U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, after privately meeting Wednesday morning with Gov. Matt Bevin, said it’s inevitable that the Kentucky House will flip to Republican control and that he is working to make sure it happens.
McConnell, a Louisville Republican, said he is working with state Rep. Jonathan Shell, R-Lancaster, to recruit Republican candidates for the four special House elections Bevin has called for March 8 to fill vacancies and for this year’s regular House elections, in which all 100 seats will be contested.
Democrats now control the House with a 50-46 margin. If Republicans win all four House special elections, the political party makeup in the chamber will be an even 50-50.
That has never happened before in Kentucky history, and Republicans are trying to wrest control of the state House for the first time since 1921. Republicans now control the state Senate and governor’s office.
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Both McConnell and Bevin said it is a matter of time before Republicans control the House. Bevin said he expects it to happen this year.
Republicans gained on the House Democrats last month when state Reps. Denny Butler of Louisville and Jim Gooch of Providence switched to the Republican Party.
The Courier-Journal reported that House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said Tuesday that the Democratic Party might sue lawmakers who left the party to join the GOP since Bevin won office Nov. 8. He said House members who accepted campaign money from donors and the Democratic Party and then became Republicans may have defrauded the donors and party.
Stumbo also spoke of “rumors” that “people had been offered things of value to influence their decision” regarding party registration.
Bevin called Stumbo’s comments “embarrassing” and said they “smack of desperation” and were “beneath” the speaker.
McConnell said he has only talked to possible candidate recruits about the need to change Kentucky.
The meeting between McConnell and Bevin in Bevin’s Capitol office lasted for about 30 minutes.
McConnell said Bevin has gotten off to a good start. The two competed against each other in the 2014 Republican primary for U.S. Senate in Kentucky.