What on earth is going on in Kentucky? There are thousands of depraved possible answers to that question, but the one we’re focused on today involves the recent messy drama between Gov. Matt Bevin, Lt. Gov. Jenean Hampton, and, apparently, Sen. Mitch McConnell.
It started back in December, when Bevin’s office fired Steve Knipper, Hampton’s chief of staff. Then, in late January, Bevin announced his running mate for the 2019 gubernatorial race would not be Hampton, but state Sen. Ralph Alvarado, who gave a speech at the 2016 Republican National Convention. (Hampton, it should be noted, is the first black official to hold statewide office in Kentucky history.) At the time, Bevin offered no explanation for dropping Hampton from his ticket.
Fast forward to May, when Bevin’s office again flexed its power, firing Adrienne Southworth, Hampton’s chief of staff. Funnily enough, Southworth revealed last week that she had been investigating whether Bevin’s office has the authority to step across offices and fire another elected official’s staff member. This reveal triggered a number of worthwhile questions about the hiring and employment practices being used in the state’s executive office. Two weeks ago, Bevin claimed he had “no knowledge” of the firing.
Then Saturday arrived, and shit got sloppy. First, Southworth met with a host of Kentucky conservative leaders, telling them that McConnell was the reason Hampton got booted from the ticket. This prompted a response from McConnell’s spokesperson, who claimed to the Lexington Herald-Leader that the Senate majority leader “has never discussed this matter with Gov. Bevin and had no role whatsoever.” Southworth claimed the information stemmed from conversations she had with Hampton.
Later that day, Blake Brickman, Bevin’s chief of staff, admitted in a statement to the Courier-Journal that he authorized Finance and Administration Cabinet official Troy Robinson to axe Southworth. Brickman claimed it was because Southworth was constantly lobbying for more lenient laws regarding sex offenders, including pushing for the governor to commute the sentence of a specific individual serving time after being convicted of raping his step-daughter. It was...not the expected explanation, to say the least.
Southworth responded that night, telling the Courier-Journal that what Brickman was referring to was a single meeting with a constituent she helped arrange; she also denied his unspecified claims that she had somehow misused “state property.” Oh, and somewhere in all this, Sen. Rand Paul vaguely felt bad for Hampton, telling reporters, “All I would say is that I hope she’s treated with respect in the future.”
I think that about does it. To state the obvious: This is bizarre as hell. You’ve got a governor, or at least his minions, firing a curious staff member working for the lieutenant governor, who had already been booted as a running mate, supposedly at the urging of the country’s most powerful senator. And the purported explanation for said firing is that one of the two staffers was an apologist for sex offenders. And all of this is happening just five months before Bevin takes on Attorney General Andy Beshear in a crucial election for governor.
If you can shed some light on what the hell is happening over in the Bluegrass State, email us.