Gov. Matt Bevin’s love-hate relationship with the Kentucky legislature has been a problem for a Republican Party that has full control of state government.
Bevin is known for criticizing state legislators in public, and a few have been chastised in personal late-night phone calls for certain votes or comments, multiple sources have told me.
Serious strides, however, were made in smoothing that relationship during the recent special legislative session, as Bevin administration officials and House Republicans worked to get a pension-relief bill over the 51-vote threshold.
“I think what the special session showed is that the governor has a good working relationship with the House and the Senate, and that they’re willing to tackle tough issues to move Kentucky forward,” Blake Brickman, the governor’s chief of staff, told me. “And it’s a good sign of things to come in the future that we have a good working relationship.”
Bevin’s conservative allies are also hoping the governor will keep playing nice with Republicans going into the upcoming Fancy Farm weekend.
Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear is waging an aggressive challenge against the unpopular incumbent, and after a primary where a freshman legislator raked in about 40% of the vote, Bevin needs more allies than enemies.
Rep. Jerry Miller, R-Eastwood, said his members learned in July the worst day of Bevin is better than the best day of Beshear.
“Absolutely,” he said. “Virtually everybody would agree with it save maybe three or four.”
Bevin administration officials and House Republicans say the MVP was former state Rep. DJ Johnson of Owensboro, who helped move the “maybe” House votes to a yes with a consistent and focused message.
Johnson, if you recall, was the state legislator who lost by a single vote in November. An elections panel ruled Daviess County officials had to do a recount, which resulted in a tie, but Johnson gave up that fight in February.