Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer saw the conversation shift in the Capitol during the legislative session, but he says the Republican Party can’t get the rest of their agenda completed without a change in majority in the state House.
Crediting first year Republican Gov. Matt Bevin with changing the political dynamic in the General Assembly, Thayer, R-Georgetown, said the first session for Bevin was “great.”
“The governor is a fast learner. It’s a steep learning curve in Frankfort particularly for a political outsider like Gov. Bevin, but he surrounded himself with an excellent team of people, some who have experience in government — some who don’t, but all who share his vision for the future of the commonwealth,” Thayer said.
The Senate Floor Leader said that the state does a “disservice to all of our governors” that comes into office by immediately requiring preparations for a two-year spending plan.
Bevin earned praise from Thayer, who said the first year governor “adjusted well” in dealing with the “138 egos in that building.”
After spending most of his time in Frankfort under Democratic governors, Thayer said having Bevin in the Governor’s Mansion this session was “different.”
“There was some — to use an old term — we had to do some gee and hawing to kind of figure out how we were going to make this work, but he had a extremely open communications policy — open door policy — a lot of visits over to the annex,” Thayer said. “Generally, as a legislator you go see the governor – you go to his office he came over to our side a lot. And sort of at the drop of a hat.”
In an effort to expand their advantage and turn Kentucky completely red, the GOP is once again focusing their efforts on flipping majority control in the state House. Thayer is up for re-election to his seat, and there are a handful of contested Senate races, but with a supermajority in the chamber there won’t be as much heartburn for the parties.
After Democrats focused part of their message in the special elections in March and won three of the four open seats, it’s an easy presumption to say Bevin will be a target again in the House races this year. However, Thayer says that is a losing message.
“I hope they make Gov. Bevin central to their campaign because they will lose,” Thayer said slamming the only public polling on the GOP governor as being faulty.
As Democrats partially telegraph the attacks coming on Bevin, Thayer said the GOP will use their same strategy of tying state Democrats to President Obama and presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
“Now, it’s not just a matter of saying they’re in the party of Obama and Clinton, every House Democrat voted for ‘Obamacare’ twice during this last session,” Thayer said. “I think it was a tremendous miscalculation by the Democrats to do that, but they did it and now we’ve got them all on the record voting for it.”
Wording and nuance will come in to play as the GOP casts the healthcare delivery systems as Obamacare and Democrats cast the changes Bevin is attempting to make as a taking away affordable healthcare, which many Kentuckians have been paired with for the first time.
Thayer also thinks that having presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump at the top of the ticket will offer coattails for other Republicans on the ballot.