Kentucky Republican Senate President David Williams is vacating that post to accept a judgeship in the southern part of the state.
Williams was appointed by Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear, who selected him from a pool of three candidates and announced his choice Oct. 26.Williams ran for governor on the Republican ticket last fall but was soundly defeated by Beshear, who won a second four-year term.
It is widely believed Republican Senate Minority Leader Robert Stivers will be elected Senate president, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader. Republicans hold a 22-14 advantage over Democrats in the Senate, with one Independent and one vacant seat.
The Kentucky horse racing and breeding industry has viewed Williams as the primary obstacle to substantive action on legislation authorizing expanded gambling in the state. A constitutional amendment on casino gambling failed to muster enough votes to pass the Senate earlier this year.
Williams' Senate seat will be filled via a special election.
In a related matter, Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, a Republican, told Insight cn2 Pure Politics Oct. 25 he believes there will be progress in the Senate with Williams gone, including action on casino gambling. Comer, as agriculture commissioner, has been a staunch supporter of the equine industry, which has led the charge for expanded gambling for more than a decade.
Though a constitutional amendment can't be on the ballot in Kentucky until 2014, Comer told Pure Politics there could be legislative action on the issue in 2013. He said he supports a "clean" constitutional amendment that would authorize casino gambling but leave the particulars—racetrack locations and revenue cuts, for example—to enabling legislation.