucky Democrats: Decide plans for 2018, 2019 and beyond

The 2015 election cycle sent Kentucky Democrats scrambling, and 2017 presents an opportunity for some to evaluate their political prospects before laying the groundwork for their next campaigns.

Attorney General Andy Beshear and Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes are the only Democrats elected to statewide office, and they narrowly won their elections in 2015.

Each has been hampered in the past year, with Beshear tarnished by his top deputy’s federal bribery conviction and Grimes stumping for a presidential candidate in Hillary Clinton who won just two of Kentucky’s 120 counties Nov. 8. The term-limited secretary of state will not be able to claim sanctity of the ballot box as she did when dodging questions on whether she voted for Obama during her 2014 race against McConnell.

Edelen launched the New Kentucky Project, billed as a postpartisan group, alongside Kentucky Sports Radio’s Matt Jones after he lost his re-election as state auditor despite a significant fundraising advantage over Auditor Mike Harmon. He had been discussed as a potential challenger to U.S. Sen. Rand Paul this year until that defeat.

If Beshear, Grimes and Edelen have other political aspirations, they should use 2017 as the time to get their bearings.

Grimes and Edelen, Lexington residents, could challenge U.S. Rep. Andy Barr in 2018, as could Lexington Mayor Jim Gray, who lost to Paul by 14 points this year. Beshear should run for re-election or mount a gubernatorial bid in 2019. If Beshear takes the latter route, Grimes could run for attorney general if she doesn’t decide to launch her own gubernatorial campaign. Edelen, Gray and other Democrats that haven’t been mentioned could also enter the gubernatorial fray.

House Speaker-elect Jeff Hoover: Keep a steady hand at the helm

Hoover has acknowledged the monumental responsibility facing Republicans after claiming control of the state’s House of Representatives for the first time since 1921.

The legislative agenda he and other Republicans have laid out are focused on economic issues like right-to-work, prevailing wage repeal and, to a certain extent, charter schools.

Hoover has also said he plans to implement changes to the lower chamber’s rules and procedures and give Democrats in the minority more influence than his caucus was given when Democrats were in charge.

After 10 years leading a minority caucus, Hoover will have to learn how to navigate a 64-member supermajority through 2017’s 30-day session and beyond in the near future, keeping the natives happy while not giving Democrats much, if any, ammunition for the 2018 midterms.

Kentucky Democratic Party: Develop strategy to chip away at Republican supermajority in House

Out of power in the House after its 53-47 majority fell to a 36-64 minority on Nov. 8, the Kentucky Democratic Party lost its hold on the last southern legislative chamber in Democratic hands.

If they want to climb back into the majority, they’ll have to start aggressively recruiting candidates and raising cash, a strategy employed by the Kentucky GOP after the 2014 election cycle.

The Republican takeover of the state Senate in 2000 eventually led to a GOP supermajority in that chamber, but this year’s House election results put Democrats in a deeper hole in the lower chamber.

Republican Party of Kentucky: Work to build on supermajorities in General Assembly

Republicans turned to McConnell for guidance in claiming control of the House after the 2014 results kept them in the minority, and they should continue that plan if they hope to strengthen their grip in the state legislature.

Nearly every House district had a Republican candidate, and the party was flush with cash with a Republican governor hitting the fundraising circuit.

The Republican Party of Kentucky can use 2017 to raise even more money with its hold on the executive and legislative branches of government and recruit Senate and House candidates to build on both chambers’ supermajorities.


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