Williams for governor? He criticizes Beshear, won't rule out a run in 2011

06/14/2010 07:06 PM

(WITH VIDEO) LOUISVILLE — State Senate President David Williams launched a political broadside at Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear on Saturday, criticizing him in a speech for being a “do-nothing governor,” and later said he’s being encouraged to challenge Beshear in next year’s governor’s race.

Senate President David Williams

Williams, speaking to more than 220 Republican activists at the party’s second annual leadership conference Saturday, said the incumbent governor won’t have any key accomplishments on which to base his re-election campaign next year. Williams then predicted that, as a result, Republicans will “replace the governor” next year.

Williams said later in an interview with cn|2 Politics that he is hearing from people who want him to be the candidate to do it.

“I have a lot of people who encourage me to be a candidate,” he said, although he declined to say whether he would.

Beshear, through a statement issued by spokeswoman Kerri Richardson, dismissed Williams’ criticism.

“I guess Sen. Williams had to do some politicking this weekend now that he has left Frankfort,” said the statement to cn|2 Politics. “Meanwhile I have been busy bringing the House and Senate together to pass a budget and helping our citizens cope with this recession.”

But Williams, on Saturday, said Beshear didn’t deserve credit for leading on the budget process:

Williams initially offered a positive review of the version of the budget Beshear proposed in early May as a starting point to break the stalemate between the Democratic-controlled House and the Republican-led Senate over the $17.3 billion two-year budget.

The General Assembly went home at the end of the regular session April 15 without passing that spending plan, which prompted Beshear to call them back for the special session.

Now Williams is downplaying the governor’s role because he said the version of the spending plan Beshear laid out in early May wasn’t much of a compromise because it closely mirrored the draft of the bill the Senate had pushed for in April.

“The governor of the commonwealth of Kentucky does not deserve one ounce of credit for calling us back into session so that he would have the authority to run this government and wouldn’t have to take the responsibility of shutting the government down,” Williams said. “I told him early in the session, lead, follow or get out of the way. He did not lead. He did not get out of the way. He decided to follow.”

The governor has taken criticism about the budget from members of his own party who felt he sided too much with Senate Republicans’ version. Democratic Rep. Harry Moberly of Richmond, for instance, blasted Beshear in a floor speech during the special session that also questioned his leadership — this time for giving in too much.

Others, including Republican House leader Jeff Hoover, described the version that the governor proposed as a “good, reasonable approach.”

So far, no Republican slate has formed to challenge Beshear and running mate Jerry Abramson. The only other ticket that has announced an intent to run is a slate of independents Gatewood Galbraith and lieutenant governor candidate Dea Riley, both of Lexington.

Other Republicans being mentioned as possible candidates next year include Todd County businessman Bill Johnson who briefly ran for the GOP nomination for U.S. Senate this year and Commissioner of Agriculture Richie Farmer, who last week called it a “very real possibility” he might enter the race.

Beshear, so far, has sidestepped questions about potential GOP candidates he might face. Beshear said he’s concentrating on running the administration not re-election yet, although he has raised about $2 million already for his campaign with Abramson, who is ending his tenure as Louisville mayor this year. Here’s what the governor said last week in response to Farmer’s statement of interest in the race:

- Reporting by Ryan Alessi with video produced by Holly Thompson

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