Thayer: Gov. Beshear "has broken the law," Jack Conway is a "complicit partner"

08/23/2015 09:30 AM

GEORGETOWN — Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer is known for his ability to stir the pot when it comes to partisan politics.

Thayer, R-Georgetown, is doing just that in the gubernatorial election by connecting Democratic gubernatorial nominee Jack Conway, the state’s attorney general, to an imbalance in university board appointments in the state which has landed a previous Republican governor in court.

“The for sale sign is up” in the executive branch, Thayer said, pointing to reporting done by the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting and Louisville Courier-Journal showing university boards around the state are out-of-whack with the partisan makeup of the state.

Because of the political disparity in university board appointments, which also landed former Republican Gov. Ernie Fletcher in hot water during his term, Thayer said it’s time to clean house in the executive branch, adding that the current attorney general should be suing Beshear.

In 2007, then-Attorney General Greg Stumbo filed suit against Fletcher for the partisan makeup of university boards.

“I believe that the governor has broken the law. The statute is clear that when it comes to board appointments for our universities that it must reflect the partisan makeup of the two major parties” Thayer told Pure Politics. (6:19) “The Democrats only represent 52 percent of registered voters in Kentucky yet if you look at the appointments to the U of L, UK and KCTCS boards, the Democrats represented on there make up 70 to over 80 percent of the board appointments. That is against the law.

“And Jack Conway is a complicit partner,” Thayer continued. “As Attorney General he should be suing the governor to get him to correct the overly hyper partisan appointments to the university boards. And he’s not doing it. And it’s exact proof of why Jack Conway is not fit to be our next governor.”

Allison Martin, spokeswoman for the attorney general’s office, told Pure Politics that the “matter is under review, and it is the policy of the Office of the Attorney General to refrain from commenting on pending matters.”

Terry Sebastian, the governor’s communications director, said Beshear looks at a list of qualified names first provided by the Postsecondary Education’s Nominating Committee, when making board appointments.

“(T)he Governor looks for experience, relevant subject matter expertise and a host of other factors to ensure qualified representatives on the university boards,” Sebastian said in a statement. “The process does go through cycles where board members’ terms expire at staggered times and new appointees are needed at different times, but the Governor makes every effort to meet all of the different factors that are in the statutes –- geography, race, gender and political party.

“While any one time there may be a board whose membership is off balance somewhere, the Governor does his best to fulfill the intention of the statutes when appointing members.”

With Conway unlikely to bring a lawsuit against Beshear, Thayer told Pure Politics that suit could still be brought from outside of Frankfort — though he does not know of anyone currently working on that case.

Thayer continued his attack on Conway in the interview, saying his decision not to pursue legal action against Beshear wasn’t the first time he’s “abdicated his responsibilities,” pointing to Conway’s March 4, 2014, announcement that he would not appeal U.S. District Court Judge John G. Heyburn’s ruling striking down Kentucky’s ban on same-sex marriage.

On the campaign trail Conway has said he was within the boundaries of his job as attorney general to choose which lawsuits to pursue. Furthermore, Conway told reporters that he didn’t appeal Heyburn’s ruling because he though thought the law would be found unconstitutional.

“So Jack Conway has a crystal ball? He was able to predict how the Supreme Court would rule? … I throw the flag on that,” Thayer said in the interview. “I call foul. Fifteen-yard penalty, disqualification from being able to hold the office of Governor.”

In the interview, Thayer said the Republican Party is uniting behind their nominee Matt Bevin, and the state Senate Republican leadership team, of which Thayer is a member, has been coaching Bevin in the general election.

“Matt almost immediately after the primary reached out to Senate Republican leadership and we’ve had several meetings and conference calls with him, talking about how to help him win the race,” Thayer said.

“We talk about everything,” Thayer said of the phone calls. “We talk about scheduling. We talk about policy. We talk about what we can do to help him win. He has been very collaborative, and I think people should know that.”

Bevin is reaching out to “everyone” Thayer said, but at least one conservative columnist, WDRB’s John David Dyche, is not a fan. Recently Dyche penned a column linking Bevin and controversial presidential GOP frontrunner Donald Trump.

“Bevin and Trump are –- how shall I say this politely? -– abrasive. Maybe confrontational. Perhaps pugnacious is a better word. You know what I mean so supply your own adjective,” Dyche wrote.

Thayer, who said he likes Dyche, said he has been “a little hard on Matt.”


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