Rep. Arnold Simpson says challenge to Clark is about offering a "choice" -- nothing personal

01/07/2013 06:52 PM

When the 2013 General Assembly convenes on Tuesday at noon, one of the first orders of business in the House is to pick its leaders for the next two years. And the biggest position up for grabs is the Speaker Pro Tem — a job Rep. Larry Clark has held since 1994.

That happens to have been the same year his challenger for the job, Rep. Arnold Simpson, D-Covington, was first elected to the legislature.

In an interview Monday, Simpson said he didn’t want to talk publicly about specific reasons for challenging Clark. He said that he just wants to give the caucus a choice.

“It’s a new legislative body at this particular point, therefore, I think that my candidacy will give the caucus a choice and it’s not to say anything negative about the current choice,” said Simpson. This is the second straight leadership election in which Clark has found himself challenged. Two years ago, former Speaker of the House, Jody Richards, D-Bowling Green, narrowly lost his bid to unseat Clark.

Simpson said, if elected Speaker Pro Tem, he would have the best interest
of the entire commonwealth in making decisions among the five leaders of the majority party. But it also would give a voice to Northern Kentucky in those leadership meetings — something the region hasn’t had since Jim Callahan retired in 2004.

“I think having someone from Northern Kentucky at the table will heighten the awareness of the needs,” Simpson said.

If elected, Simpson would become the first African-American state representative to serve in a House leadership position. Simpson said that could send a positive message to many Kentuckians.

“It would demonstrate that if you study hard, if you do well in school, I mean, your opportunities are limitless,” said Simpson.

When contacted late this afternoon, a Clark staff member said that the Speaker Pro Tem had no comment on Simpson’s opposition.

Simpson and Clark’s race is one of five House leadership races that will be decided Tuesday when the legislature convenes:

  • Rep. Tommy Thompson, D-Owensboro, faces a challenge from Rep. Johnny Bell, D-Glasgow, for a second term as Democratic whip.
  • For Democratic caucus chairman, Rep. Bob Damron, D-Nicholasville, again finds himself challenged by a fellow-central Kentuckian. Rep. Sannie Overly, D-Paris, is his rival this time.
  • For Republican caucus chairman, there is a three-way race between the incumbent, longtime Rep. Bob DeWeese of Louisville, and Reps. Brad Montell of Shelbyville and Steven Rudy of West Paducah.
  • And in the one open leadership post — to replace retired Rep. Danny Ford for GOP whip — Rep. Adam Koenig of Erlanger and Rep. Bam Carney of Campbellsville are squaring off against each other.


Subscribe to email updates.

Subscribe and get the latest political intelligence delivered to your inbox.