(WHAS11) The Kentucky Senate President says mismanagement and a lack of innovation are dooming the governorship of Steve Beshear (D).
In an interview with WHAS11 Political Editor Joe Arnold, Sen. David Williams (R-Burkesville) says Beshear has "spent his political capital poorly" and is not held in high regard by capitol Democrats, either.
"Hope springs eternal. I don't wish this governorship to be a failure," Williams said, but if Beshear doesn't change his tack, "It's not looking good right now. I think that Republicans and Democrats would agree that he seems not to be up to the game at this juncture," Williams added.
Asked if Beshear was still relevant in Frankfort, given that the General Assembly immediately disregarded the governor's proposed budget, the Senate President quickly replied that there is no public purpose to disparaging the governor. Yet, what followed was a withering criticism of the first term governor.
"He doesn't understand the General Assembly," Williams said in the interview in his Capitol Annex office Monday, "He doesn't understand the process, and he hasn't shown a lot of leadership."
"Those sound like three political statements and I'm sort of used to that," Beshear responded after a economic development announcement in Louisville on Tuesday.
"I think my leadership is shown in the results over the last two years in the Commonwealth," Beshear continued, "You know, in the face of one of the worst recessions in any of our lives, we have maintained a commitment to educating kids," Beshear said.
Williams, the top Republican in Frankfort, says a lot of things changed in the twenty years since Steve Beshear was Lt. Governor, and that Beshear is now both figuratively and literally out of touch.
"I'm cordial with the governor when I see him. I haven't talked to him in this session and I think the speaker has only talked to him once," Williams said.
"You know the General Assembly is a unique animal, very political," Beshear countered, "but I've gotten them to work together."
Beshear's strategies, indeed, have Williams and Democrat House Speaker Greg Stumbo working together, yet in a way Beshear probably didn't intend, a bipartisan dismissal of the governor's budget, principally because it relied on non-existent gambling revenue, with Williams regarded as the chief obstacle to Beshear's gaming mission.
Williams says, unlike the lack of communication between the governor and legislative leadership, the communication between Williams and House Speaker Greg Stumbo (D-Prestonburg) as well as between the House and Senate budget chairmen, is ongoing and fruitful "to try to avoid a messy conference committee as we've had some time in the past. and to try to try to reach an accord on general principles."
The relatively harmonious relationship between Williams and Stumbo, marked by engaging and respectful joint news conferences each Friday, stands in stark contrast to Beshear's relationship with either lawmaker.
"It's hard to have a candid conversation with someone whose stated purpose is to completely control the legislature," Williams said, indignant after what Williams once called a "coup d'état" attempt by Beshear, when the governor appointed two Republican Senators to other lucrative positions, creating vacancies and special elections widely seen as an attempt to tilt the balance of power in the Senate to Democrats and remove Williams from power.
Beshear has repeatedly denied that the appointments were an attempt "to stack the deck in the senate or anywhere else” or specifically an avenue to get expanded gambling approved at racetracks.
In a December interview, Beshear said “Hopefully, as more elections occur, we will have more people that favor the gaming issue and if that occurs and I pass it, everybody will think I'm brilliant, and if it doesn't happen everybody will say that’s probably the dumbest thing he ever did.”
"The governor has burned a lot of bridges," Williams said, "He spent the past year having special elections with the announced purpose of taking over the senate." Williams decried "hateful" and "vitriolic" campaigns fueled by millions of dollars in special interest money.
Williams alleges that Beshear also interfered In the overthrow of House Speaker Jody Richards in 2009 to elect Greg Stumbo as Speaker. Stumbo has been rumored to be eyeing a challenge to Beshear in the 2011 Democratic Party primary.
"I have no doubt that there will be at least one and possibly two (primary challengers)," Williams said, "If he's lucky, there will be two challengers. I think (Beshear) could be in trouble in a Democratic primary."
And a Stumbo candidacy?
"He should never be underestimated," Williams responded, "Greg Stumbo should never be underestimated as a political operator or candidate."
Nearly two weeks ago, Stumbo declared the budget process this year "a defining moment for the General Assembly," faced with addressing a $1 billion shortfall without the governor's help.
Beshear suggested that he has been instrumental in developing bipartisanship among lawmakers.
"In spite of all this rank partisanship that you hear about, I have pulled them together to pass new economic incentive legislation," Beshear explained, "We've passed pension reform that got our pension system under control, and got it on solid foundation. I've balanced a budget now six times already in two years.
"Before I became governor there were times they didn't even agree on a budget," Beshear continued, "I think we've not only shown leadership, I don't really have to talk about it too much becasue I think people have seen the results of it."
Williams says Kentucky needs a Republican fiscal conservative in this budget era. So is he running for governor?
"I'm focused on the legislative races. I'm a candidate for reelection for the state senate and half the state senate seats are up this time."
That's this fall. For now, Williams and Stumbo aim to define the storyline of this session.
"this General Assembly came together, the House and the Senate, Republicans and Democrats, recognized the situation that we're in, make sure we provide for basic services, make sure we apply economies and be involved in a shared sacrifice," Williams said.
Coming up Wednesday, David Williams talks expanded gambling and his own gambling activity.