'My career here in Frankfort is over;' Williams will step down with judicial appointment

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by Joe Arnold

WHAS11.com

Posted on October 26, 2012 at 6:49 PM

Updated Friday, Oct 26 at 9:08 PM

FRANKFORT, Ky (WHAS11) -- "My career here in Frankfort is over."

After 27 years in the Kentucky legislature, the last twelve as the powerful Senate President, David Williams - who galvanized Republicans and polarized Democrats - is leaving office after his capitol nemesis, Governor Steve Beshear, granted his lifelong wish.

"It had always been my intention to go back home full-time and try to be the circuit judge," Williams told reporters Friday afternoon in his capitol annex office.  "It was a dream my late father had for me."

Williams will resign his senate seat on November 2 after he is sworn in as a circuit judge in south-central Kentucky, replacing the late Eddie Lovelace, who died in September.

"Senator Williams is an experienced lawyer and is familiar with the district," Beshear said in a statement, "having represented the area in the legislature for more than 20 years.”

Williams revealed he had not planned on running for re-election to the senate.

The 2011 Republican gubernatorial candidate said he will submit a letter to Beshear, vacating the senate office he has held for 25 years.

"And the last paragraph of that will be to wish him the best as he continues to try to execute his job."

It's a sentiment that Williams has expressed before - between verbal battles with Beshear. 

Asked if his departure presents an opportunity for more cooperation at the capitol, Williams said the media has hyped conflict and not publicized cooperation in Frankfort.  Tension between branches of government is to be expected, he added.

"That tension that's built-in is a good thing. When people try to personalize it, its a bad thing," Williams said.

"And my absence from the scene might very well give the governor an opportunity to reach out to new legislative leaders, and we'll see how they address the issues," he continued.

Williams has led the charge against the expansion of gambling in Kentucky,  but suggested that gambling supporters may soon discover it wasn't just him stopping it.

"It will be harder for people to blame this issue on one person," Williams explained.  "So, at the next juncture if they want to bring that forward, I won't be here."

Much like Republican legislative candidates in Kentucky have tried to link their Democrat opponents to President Barack Obama, some Democrat candidates have attempted to use Williams, who lost in a landslide to Beshear, in a similar way.

"They'll have to come up with other reasons that things don't happen," Williams said, "and sometimes that can be a healthy thing for the Democrats if they still control the House or the governor, to reflect that you wont be able to personalize this thing."

Critical of the governor's previous appointments that removed Republican Senators from office, Williams was asked whether Beshear just wanted him out.

"It doesn't matter what his motivation is," Williams responded.  "I think he has confidence that I will be a good circuit judge."

The Senate Republican Caucus will meet next week to designate a senator to fill the vacancy on the Legislative Research Commission as Acting Senate LRC Co-Chair.

Senate Majority Leader Robert Stivers said late Friday he intends to succeed Williams as Senate President.

Williams stands to financially gain from the appointment.  A 2005 law which he supported allows former lawmakers to use their subsequent salaries in other state positions to enhance their legislative pensions.  Williams' pension could double by factoring in the $124,000 per year judicial salary.

"I'm not planning on enhancing it because I plan on serving as circuit judge," Williams said, explaining that his judicial salary cannot be a factor in his legislative pension while he is employed as a circuit judge. 

"I plan on being circuit judge as long as my health allows me," Williams said.

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