David Williams says he has enough support to remain Senate president

Senate president says he's stronger after governor's race

bmusgrave@herald-leader.comNovember 10, 2011 

FRANKFORT — A day after suffering a 21-point drubbing by incumbent Steve Beshear in the governor's race, state Senate President David Williams said he had enough support among the 23-member Republican caucus to remain its leader.

Asked whether the caucus might try to oust him when the legislature convenes in January because of his poor showing Tuesday, Williams said he felt he had plenty of support.

"No one is telling me that," he said. "I have a lot of support out there."

Williams' colleagues last elected him president in January. He faces re-election to the leadership post he has held since 2000 in January 2013.

Williams said he was physically, mentally and spiritually stronger after the grueling campaign. He said he exercised regularly during the campaign and, beginning next week, no longer would need insulin to control his diabetes.

"I'll be a better Senate president," he said.

Beshear and Williams pledged Wednesday to meet soon in an attempt to find common ground for the good of the state.

"I feel obligated to try to pull everybody together in this state, whether they are Democrats or Republicans," Beshear said after participating in a ribbon-cutting ceremony the expansion of an in-home medical provider's headquarters in Louisville.

Williams, during a news conference in his Capitol Annex office in Frankfort, said he was "not bitter in any way. I am going to give the governor an opportunity to see what his agenda is."

Beshear said no meeting date or location had been set for the two to meet, but he said it probably would be in a few days, after both of them have gotten some rest.

"We're just going to sit down and start talking about issues I think, and perhaps he thinks, will help to move this state forward," Beshear said.

Beshear soundly defeated Williams in Tuesday's general election to earn a second four-year term. Independent candidate Gatewood Galbraith of Lexington came in a distant third in the race.

The campaign was as tough as Beshear's and Williams' rocky relationship during the past four years.

Beshear claimed in the campaign that Williams has stood in the way of progress by blocking Beshear's initiatives; Williams contended Beshear has had no agenda.

On election night, Beshear said that "rank partisanship has stood in the way of moving Kentucky forward" and that Kentucky voters rejected "the politics of obstruction."

His comments were softer Wednesday. Beshear declined to say whether his election night comment was directed at Williams, saying he would let those words speak for themselves.

Asked whether he thought Williams could be an effective leader of the Senate, Beshear said, "I certainly think he can be."

Beshear said he thought his victory showed that people appreciated how he had managed state government and his bipartisan spirit.

"It's time to move on," he said.

Williams said he lost to Beshear because many do not have a favorable opinion of him. Beshear also had a campaign war chest of about $10 million, compared to Williams' $2 million.

"I don't think my message was wrong. I just think I was too unpopular to be elected. That's the bottom line," Williams said.

If he had a do-over, the Burkesville native said, he also would have raised $10 million — "$850,000 from state employees and the rest of it from people who do business with the state."

Williams was referring to the money Beshear raised from state employees. Beshear has said state employees gave to his campaign because they supported his agenda and did not like Williams.

On other subjects, Beshear said:

■ He will look at "transition issues" during the next six weeks to determine whether any staff members will be leaving the administration.

■ He will be raising private funds to pay for his and running mate Jerry Abramson's Dec. 13 inaugural ceremony. Co-chairs of the inaugural committee will be announced soon, Beshear said.

■ He and Abramson, the former mayor of Louisville, will work out a specific structure for Abramson's job as lieutenant governor. "He's going to be a full partner with me," especially in economic development and policy issues, Beshear said.

■ He has made no decision or "had much time to think about" calling a special legislative session before the end of the year on redrawing boundaries for legislative and congressional districts.

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