Gov. Matt Bevin said Thursday he is open to changing the Kentucky Constitution so that the state’s attorney general and judges are appointed by the governor rather than being elected.
The Republican governor, who has had several legal run-ins with Attorney General Andy Beshear, called his Democratic nemesis “highly incompetent.” He also voice support for putting term limits on legislators.
Bevin’s wide-ranging comments came in response to questions from attendees at a conference of The Federalist Society’s chapters in Kentucky. Bevin spoke to the group in the Capitol’s House chamber before taking questions.
When asked whether he would support seeking the public’s approval for a constitutional amendment to appoint the attorney general, Bevin first said with a smile, “Oh, yeah.”
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He then asked “How about our judges in general? Seriously.”
He added: “We have a remarkable number of people who have no business being judges. I mean none. They don’t have the competence even to be a private practice attorney who can bill at a rate that people would not pay. I’m not kidding.”
Bevin said potential judges first should pass “some kind of competency test.”
Methods of selecting judges vary across the United States. There are five main methods: partisan elections, non-partisan elections, legislative elections, gubernatorial appointment and assisted appointment in which a nominating commission submits a list of names to the governor.
Kentucky judges are elected by the people, and candidates are listed on the ballot without a label designating party affiliation.
Seven states do not elect an attorney general. In Alaska, Hawaii, New Hampshire, New Jersey, and Wyoming, the attorney general is a gubernatorial appointee. The attorney general in Tennessee is appointed by the Tennessee Supreme Court for an eight-year term.
When asked what he thought about Bevin’s comments on appointing the attorney general and judges, House Speaker Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, was taken aback.
“I’d just have to think about that,” Hoover said after speaking at a tax summit in Lexington. “Does any state do that?”
“He could sue me over me saying it looks a little cloudy today and it would be a front page story tomorrow, I guarantee it, in every one of those papers, that he was planning to sue me for my pretending to be a meteorologist,” Bevin told the Federalist Society members.
Bevin noted that he has never sued the attorney general.
Beshear spokesman Terry Sebastian responded by saying Beshear is focused on his job as the state’s chief law enforcement officer.
“While the governor is name calling, Attorney General Beshear is focused on arresting child predators, protecting seniors from scams and fighting our drug epidemic,” Sebastian said.
Concerning term limits for legislators, Bevin said he is “a big believer in people being citizen-legislators for a finite period of time.”
He then added: “That’s a whole other topic we will get to at another point.”