House Republican leader Jeff Hoover in first leadership challenge as Rep. Adam Koenig vies for top GOP spot

12/12/2014 09:31 AM

UPDATED WITH HOOVER REACTION: After leading his Republican caucus for 14 years and becoming the longest serving House minority floor leader in Kentucky history, Rep. Jeff Hoover will face his first ever challenger next month as Rep. Adam Koenig announced on Friday his intent to run for the top House GOP post.

Koenig, chairman of the northern Kentucky House GOP caucus who is entering his fifth term in office, said he discussed the leadership post with much of the Republican caucus and said “a substantial majority” are open to a change at the top after this fall’s elections, with Democrats maintaining their 54-46 majority in the House.

“After the election, many were upset,” Koenig, R-Erlanger, said in a phone interview with Pure Politics. “We were talking in small groups because everyone’s afraid to say anything, and I started talking outside my normal little group of people and kept finding frustration everywhere I went and everyone I talked to.”

Talking to fellow House Republicans, GOP donors and others in the party, Koenig said many expressed a need for change in leadership “so that we could move to the next level and change the direction of this state.”

When asked about when he made the decision, Koenig said he spoke to others about their interests in the top post, but time constraints hindered them. While being a state representative is a part-time position, Koenig said he would be “a full-time, hands-on” leader if he unseats Hoover.

“At some point it became obvious that if it was going to happen, it was going to be up to me, and that’s pretty much when I made the decision,” said Koenig, who is making his second run for leadership after mounting a bid for minority whip in 2013.

Hoover, a Jamestown Republican who was first elected minority floor leader in 2001, told Pure Politics he has spoken with nearly every member of the House Republican caucus and is confident they will re-elect him in January.

Since his ascent to the top of the House GOP food chain, Hoover said he has never been challenged in leadership elections.

He believes the experience he’s gained and the relationships he’s fostered, both politically and legislatively, will ultimately help him defend his position as minority floor leader.

“Rep. Koenig wishes to pursue this,” Hoover said in a phone interview. “He certainly has every right to do so and I don’t begrudge him for that in the least, but I’m committed and remain committed to making us become the majority party in the House of Representatives, and I do think a majority of the caucus supports me in that.”

Koenig’s push for leadership “is not a discussion or a debate about the direction of the Republican Party from a policy perspective,” he said.

Rather, Koenig hopes to bring a fresh perspective and approach to the caucus’ political strategy after this year’s elections yielded no change in the state House’s partisan makeup. “Flip the House” has been a constant refrain from Republicans on the campaign trail in recent election cycles as they seek a majority in the chamber for the first time since 1921.

“When we’re outside of session we have to change what we’ve been doing, and more importantly the folks who support our candidates from a party perspective and from a monetary perspective, those who are willing to express an opinion have told me that we have to change things,” Koenig said. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people say to me, ‘What’s the definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.’

“That just keeps popping up out of people’s mouths, and that’s why I’m in it. Not because of any policy differences.”

While House Republicans failed to capitalize on the GOP wave that swept Senate Majority Leader-elect Mitch McConnell to a 15-point victory and state Senate Republicans to a supermajority on Election Night, Hoover identified some silver linings for his caucus, particularly winning four seats after entering the elections with 42 incumbents.

“Those of us who were working everyday to make that a reality and who were out in the trenches raising money and doing things that needed to be done, we all realized that it quite a challenge,” Hoover said. “And upon reflection and analysis and meeting with donors, meeting with folks that were observing the races, it really was quite an accomplishment for us to even pick up four seats considering this was the first election after newly redrawn district boundaries.

“It’s the first time that a minority party has actually gained seats in the first election after redistricting. We raised more money than we’d ever raised before and we still got outspent. I can tell you nobody is more disappointed than me, and I’m confident that no member of the caucus invested more than I did either, either with funds or time or whatever.”

Koenig said early Friday that he had reached out to Hoover unsuccessfully and the two haven’t discussed his leadership candidacy. However, he doesn’t expect the current minority floor leader to be caught off guard since he’s already discussed the race with members of the GOP caucus.

“There’s really no sneak attacks in this business,” he said. “Word travels fast.”

Hoover said Koenig’s challenge would not affect their working relationship moving forward.

“It will not on my part,” he said. “Not at all.”

Koenig is the latest House Republican attempting to reshuffle the minority party’s leadership team.

The GOP will elect a new caucus chairman — the only public contender thus far is Rep. David Osborne, R-Prospect — after Rep. Bob DeWeese, R-Louisville, announced he would not seek re-election, and House Minority Whip Bam Carney, R-Campbellsville, faces a bevy of challengers in his first bid for re-election.


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