Greg Stumbo is leaving at year’s end as the top leader in the Kentucky House of Representatives but said Wednesday he plans to keep his specialized license plate and fancy boots that identify him as speaker of the House.
“I earned my boots and I earned my license plates. If anybody is big enough to take them off of me or take them away from my car, they can start from there,” said the Prestonsburg Democrat in his first public interview since losing a bid Nov. 8 for another two-year term in the House.
Stumbo also had strong words for Republican Gov. Matt Bevin, who last week greeted Stumbo’s departure from the House by saying “good riddance.”
“I’ve been called a lot worst things by a hell of a lot better men than him,” Stumbo said. “Winston Churchill said it best. Winston Churchill said one time, ‘We have enemies, yes, that’s because we stood up for something in our lives. I could care less what Matt Bevin thinks about me. I don’t think very highly of him either.”
Stumbo, who has been in the House since 1980 except for four years as state attorney general, was defeated by Republican Larry Brown, a Prestonsburg attorney, as Republicans took control of the state House for the first time since 1921. Democrats had outnumbered Republicans in the House 53-47 but that was dramatically reversed at the polls to become 36-64.
Stumbo talked to reporters about the elections and his future after House Democrats met behind closed doors for about two hours. They plan to meet again in mid-December to talk about their leaders for the 2017 General Assembly that begins in January, he said.
The minority Democratic caucus will be “an accountability caucus,” said Stumbo, keeping an eye on Republicans’ actions.
Stumbo attributed the devastating loss for Democrats to the strong popularity in the state of President-elect Donald Trump.
“We got hit by a tsunami named Hurricane Donald,” he said.
Stumbo also said a special panel he created to look at the state’s handling of the East Brannon Road project in Jessamine County will try to finish its work before he leaves office and that his office’s lawsuit questioning Bevin’s vetoes in this year’s legislative session will continue at least through the end of the year.
That lawsuit was not adversarial, he said.
“The courts need to rule on that,” Stumbo said. “It will set the legal precedent for what is a valid veto.”
Stumbo said he does not know if he has run his last political campaign, which he once thought was his unsuccessful 2007 bid for lieutenant governor on a ticket with Louisville businessman Bruce Lunsford.
He said will “drop back” to spend time with his family and refocus on his law practice, “the original love of my life.”
But he acknowledged that his age, 65, may mean it is less likely that he will again seek elective office. He said there are “rising stars” in the state Democratic Party.
He also said he would help as an unpaid adviser to House Democrats if they so desired.
Stumbo said he would never be bitter about his political experience.
“Life goes on,” he said, rolling up his pants to show his boots.
Jack Brammer: (502) 227-1198, @BGPolitic