By Jack Brammer
FRANKFORT — Robert Stivers, a Manchester attorney who has been the Senate majority leader for three years, will replace David Williams as president of the Kentucky Senate.
Sen. Damon Thayer of Georgetown, a proponent of expanded gambling in Kentucky, will be the Senate’s new majority floor leader.
The 23 Republicans who expect to be seated in January and independent Sen. Bob Leeper of Paducah met behind closed doors Tuesday for about three hours to select their leaders for the next two years.
Stivers and Senate President Pro Tem Katie Kratz Stine, of Southgate, who faced no opposition in her leadership re-election, must still be elected by the full 38-member chamber in January before officially taking office.
Williams, a Burkesville attorney who had been Senate president since 2000, recently stepped down to accept a circuit judgeship appointment by Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear.
U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement that Stivers “will do an outstanding job on behalf of Kentucky.”
“The people of the Commonwealth can be assured that Sen. Stivers and the energized, newly-elected Republican leadership in Frankfort will work hard to tackle the state’s most pressing issues,” McConnell said.
Stivers was challenged for the presidency by Leeper.
The GOP caucus agreed to a motion by Stivers to allow the independent to participate in the caucus elections.
Leeper said afterwards that he has offered to stay on as chairman of the powerful Senate budget committee. Stivers later said Leeper has been a good committee chairman and he knows of no reason to remove him.
Thayer and Sen. David Green of Greensburg ran to succeed Stivers as majority floor leader.
Thayer said he will step aside as chairman of the Senate State and Local Government Committee. “Leaders don’t chair committees,” he said.
Concerning his work with Beshear to push for expanded gambling in Kentucky, Thayer said the issue “shows no signs of going away.”
He noted that the caucus has not yet discussed the issue.
The GOP caucus will hold a retreat Dec. 13 and 14 in Frankfort to discuss upcoming issues in the 2013 General Assembly that begins Jan. 8.
Also elected to a Senate leadership position was Brandon Smith of Hazard. He will be majority whip. Jimmy Higdon of Lebanon also ran for the seat. Carroll Gibson of Leitchfield did not seek re-election to the post.
Dan Seum of Louisville will remain Senate GOP caucus chairman. He turned back a challenge from Joe Bowen of Owensboro.
Although no Republican senator from Western Kentucky won a leadership position, Stivers said “this group will represent the state as a whole.”
The Senate GOP caucus that met Tuesday included five newly-elected members and state Rep. Sara Beth Gregory of Monticello, who is the GOP nominee in the Dec. 18 special election to succeed Williams as senator from the 16th District in Southern Kentucky.
Vote tallies of the caucus elections were not released, but Seum said one election resulted in a tie. He did not identify the election.
Stivers said retiring Sen. Vernie McGaha of Russell Springs counted the unsigned ballots and did not reveal the tallies.
Other caucuses in the legislature are expected to hold their leadership elections in early January.