Governor's Statement On Leadership - January 10, 1997

Frankfort has descended into the same partisan political bickering that has characterized Washington for the past several years. I canít predict which party will win this battle but I am certain that the people of Kentucky will be the loser. The debate about who started it will go on endlessly for the people of Kentucky, the people we have been sent here to serve in society.

I detest this kind of useless and destructive partisanship. And let me assure the people of Kentucky that I do not believe that surrender is the way to solve conflict. I believe that it is our responsibility to stand fast on our convictions. Let the people of Kentucky decide at the ballot box.

I support the decision of 15 Democratic Senators not to surrender. I think everyone here knows Iím a strong Democrat, and as a Democratic Governor Iíve tried to be a strong leader of the Democratic Party. Iím a Democrat because, with all our diversity, there are certain fundamental principles of our party which I support very strongly. Iím trying to be a strong leader of the party because I think itís my responsibility as the highest-ranking elected Democratic official in Kentucky.

I believe thatís the right thing to do because it helps preserve the two-party system in Kentucky and the United States. The two-party system has served the nation well for about 200 years.

One of the fundamental strengths of any political party is the loyalty of its leaders. I recognize the right and responsibility of private citizens who may be registered as Democrats, or Republicans, because of their beliefs to vote for the individual candidate, regardless of party, based on the issues of a race and the qualifications of the candidates.

But I believe that anyone who holds an office in the Democratic Party, or is elected to public office under the banner of the Democratic Party, owes their loyalty to that party and its fundamental structure. Thatís the reason I have given my support to the fifteen loyal Democrats of the Senate who have stuck with our party this week in the face of a tremendous assault.

I call them the Valley Forge Democrats. As Washington and his army endured the bitter cold and isolation of winter in defense of a fledgling nation, and the principles of democracy, these Democrats must endure the status of a minority party when the people of Kentucky elected a majority of Democrats to lead the Senate.

I agree with them that they should not participate in the shame of committee chairs not selected by leadership of their choice and dependent upon the Republican leadership for their authority. It would also be a mistake to accept responsibility without the authority that must be granted to do the job.

Unfortunately, they have not prevailed. The Republican Party has taken control of the Kentucky State Senate. Let me hasten to add that Iím not blaming the Republicans. I believe the five misguided Democrats have created a situation in the Senate which will lead to chaos and perhaps gridlock so long as it exists.

This will not be good for Kentucky nor my administration. Kentucky canít afford to go two years without taking major action on several fronts.

And to my friends representing the mountains, I share your desire to do more for our people back home. But we can only do that with the support of the rest of the state. Governance cannot be guided by regionalism. That would be detrimental to the entire commonwealth, and especially to Eastern Kentucky. I urge you to seriously consider the possible adverse affects of your actions.

I must figure out some way to work with the situation which exists to move my agenda forward. I intend to continue to work with the leadership of the Republican Party on those issues on which we agree as I did on Workersí Compensation.

But we will not always agree on the issues. So I must figure out a way to work with the Democratic minority on all issues to the extent that I can. I will always work with individual senators on an issue-by-issue basis.

For these reasons, I appreciate and accept the loyal Democratsí offer to organize themselves in a way which will allow them to work effectively from their position of disadvantage and I pledge to work with them.

I will, and I will instruct my staff and cabinet to, work with the Republican leaders of each standing committee and the Democratic chairs of these committees as selected by the loyal Democratic caucus to prepare our legislative package for the next two years, and to work with these leaders and the leaders of the two caucuses while the legislature is in session.

This is not the most desirable way to work with the Senate but Iím confident it is the best method under the current circumstances. I call on all the senators and all the members of the General Assembly to put aside this political intrigue and wrangling until the next election and let us all work together to develop a progressive and aggressive agenda for Kentucky for the next two years.

Thatís what the people of Kentucky elected us to do.

I want to again thank the fifteen loyal Democrats for their courage and dedication this past week and pledge to you my continued support and cooperation.