With only 11 members Senate Democrats prepare to elect leadership

11/18/2014 09:29 PM

With the defeat of the state Sen. R.J. Palmer, D-Winchester, the wounded Senate Democrats will have to find a replacement for their leader and essentially the entire leadership team as one member retires at the end of the year and another steps down from the three-member team.

After the 2014 election season, Senate Democrats have dwindled to their slimmest margin in recent memory with only 11 members, but there is the prospect of gaining one more seat in a special election yet to be called to replace Sen. Walter “Doc” Blevins, D-Morehead, who won a bid for Rowan County judge-executive.

Still, Democrats face the task of replacing Palmer, who was defeated by Republican Sen.-elect Ralph Alvarado of Winchester. The caucus will also be electing a new whip as Sen. Jerry Rhoads of Madisonville retires.

Sen. Johnny Ray Turner of Prestonsburg, the current caucus chair, did not immediately respond to a telephone call from Pure Politics. However, several members say the lone vestige of the current leadership team will not be seeking the post this upcoming term.

Democrats will meet in a private caucus meeting next week where they will decide their leadership structure, but there has been movement in the caucus — though most senators have been quiet about the restructuring process.

Minority floor leader

Sen. Ray Jones, D-Pikeville, seems to be the lone candidate to replace Palmer in the shrunken caucus. For him to attain the post he will only need the votes of six of his colleagues.

Jones declined to comment on the upcoming leadership race except to say that all three leadership positions are open in the Democratic caucus and that he would be honored if chosen floor leader by his fellow members.

Serving in the state Senate since 2001, Jones, a Pikeville attorney, has had an adversarial relationship with some of the GOP caucus at times.

Caucus chair

With Turner likely stepping down from the role of caucus chair, Sen. Gerald Neal of Louisville is, right now, the lone contender for the position.

In a phone interview Tuesday Neal told Pure Politics that he is throwing his hat into the ring for the position.

“I’ve been around for a while and I have something to offer, and if my members find that I’m worthy of that, at the right time, I’ll be happy to serve,” Neal said.

Neal, an attorney, has served in the Senate since 1989.

Minority whip

As Rhoads packs up his Senate office there are possibly two contenders for his leadership position — former Gov. Julian Carroll of Frankfort and Sen. Dorsey Ridley of Henderson, though neither are talking about the race.

When contacted by Pure Politics Tuesday, Carroll said the matter was a personal one within the caucus and declined to comment on the races until after the members meet next week.

Ridley did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

About Nick Storm

Nick Storm is the Anchor and Managing Editor of Pure Politics, the only nightly program dedicated to Kentucky politics. Nick covers all of the political heavyweights and his investigative work brings to light issues that might otherwise go unnoticed, like the connection between the high profile Steubenville, Ohio rape and a Kentucky hacker whose push for further investigation could put him in federal prison. Nick is also working on a feature length bio documentary Outlaw Poet: A documentary on Ron Whitehead. Follow Nick on Twitter @NickStorm_cn2. Nick can be reached at 502-792-1107 or nicholas.storm@charter.com.



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