Senate GOP Leaders: Stivers for president; Thayer to be floor leader; Stine and Seum re-elected and Smith as whip

11/27/2012 04:52 PM

The Republican state senators voted during a three-hour closed door meeting Tuesday to promote Sen. Robert Stivers to be Senate president and Sen. Damon Thayer of Georgetown to replace Stivers as GOP floor leader.

Stivers, of Manchester, must be formally voted in by the full Senate when the legislature convenes in January but won the majority caucus endorsement over independent Sen. Bob Leeper of Paducah.

The elections were held by secret ballot vote. Leeper said he was satisfied with how the elections were conducted. Stivers said Leeper will remain as Senate Appropriations and Revenue Committee chairman, a job he has held since the 2010 session.

Stivers had told Pure Politics in an interview that he expected the principles of the Senate Republican caucus to remain the same under his leadership as during former Senate President David Williams’ tenure that began in 2000. He said the style would likely be different.

Stivers immediately received praise from big-name Republicans, including U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell.

“He will do an outstanding job on behalf of Kentucky and I have total confidence that he can address the important issues facing the legislature and help move our state forward,” McConnell said in a statement. “The people of the Commonwealth can be assured that Senator Stivers and the energized, newly-elected Republican leadership team in Frankfort will work hard to tackle the state’s most pressing issues.”

Thayer, who has been in the Senate since 2003, bested Sen. David Givens of Greensburg for the floor leader position. Thayer had served as chairman of the Senate State and Local Government Committee — a post he will now have to give up after being elected to leadership. He made headlines last year when he carried the legislation backed by Demcoratic Gov. Steve Beshear that would allow expanded gambling in Kentucky. The measure fell eight votes short of passing the Senate.

But Thayer’s election to leadership could keep hope alive among proponents of expanded gambling that it might have another day on the Senate floor.

Sen. Katie Stine of Southgate wasn’t challenged in her bid to return as Senate president pro tem.

But Sen. Dan Seum of Louisville had to survive a challenge to remain as Senate Republican caucus chairman, a post he has held since 2009 when he moved over from the other leadership position: Senate GOP whip.

And for that spot, the Republican caucus elected Sen. Brandon Smith of Hazard. Like Stivers, Smith is an eastern Kentuckian. But that didn’t dissuade a majority of the Senate GOP caucus from picking him over Sen. Jimmy Higdon of Lebanon. The incumbent Senate whip, Carroll Gibson, opted not to run again.

Higdon said he lost to Smith in “a close two-man race.” Bowling Green Sen. Mike Wilson had expressed interest in the whip race but ultimately didn’t run.

While the Senate majority leadership team will not include anyone who lives west of Louisville, Stivers said the group pledges to “represent the state as a whole.”


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