FRANKFORT — In a behind-closed door vote, Senate Republicans voted Friday to name Manchester lawyer Sen. Robert Stivers as Majority Leader, a key position in the state Senate.
Stivers, and Sen. Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, were both nominated to take the position recently vacated by Sen. Dan Kelly, R-Springfield.
Kelly, who resigned from the position two weeks ago, has been in the number two position for the Republicans in the Senate since 1994.
Stivers was considered the front-runner for the job that includes managing the flow of legislation on the Senate floor.
Senate President David Williams has said he expects Kelly to be named to an open circuit judgeship as part of a bid by Gov. Steve Beshear to thin the Republican ranks in the state Senate. Republicans currently hold a 20-17 lead over the Democrats with one independent caucusing with the Republicans.
A judicial nominating commission that will pick three candidates to forward to Beshear is expected to meet Friday. Beshear will then choose one of the three nominees for the position.
Sen. Dan Seum, R-Louisville, declined to say by how many votes Stivers beat Thayer by. Seum, the majority caucus chair, said Sen. Ken Winters, R-Murray, had expressed interest in the job but ultimately decided not to run, Seum said.
Some senators cast their vote in person while many called their vote in via telephone.
Stivers takes over the position immediately.
Stivers, who has been in the Senate since 1997, is a lawyer from Manchester whose Senate district includes Clay, Knox, Lee, Magoffin, Morgan, Owsley and Wolfe counties. Stivers also chairs the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee. It’s not clear if he will stay on in that position come January, when the legislative session begins. However, no other majority leader has held that position and chaired a committee.
On Friday, Stivers said he will continue a good working relationship with the Senate Democrats that started with Kelly. “He is a very classy individual,” Stivers said of Kelly. Kelly, Stivers said, was a person of integrity who was “above reproach.”
“Hopefully he will be appointed as a judge,” Stivers said. “If he is, he has the appropriate mentality, intellect, and most importantly the appropriate disposition to be a judge.”
Stivers said that his leadership style is different than Kelly’s. There will be some changes, Stivers said.
“Dan is much more stern and serious than I am,” Stivers admitted. “I may have a little more humor — a little more Eastern Kentucky humor than Sen. Kelly would. But we all have different leadership styles.”
Senate Democrats cheered the election of Stivers.
“Robert is very, very knowledgeable and Robert is a very fair guy,” said Senate Minority Leader Ed Worley, D-Richmond. “Robert will be a whole lot less partisan than the former floor leader.”
— Beth Musgrave