Whitesburg KY

Saying good-bye to Senate bully

It’s too bad there’s no highlight reel of David Williams’s 13-year tenure as president of the Kentucky Senate.

It could provide residents of southern Kentucky a closer look at the Burkesville Republican about to become their circuit judge. Sadly, those highlights would not always portray the outgoing senator, dubbed “the bully from Burkesville,” as the most temperate individual.

Really, a recap of some of Mr. Williams’s Senate moments might serve as a checklist of what the citizens do not need in a judge. But Gov. Steve Beshear already has appointed Mr. Williams as a judge for the 40th judicial circuit serving Clinton, Cumberland and Monroe counties and Mr. Williams has accepted.

Still, it might be instructive to review a few memorable events of his Senate career.

One of the more bizarre episodes in recent Senate history came in 2002, when Mr. Williams erupted in anger and sent the sergeant of arms in pursuit of Sen. David Boswell for daring to approach him on the dais where Mr. Williams presided.

A startled Mr. Boswell, an Owensboro Democrat known for his affability, said he simply attempted to get Mr. Williams’s attention by touching his arm. Mr. Williams accused his Senate colleague of grabbing his arm and attempting to “threaten” him.

Another unfortunate highlight occurred in 2007 when Mr. Williams, never known for his thick skin, apparently became angry after Sen. Ernesto Scorsone, a Lexington Democrat, got under it for criticizing Mr. Williams’s purchase of $17,400 video screen for his office at state expense.

The same day, Senate Republicans stripped Mr. Scorsone of his Senate Judiciary Committee seat.

Just several years before, an infuriated Mr. Williams ordered Mr. Scorsone to “Take your seat and be silent!” after Mr. Scorsone, in a floor speech, criticized Senate Republicans.

Mr. Scorsone — now himself a circuit judge in Lexington — wasn’t the only Senate Democrat to suffer for speaking out during the Williams regime.

Dr. Daniel Mongiardo of Hazard was yanked off a Medicaid oversight committee in 2002 after he criticized Mr. Williams’s ego. Former Senate Democrats David Karem and Tim Shaughnessy of Jefferson County both lost key committee posts after criticizing Mr. Williams’s leadership.

Too often Mr. Williams as Senate president became bogged down in petty partisan spats, using his power to punish. Rather than advance the agenda, too often he obstructed it. Praised for his cleverness, too often he used it for short-term political gain at the expense of his constituents and the commonwealth.

As a judge he will have to resolve conflicts, listen to all sides and reach fair decisions. In this new job offered by his political arch-enemy, Gov. Beshear, simply to remove Mr. Williams from the political landscape in Frankfort, Mr. Williams will get a new chance to exhibit leadership skills he is said to possess.

We look forward to seeing him take full advantage of this opportunity.

— The Courier-Journal, Louisville

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