Republicans Now Control Every Legislative Chamber in the South

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (R), an anti-choice stalwart, is expected to usher in an assortment of conservative policies when the state legislature convenes in January.

Republicans on Election Day secured a majority in the Kentucky state house, stripping Democrats of their single legislative majority in the South and removing the last bulwark against anti-choice measures pushed by Kentucky’s GOP legislators.

Kentucky’s GOP wave swept 17 incumbent Democrats out of office, and a slim 53-47 Democratic majority became a massive 64-36 Republican majority. Republicans also kept their overwhelming majority in the state senate.

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (R), an anti-choice stalwart, is expected to usher in an assortment of conservative policies when the state legislature convenes in January. 

Bevin was particularly pleased with the defeat of Speaker of the House Greg Stumbo (D-Prestonsburg), and boasted to reporters that he expressed “good riddance” to the ousted speaker on Election Night, reported the Lexington Herald-Leader.

“He has been a thorn in the side in any number of good people for political reasons,” Bevin said. “I’m not going to miss him one bit and I don’t think the people of his district are going to, based on the incredible drubbing he received.”

Democratic political consultant Danny Briscoe told the Lexington Herald-Leader that after years of Kentucky Republicans blaming the federal government for the demise of the coal industry, the responsibility now falls on them to revitalize the state’s economically depressed areas.

“Republicans no longer have Obama and Clinton to use against Kentucky Democrats,” Briscoe said.

Rep. Jeff Hoover (R-Jamestown), who will be become the state’s first Republican speaker of the house in 95 years, said during a press conference that he will use the total GOP control of the state to push a range of conservative policies.  

“We have tremendous challenges facing us but I like to say we have even greater opportunities,” Hoover said. “We are up to the task.”

Rep. Hubert Collins (D-Wittensville) was among the Democrats swept out of office in eastern Kentucky. He was soundly defeated by Republican challenger William Wells. Collins said the election results were, in part, driven by “working people” who viewed Clinton as anti-coal, reported the Lexington Herald-Leader.

“Lots of people voted straight Republican ticket to protest Clinton and her comment in the campaign about putting coal companies out of business,” Collins said. “Trump had long coattails in many state House races as a protest vote against Clinton.”

Bevin in an op-ed laid out an assortment of conservative polices that he will seek to implement, including deregulation, cutting taxes for businesses, making it more difficult for people to file medical malpractice lawsuits, and decimating collective bargaining rights. Bevin wrote that the election results were a “rejection of oppressive regulations, burdensome tax policy, and cronyism,” and that they would ensure that the “roar of the people of Kentucky will be heeded.”

Restricting access to abortion care is expected to be a legislative priority for the state’s new GOP majority. Kentucky Republican lawmakers in recent years have introduced several anti-choice bills, only to have them blocked by the house’s Democratic majority.

Lawmakers this year were able to pass a bill that required a physician to have a face-to-face meeting with a pregnant person seeking an abortion. The measure required both parties to be located in the same room for the GOP-backed forced counseling to be valid.

Martin Cothran, spokesman for the Family Foundation of Kentucky, a state affiliate of the Family Research Council, told the Lexington Herald-Leader that the GOP-controlled house expected to take up anti-choice priorities such as a forced ultrasound requirement and defunding Planned Parenthood.

“We are pretty confident that those bills will be taken up rather quickly,” Cothran said.

Bill Londrigan, the president of the Kentucky State AFL-CIO, told the Lexington Herald-Leader that Republican lawmakers will consider policies such as a repeal of the state’s prevailing wage law and implementing “right-to-work” laws.

“We fully expect them to implement these backward policies to prevent us from raising wages for workers,” Londrigan.

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