FRANKFORT – Senate Republicans will meet privately Friday to choose a replacement for Senate Majority Leader Dan Kelly, who resigned his leadership position about two weeks ago with no public announcement, Senate GOP Whip Carroll Gibson said Wednesday.
Gibson said two Republican senators — Robert Stivers of Manchester and Ken Winters of Murray –- have expressed interest to him about becoming the party’s floor leader.
Sen. Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, also said he is “definitely interested” in the position. Still, Thayer acknowledged that “Sen. Stivers probably has got the votes to win but I think the caucus needs a race for leadership.
Gibson, of Leitchfield, said he would not seek the position.
Gibson said Kelly has not resigned from the Senate, but he is being mentioned as a possible appointee by Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear for a vacant circuit judgeship.
Kelly, a Springfield attorney who has been a member of the Senate since 1991, has declined to comment on the possible judicial appointment.
Lourdes Baez-Schrader, a spokeswoman for Senate GOP leadership, said Kelly resigned his position as floor leader effective upon his application to the nominating commission for appointment to the 11th Judicial Circuit.
A nominating commission is scheduled to meet Friday to submit three names to Beshear for the judgeship. Beshear is to choose from the three candidates.
If Beshear chooses Kelly, Kelly would have to resign from his 14th Senate district seat, which includes Marion, Mercer, Nelson, Taylor and Washington counties.
Beshear then would have to call a special election to fill the seat. Rep. Jimmy Higdon, R-Lebanon, and former Rep. Jodie Haydon, D-Bardstown, already have filed to raise money to run for the seat in 2010.
Earlier this year, Beshear appointed Republican incumbent Sen. Charlie Borders of Grayson to the state Public Service Commission. He was replaced in a special election by Democrat Robin Webb of Grayson.
Gibson said the 20 members of the Senate Republican caucus will hear Friday from anyone who wants to replace Kelly as majority leader. Any member who cannot attend can call him with his or her vote, he said.
Though the one independent in the Senate, Bob Leeper of Paducah, usually meets with the Senate GOP caucus, he will not participate in the GOP caucus Friday, Gibson said.
- Jack Brammer