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Parties Plot Course Following Power-Shifting Election


When Governor-Elect Matt Bevin takes over the reins in less than two months, he’ll have the wind at his back with a formidable Republican majority in the Senate and a strong minority presence in the House.

But Bevin’s newcomer status and complicated relationship with the party establishment has a lot of observers speculating on what Kentucky can expect from his administration and whether Republicans will rally around the one-time challenger to Sen. Mitch McConnell. Asked about those prospects, State Senate President Robert Stivers told KET legislators have been meeting in private for months now to grease the wheels ahead of Bevin’s arrival.

"When you say are we excited to get to work, we've been working. We've had the discussions with Matt Bevin. We have taken our own time at our own expense to brief him and give him issue and policy papers, and to make sure that when he got to this point he was ready to lead," Stivers said.

On the opposite end of the Capitol, Democratic House Speaker Greg Stumbo tells WKYT-TV his party respects the will of the voters and will work to forge compromises with Republicans while keeping their values intact.

"We have to understand that we can't be obstructionists. We have to work with Governor-Elect Bevin as best we can and I intend to do that and I hope that they will do that. Let's don't get lines drawn in the sand before we even get to the beach," he said.

The legislators and new governor will have to hit the ground running, as the chambers begin crafting the state’s next two-year spending plan. 

Dems in Disarray

Tuesday night’s Republican tidal wave at the polls caught many Kentucky Democrats off guard, but party leaders are vowing to regroup.

"Make no mistake, folks. The rebuilding of the Democratic Party starts tomorrow," Sec. of State Alison Lundergan Grimes told supporters in Frankfort.

One of just two Democrats spared from the increasingly red Kentucky electoral map, Grimes wasn’t alone in issuing a clarion call to dispirited members of the party faithful. But with Democrats' traditional bases of support shrinking in the commonwealth, diagnosing the problem and plotting strategy won’t be a simple task.

Senate Minority Leader Ray Jones tells KET Kentucky’s more conservative Democratic electorate feels disconnected from the national conversation – which has led to candidates like Grimes and gubernatorial hopeful Jack Conway campaigning against their own party’s two-term president.   

"The national Democratic Party message is so out of touch, in my opinion... it doesn't resonate with Kentucky voters. It doesn't resonate with voters in the south," he said.

Others – including Kentucky Sports Radio host and potential office-seeker Matt Jones – also say the party can’t keep relying on its familiar stable of actors.

"I do think the Democrats have got to get new blood," he suggested during his show Wednesday morning. "They keep putting these same candidates up. They don't relate to Kentuckians. Kentuckians feel like they don't share their values. And they've got to start over."

In the short term all eyes will be on the Kentucky House, where the party narrowly fended off a GOP push to reclaim the chamber in 2014. Democrats currently hold a 54-to-46 seat advantage.

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.
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