Sen. Damon Thayer
By Al Cross
Kentucky Health News
Gov. Andy Beshear “does not know how to govern,” the majority floor leader of the state Senate said at Kentucky newspapers’ annual convention Friday.
“This guy hates the legislature, wants to run the government like a monarchy,” Republican Sen. Damon Thayer of Georgetown said of the Democratic governor. “I have very little respect for him.”
Thayer spoke at the Kentucky Press Association convention in Jeffersontown, during a discussion of legislative issues with Senate Minority Leader Morgan McGarvey, D-Louisville. The final question from the audience was about the heavily Republican legislature’s relationship with Beshear, who was narrowly elected in 2019 and is seeking re-election in 2023.
Thayer began his answer by comparing Beshear to his father, Steve Beshear, who was governor from 2007 to 2015. In those years, Republicans controlled the Senate but not the House.
“He was very good at communicating with us,” Thayer said. “I had his cell phone, he had mine; he called me, I called him; he texted me, I texted him; he invited me to his office to talk; he invited me to the governor’s office for lunch. None of that has happened with Andy Beshear.”
Thayer said the most troubling example was the lack of contact about what to do with the pandemic.
“He never communicated with the leadership of the General Assembly on what he was gonna do, how he was gonna do it, when he was going to do it, until a Zoom call right before the second shutdown, which happened right before Thanksgiving of 2020,” Thayer said.
He said he asked on that call, “Governor, why have you waited until now to have this meeting to inform us? He said, ‘This is why we can’t have good communication,’ cut off the call, and basically haven’t heard from him since, except on the Ford plant incentives, which I co-sponsored . . .
“The man does not know how to govern. He does not know how to be collaborative. There are only two or three people in his inner circle that he talks to on a regular basis, and he does not know how to be governor, unlike his father. The apple has fallen far from the tree.”
After the crowd reacted with surprise at Thayer’s bluntness, he added, “I have very little respect for him. I think he’s an accidental governor, and he’s governing like some guy who got 70 percent of the vote when more people voted against him than voted for him, because he won a plurality.”
McGarvey, who leads a small minority, joked, “I’m just happy when anybody calls.” He said there is “a natural, inherent tension no natter which party’s in charge of the legislature and which party’s in charge of the governor.” He noted the problems Republicans had with Republican Gov. Matt Bevin.
“I have kids, and something I say at lot at home is, ‘I don’t care who started it’,” McGarvey said. “When the governor has reached out to the legislature, those efforts have not always been returned.”
Thayer acknowledged there is natural legislative-executive tension, which was greater with Bevin, “but this is different, This is different. This guy hates the legislature, wants to run government like a monarch, and that’s just not the way it goes.”
McGarvey said that soon after Beshear took office, Republicans “attacked” him with legislation to make appointment of future transportation secretaries subject to legislative confirmation, and “I think the governor has reached out a lot more than has been given credit.”
Beshear’s communications director, Crystal Staley, was asked to comment on Thayer’s remarks. She said in an email, “The governor is focused on bringing folks together to build a better Kentucky for our families. He has worked with the General Assembly on everything from broadband expansion and cleaner water and sewer projects to legislation that helped him land the largest economic development project in our commonwealth’s history as well as historical horse racing legislation. Gov. Beshear believes in setting a good example in Frankfort, which means treating everyone, including Senator Thayer, with dignity and respect and not engaging in this type of attack or name-calling.”