Rep. Denny Butler interested in speaker pro tem slot but says he'll support Jefferson County caucus pick

11/13/2014 04:20 PM

After House Speaker Pro Tem Larry Clark of Louisville announced on Wednesday he would not seek reelection to the post he’s held since 1993, Jefferson County may lose its voice in House Democratic leadership.

State Rep. Denny Butler hopes to keep that from happening, and he plans to express his interest in the vacancy during a meeting of Jefferson County House Democrats on Saturday.

Butler, D-Louisville, joins Rep. Dennis Keene, D-Wilder, and Rep. Jeff Greer, D-Brandenburg, as potential entrants in the open speaker pro tem slot.

“We had a delegation meeting last night that was set up months ago, and of the members that were there we discussed the topic of a vacancy in leadership from Jefferson County, and there’s a meeting convening this Saturday with the Jefferson County delegation to hopefully come together as a group and select a member from Jefferson County that everyone can support and move forward from there,” Butler told Pure Politics Thursday in a phone interview.

“I will express my interest to that delegation that I am interested, but there may be other members from Jefferson County interested and obviously hopefully we can work that out and everybody become unified and support one candidate.”

Butler said he’s been encouraged by about a dozen House Democrats to run for the leadership post as well as a number of community leaders in Jefferson County. He said he told those lawmakers he would consider the speaker pro tem position, but he would not run against Clark.

While he’s entering his second term in the House and his opponents may use his legislative inexperience against him in a run for speaker pro tem, Butler said his 21 years in law enforcement have given him a wealth of experience that would prove key in a House leadership position.

In fact, Butler had a higher role in mind this summer when he spent two days touring coal mining operations in Pike County this summer.

“I think it brings a different relationship,” Butler said. “I think Larry served the community well. He did wonderful things and continued to do wonderful things. I think I can bring a fresh approach to where corporate Louisville, Louisville working class, everybody would have a voice at the table.

“In the police world, bringing the different sides together, we called them plea agreements, and it’s pretty much the same concept. It’s building relationships, and in politics it’s called legislation and it’s finding the middle ground and working from there and listening to both sides of it.”

Regardless of whether he’s the Jefferson County Democratic caucus’ pick to run for speaker pro tem, Butler said he’ll support a Louisville Democrat for the post because Kentucky’s largest city is an economic driver for the state.

“I think it becomes a lot bigger than me or whoever the delegation selects,” he said. “I think it’s a necessity for Jefferson County to be represented, and unfortunately Dennis Keene and Jeff Greer are not from Jefferson County, and I think that is going to be the issue for folks in Jefferson County and hopefully the legislators from Jefferson County will see that. We need a voice at the table of leadership, and with Larry stepping down that is a vacuum that we need to fill.”

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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