Gov. Matt Bevin has removed another Democrat from the state House, putting Republicans in a better position to take control of the chamber for the first time since 1921.
Bevin filed an executive order late Tuesday appointing state Rep. Tanya Pullin, D-South Shore, as as administrative law judge in the Department of Workers Claims to replace William J. Rudloff of Bowling Green, whose term Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear said had expired.
Before leaving office Dec. 8, Beshear had appointed Tyra Latrice Redus of Louisville to fill the Rudloff vacancy.
The state Labor Cabinet said Wednesday that Rudloff’s term was not set to expire until Dec. 31. It was not immediately clear why Beshear made the Redus appointment while still in office. Rudloff did not return a phone call seeking comment.
Bevin’s order appointing Pullin effective Jan. 1 also said Beshear’s order was rescinded because Redus had withdrawn from the appointment. Redus could not be immediately reached for comment.
The Republican governor’s press office also had no comment when asked about Redus’ withdrawal from the job.
Democrats held a 54-46 advantage in the House earlier this year but that dropped to 53-47 with the switch of state Rep. Denver Butler of Louisville last month from Democrat to Republican.
Pullin, who has been a member of the state House since 2001, will serve as an administrative law judge for a term expiring Dec. 31, 2019. The job pays $124,620 a year and involves hearing workers’ compensation claims.
Pullin said in a telephone interview that she is “very interested” in the job because she will be able to work in her hometown of South Shore.
“There will be some traveling in the job for hearings but not as much as in the legislature,” she said. “Given my family status, that is appealing to me.”
Pullin acknowledged that she was “disappointed” when Beshear appointed Redus and not her to the position. Pullin had been nominated for the job.
Pullin said she does not know why Redus withdrew from Beshear’s appointment. She also said she will remain a Democrat and that she did not talk to Bevin about her appointment.
Pullin, an attorney, has been heavily involved in veterans’ issues. Her departure from the House will mean a special election will be needed to fill the vacancy.
House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said Pullin has been a “wonderful, wonderful” representative. He said she did not want to run two years ago for re-election so she could take care of her mother but did run as a favor to him and her Democratic colleages.
Stumbo said he thinks Democrats can maintain control of the 98th House District, which includes Greenup and Boyd counties. “I believe Kentuckians want to keep a balance,” he said.
Last week, Bevin, who took office Dec. 8, appointed Democratic Rep. John Tilley of Hopkinsville as his justice secretary, creating the need for a special election to fill that seat in Western Kentucky’s 8th House District.
Stumbo was critical about Tilley’s departure. Asked Tuesday why his reaction about Pullin’s departure was so different, Stumbo said she had the “character” to tell House leaders early that she was looking to leave.
Special elections also will be needed when Republican state Reps. Ryan Quarles of Georgetown and Mike Harmon of Danville resign to take over their new jobs in early January. Quarles was elected state agriculture commissioner and Harmon was elected state auditor.
Democrats also got more discouraging news earlier this week when Rep. Mike Denham, a Maysville Democrat, announced that he will not seek re-election next year because of health reasons.
That will leave the 70th House District, made up of Mason, Fleming, Bracken and Robertson counties, an open seat in next year’s House elections, when all 100 seats will be up for grabs.
Mike Biagi, executive director of the state Republican Party, said the outlook looks good for the GOP.
“Kentuckians are clearly looking for new leadership in Frankfort,” Biagi said. “The state House has long been an obstacle to the reforms needed to create jobs and expand educational opportunities for our children. We will continue to recruit leaders to run for the state House who will work with Gov. Bevin to move Kentucky forward.”
State Democratic Party Chairman Patrick Hughes said he is sorry to see Pullin leave the House “but I understand the decision she has made for family reasons.”
Hughes said Democrats will field candidates in all four upcoming special House elections. He said Harmon’s seat “probably is the most challenging out of the four since it has the most work to do from a recruiting standpoint.”