Too soon to say about David Williams' return as president, senators say

06/11/2012 05:58 PM

David Williams says he has the votes from his fellow Republicans to remain Senate president for two more years.

But some of those fellow Republicans say it’s too early for that kind of talk.

Republican Sen. Damon Thayer of Georgetown told Pure Politics’ Don Weber on Monday that the GOP caucus will have “some really difficult decisions to make.” And Thayer said a lot must happen between now and the internal leadership elections in January. Here’s the video clip of what he said:

So far, no one has announced an intent to challenge Williams. Republican Sen. Julie Denton of Louisville did in 2010 but withdrew just before the vote after Williams bumped up the caucus leadership election meeting from December to November. Denton knew she didn’t have the votes by then.

Thayer had been a loyal supporter of Williams before the 2012 session. Then their relationship turned sour after Thayer crossed party lines to work with Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear on a push to allow expanded gambling. By the end of the session, Thayer saw few bills getting sent to the state government committee that he chairs. And he and Williams got into a heated exchange toward the end of the five day special session in April.

One big factor in leadership elections could be the November general elections.

Only eight state Senate seats are contested and of those only half are expected to be somewhat competitive: two involve Democratic incumbents Perry Clark of Louisville and Joey Pendleton of Hopkinsville; one is a challenge to Republican Floor Leader Robert Stivers of Manchester; and the most competitive race is for the seat being vacated by retiring Republican Sen. Ken Winters in western Kentucky.

Republicans gaining seats could offer more leverage for Williams to remain as leader of the Senate, while the GOP majority losing seats or treading water could give Williams’ critics more fodder.

Stivers, meanwhile, said the Republicans — plus independent Sen. Bob Leeper of Paducah — are a “very independent, diverse group” who will decide the fate of current leaders. Here’s what he said in an interview last Tuesday:

Senate Republicans are expecting to welcome at least two new members to their caucus in January to replace Williams loyalists. Chris Girdler won the 15th state Senate District GOP primary last month in the race to replace retiring Republican Sen. Vernie McGaha of Russell Springs. Girdler is essentially unopposed in November because the Democrat who filed doesn’t live in the district.

And in Northern Kentucky, Chris McDaniel is widely favored to win the Republican-heavy 23rd state Senate seat to replace retiring Sen. Jack Westwood of Erlanger.

McDaniel told Pure Politics during his primary campaign that he wouldn’t make any commitments about leadership races until getting to hear from the candidates for those positions himself. Here’s how he explained it:

But from the other side of the aisle, one Senate Democrat said he expects to see a new president presiding over the upper chamber in 2013.

Sen. Walter Blevins, a Democrat from Morehead who has served in the Senate since 1992, said “we need new leadership in that Senate chamber.” Blevins said he expects someone to challenge Williams but wouldn’t say which senator.


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