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Williams says Beshear 'poisoning' political process

FRANKFORT — Senate President David Williams accused Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear of poisoning the bipartisan spirit in the legislature by offering key Republican senators positions in state government.

Williams, the Republican leader of the Senate, said Wednesday after a legislative meeting that Beshear has long said it didn't matter if it was a Republican idea or a Democrat idea.

"He has no idea as far as the political atmosphere here — he's poisoning it," Williams said.

Williams was referring to the recent election of former state Rep. Robin Webb, D-Grayson, to the state Senate. Webb beat Republican candidate Dr. Jack Ditty. The Aug. 25 special election was called after long-time Republican Senator Charlie Borders resigned after Beshear appointed him to the Public Service Commission.

The Republicans have controlled the Senate since 2000. With Webb's election, the Democrats have gained ground in the Senate with 17 Democratic senators compared with 20 Republicans. Sen. Bob Leeper, Paducah, is the senate's lone independent.

Williams said he believed Beshear was also trying to persuade Sen. Dan Kelly, R-Springfield, to apply for a position in the judiciary to try to unseat more Republicans from the Senate. Kelly — who was standing just a few feet away at the time Williams made his comments — declined to comment on whether he was interested in an open circuit court judgeship in his district.

Beshear's effort to get expanded gambling past the Legislature died in the Republican-controlled Senate during a special legislative session this summer. Beshear is trying to change the political stripes of the Senate to get slot machines at the state's race tracks, Williams said.

"There is one issue on this governor's mind — and that's slot machines," Williams said. Williams said over the past few legislative sessions, there has been more cooperation between the parties and the chambers. Beshear's push to oust Republican senators through the offering of lucrative positions in the judicial or executive branch "does not bode well for continuing bipartisanship."

Jay Blanton, a spokesman for Beshear, said the governor has always said he will campaign for people who support his agenda.

"We're sure — and we expect — Republicans, including President Williams, will do the same thing on behalf of their candidates," Blanton said. "After the elections are over, we need to work together in a bipartisan fashion on the issues that are the most important to Kentucky."