Former Gov. Julian Carroll, now a Democratic state senator, was rejected by his colleagues Tuesday in his bid to become Senate minority floor leader.
Democrats instead chose Sen. R.J. Palmer II, a Winchester banker with a reputation as a mild-mannered lawmaker, for the job on the first day of the 2011 legislative session.
Carroll, a Democratic firebrand, said his rocky relationship with Republican Senate President David Williams likely caused his colleagues to opt for the more centrist Palmer heading into what is expected to be a tension-filled series of legislative meetings that will extend into mid-March.
“When David Williams needs to be taken on on the Senate floor, I’ve pretty much been the individual who challenged him on the Senate floor,” Carroll said. “I’ve never feared doing so, and I will not ever fear doing so in the future.”
Palmer, who has been in the Senate since 2001, called Carroll a “very talented” leader from whom he will seek advice in his new role. He replaces retired Minority Leader Ed Worley, who didn’t seek re-election to the Senate last year.
“Most people know me as a mild- mannered person, but I think that I’m someone who has shown I can work in a bipartisan manner to move things forward for both my district and the commonwealth of Kentucky,” Palmer said. “I will continue to try to do that.”
Carroll said he had been told that Williams had worked against his selection by threatening to withhold committee assignments of Democrats who supported him and by threatening to draw unfavorable legislative boundaries in an upcoming redistricting process.
Williams, a gubernatorial candidate who was selected by Republicans to keep the job as Senate president, denied the allegations in press conference Tuesday afternoon.
Senate Democrats met privately to choose its leadership team, opting to keep Jerry Rhoads of Madisonville as whip and Johnny Ray Turner of Drift as caucus chairman.
Rhoads said the leadership race caused no rift among Democrats, and that after a lengthy discussion, Carroll actually withdrew and nominated Palmer for floor leader.
“We left that room united behind our leadership,” Rhoads said. “It was not only a consensus, but there was unanimity among our group.”
Legislative leadership changed little on Tuesday. Democratic House Speaker Greg Stumbo and Republican Floor Leader Jeff Hoover weren’t opposed in their elections. Democratic House Speaker Pro Tem Larry Clark fended off a challenge by former House Speaker Jody Richards to hold on to his position.
House Democratic Whip John Will Stacy lost his position to state Rep. Tommy Thompson, the Owensboro businessman who has served in the House since 2003. And House GOP Whip David Floyd dropped his re-election bid, and was replaced by Rep. Danny Ford, a Mount Vernon auctioneer and real estate agent who has served in the House since 1982.
The Senate Republican majority officially had re-elected all its leaders more than a month ago, keeping Southgate attorney Katie Stine as president pro tem and Manchester lawyer Robert Stivers II as floor leader.