Gov. Matt Bevin has set March 8 as the date for critical special elections to fill four vacancies in the Kentucky House of Representatives.
Those elections could tip the balance of power in the House, which will stand at 50 Democrats and 46 Republicans when the General Assembly convenes on Tuesday.
During an impromptu news conference Monday at the Capitol, the Republican governor also said he plans to campaign hard in those elections to elect candidates who share his views.
"I want conservative people. I want people in those seats that will represent the people of Kentucky. And I will do everything in my power to make sure that the people who I think embody the values that I was elected to represent are elected. I do think they'll be Republicans," Bevin said.
Two of the four vacant House seats were caused by resignations of Democrats John Tilley, of Hopkinsville, and Tanya Pullin, of South Shore, who resigned to accept appointments from Bevin. The other two seats were made vacant by the resignations of two Republicans to accept jobs to which they were elected in November: Ryan Quarles, of Georgetown, who was elected agriculture commissioner, and Mike Harmon, of Danville who was elected auditor.
In addition, two House Democrats - Jim Gooch of Providence and Denny Butler, of Louisville - switched to the Republican Party last month.
"I think the tide is turning; the tide has already turned in some measure," Bevin said of the growing GOP numbers in the House. "And I think that's going to become increasingly evident in the days, weeks and years ahead."
A 50-50 tie in the Kentucky House would be something of a disaster, as there's no clear law as to who would be in control of the assembly. It's entirely possible another legislator could flip parties to break the deadlock, but Bevin's made it clear that Democrats no longer have a place in the state. He's apparently drafted the state's most powerful Republican to help, too.
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.
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.
We'll see where it goes, but Bevin doesn't seem to be wasting any time in turning Kentucky into another basement dwelling Southern red state. And in case of a 50-50 tie in the House, Bevin is already laying down markers that he's the decider.
Ironically, Alison Lundergan Grimes is still Secretary of State, and Steve Beshear's son Andy is now state AG, so we'll see how they weigh in. I'm hoping they do, and soon.