After Republicans failed to take control of the Kentucky House in an election that saw incoming U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell win in a landslide, House Minority Floor Leader Jeff Hoover's leadership position is being challenged.
State Rep. Adam Koenig, a real estate agent from Erlanger who was first elected to the House in 2006, announced Friday that he will attempt to replace Hoover when the General Assembly convenes on Jan. 6.
"After many conversations with members of our caucus, active members of the Republican Party and donors, there is no question in my mind that a change is needed," Koenig said in a news release. "Our goal is to change the direction of Kentucky by making Republicans the majority party in the House, and as the House Republican Leader, that will be my sole focus."
The GOP has not controlled the House since 1921.
Republicans across the country had reason to celebrate on election night last month, but one of the few bright spots for Democrats was maintaining their 54-46 advantage over Republicans in the Kentucky House despite McConnell's 15-point win over Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes. The Kentucky House is the only legislative chamber controlled by Democrats in the South.
In an interview Friday afternoon, Koenig said he talked to about two-thirds of the Republican caucus and many donors and party activists before deciding to take on Hoover, and they agreed that "whatever the formula, it's clearly not been working."
"I appreciate Rep. Hoover's efforts for the past 14 years, but it's been 14 years," Koenig said. "And we have to have a change in direction if we're going to take over the House, tell a new story to donors and do what it takes to change the state."
Hoover told the Herald-Leader Friday that he didn't begrudge Koenig for challenging him, but he said he is "confident" Republicans will continue to trust him with his leadership position.
"I've talked to almost everyone in the caucus and many of them twice, so I feel good about the support I have within the caucus," Hoover said.
Hoover said he didn't think "anyone is more disappointed than I am" that Republicans didn't flip the House, but he noted that House Democrats also didn't gain seats after controlling how House district lines were redrawn in 2013. That process forced several Republican incumbents to retire rather than battle each other in primary elections.
Additionally, Hoover noted that House Republicans raised $1.2 million this election cycle, which is about $500,000 more than two years ago.
State Rep. David Osbourne, an ally of Hoover's, said he believes Hoover "still has the support of the vast majority of the members."
Osbourne, who started last year as finance chairman for the Republican Party of Kentucky, said he and Hoover both understand that Republicans are frustrated that they didn't take control of the House.
"There's a difference between being disappointed in the results and feeling that everything went wrong," Osbourne said. "There's a big jump from one to the other."
A number of Republicans "underestimated" the effect redistricting would have on the party's ability to recruit candidates in a short time frame, Osbourne said.
Osbourne, who is running to be caucus chairman after Rep. Bob DeWeese announced he would not seek the post again, said he and Hoover have already begun preparations for the 2016 elections by starting an early focus on candidate recruitment and fundraising.
Koenig acknowledged that there were difficulties as a result of redistricting, but he ticked off a list of Republicans who won last month with enormous margins, including U.S. Reps. Hal Rogers and Andy Barr.
"Yeah, redistricting was difficult, but you look at the wave that overtook the nation, and there's no way to argue that we didn't miss the boat in every way, shape or form," Koenig said.
In his statement, Koenig said he thinks "the House Republican Caucus has a great deal of talent, but it has not been utilized to its maximum potential."
He pledged to "bring a more inclusive and collaborative approach to our caucus that will allow every member to shine and will value their input and talents."
Hoover is generally well-liked within the Republican caucus, and Koenig insisted his challenge isn't personal.
"This isn't about personalities," Koenig said.
Still, he acknowledged he may be facing an uphill battle.
"I don't think it's any different than any other race — knocking off an incumbent isn't ever easy to do," Koenig said.