The battle for control of the Kentucky House intensifies - WDRB 41 Louisville News

The battle for control of the Kentucky House intensifies

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Frankfort, KY. (WDRB) -- The battle is on for control of state government in Kentucky.

Republicans are in a full court press to take the Democrats last remaining outpost, the state House.

Democrats have controlled the Kentucky House since 1921, but Republicans appear poised to take over.

Democrats have held a slim 53-47 lead in the House, but that number is now in flux, with some members leaving. The loss of a handful of seats will flip the chamber to the GOP.

Louisville Republican Kevin Bratcher says Gov. Matt Bevin's landslide win has given his party momentum.

“We’ve been here before. We’ve been close, but never this close. This is the best it’s ever been for Republicans in Kentucky,” Bratcher said.

Bevin helped on Thursday when he appointed Democratic Rep. John Tilley to serve as his Justice Secretary, leaving Tilley's seat open and in play.

Democratic Speaker Greg Stumbo accused Republicans of trying to buy their way to a majority.

“By offering people lucrative positions, just because you can, I think, is a slap in the face of representative democracy,” Stumbo said.

Democratic Rep. Denny Butler of Louisville switched parties soon after Bevin's win, and Stumbo says several others in the House have been approached.

“They want to know what we want. What’s our price?” he said.

But political consultant Bob Gunnell believes it's just a matter of time before the GOP takes the House.

“Given the lack of enthusiasm for the Democratic message in this state right now, I think it's inevitable,” Gunnell said.

A Republican majority means more clear sailing for issues such as right to work and charter schools.

Democrats say they will not go down without a fight.

“If they beat us at the ballot box, then I’ll accept that and move forward," Stumbo said. "But by taking members and trying to buy government, to me, that’s just repulsive."

Democrats are fighting a national trend. Kentucky is the last remaining southern state in which Democrats still control one chamber.

Late Friday, House Minority Leader Jeff Hoover released a statement criticizing Stumbo’s remarks

The statement reads in part:

“… when the Speaker of the House makes public comments stating legislators such as Rep. Tilley and Rep. Butler are “for sale,” that the only motivation for their decisions was financial, and insinuating that their actions were criminal is beyond disheartening.  I find such statements to be slanderous and believe the intent behind them to be nothing more than defamation of these gentlemen’s impeccable character.  Speaker Stumbo owes each of them, as well as the General Assembly as a whole, a public apology for making such statements.”

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