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Gerth: Some of Beshear’s toughest criticism came from fellow Dem Stumbo

January 11, 2010

The Courier-Journal’s Joe Gerth notes in his column today that Gov. Steve Beshear found criticism coming from one of his own following his State of the Commonwealth address last week to a joint session of the House and Senate.

Joe Gerth, Courier-Journal reporter

The speech in the House chambers was followed by a joint press conference on the other end of the Capitol by House Speaker Greg Stumbo and Senate President David Williams.

While talking to reporters, Stumbo, a Democrat, noted the difference in management style between Beshear, who has had difficulty getting along with the legislature, and previous governors – Gov. Paul Patton in particular.

From Gerth’s column

Call him “The Prestonsburg Pulverizer” or maybe, “The Floyd County Flogger.”

It was Stumbo — the Democrat from Eastern Kentucky’s mountains — who delivered the hardest blow to Beshear.

He did it in responding to Williams’ claim that Beshear “hasn’t developed a relationship that I’ve seen in the House or the Senate to where he is an effective person.”

Stumbo didn’t disagree with Williams and went on to liken Beshear more to former Gov. Brereton Jones (who famously couldn’t get along with legislators) than to former Gov. Paul Patton (who could), and he refused to endorse Beshear for a second term.

Patton “ran the governor’s office like an old county judge’s office. … You didn’t have to have an appointment to get in, you could call him and he’d answer your questions,” Stumbo said. “He began developing a consensus early on, on key issues. … This governor obviously has a different style.”

And he said Beshear is more like Jones than Patton and former governors Wallace Wilkinson and Martha Layne Collins, who he said had some “sort of reaching out to the legislature.”

Of Beshear, he said, the governor has “ruffled some feathers, which one would have to have blinders on to say that he hasn’t.”

Gerth notes that the bigger blow came when Stumbo declined to comment when asked if Beshear had earned a second term. Beshear is up for re-election in 2011.

As Gerth notes, this is the latest example of Beshear and House leaders from his own party not being on the same page.

In 2007, Beshear jumped ahead of House leadership by proposing a 70-cents-per–pack cigarette tax increase, which put then House Speaker Jody Richards in a bind.

While finding a House Speaker more agreeable to his gambling dreams in Stumbo than Beshear, the two have not seemed to be able to get on the same page in that push, with Beshear remaining distanced from the legislative heavy lifting.

And last week, Stumbo began the process of considering a broad tax reform measure despite Beshear’s earlier warnings that now is not the time to make such a push.

I’m not sure that this spells a run for governor by Stumbo in 2011, but it does indicate that any fears David Williams, a Republican, had about facing a united front between the governor’s office and the House any time soon might not be justified.

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