With dominant supermajorities in the General Assembly, the Republicans have a stranglehold on power and the ability to get things done in Kentucky. As long as Republicans work together, they can find solutions to pass legislation, and, if needed, override vetos from Kentucky’s Democratic governor, Andy Beshear.
Looking first at the ability to get things done, then at the track record, and listening to who insiders think is on the rise led to this first power rankings list of Kentucky Fried Politics top 15 legislators in the Kentucky General Assembly.
- Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester. The Republican attorney has been in the upper chamber for the last 24 years learning the tricks and power of the General Assembly. Stivers attained the position of Senate President in 2013 when Sen. David Williams stepped down to assume a judgeship. Stivers works closely with his leadership team and has a history of delivering on deals when it counts. Stivers previously served as majority floor leader from 2008 – 2012.
- Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown. Thayer also leveled up in 2013, becoming the Senate Majority Flood Leader. He’s instrumental in what passes and what flounders during the session. Out of session, Thayer owns a marketing and PR firm, an equine venture LLC, and he recently started a new venture as co-Kentucky Senator Bourbon. Thayer has been in office since 2003 and knows the game of politics often offering campaign guidance.
- House Speaker David Osborne, R-Prospect. The leader of the lower chamber, “Ozzie,” as he’s known amongst members assumed the Speaker’s dais in 2019. Osborne has seen a historic shift in the House of Representatives. Osborne controls a supermajority in a chamber held by Democrats for 95 years prior to the GOP garnering control in the 2016 elections.
- Senate Budget Chairman Chris McDaniel, R-Taylor Mill. The northern Kentuckian is one of the most powerful lawmakers as his committee plays an oversized role in controlling the purse strings. McDaniel was named the budget chairman in 2017 when Republicans assumed control of the House. He has been in the legislature since 2013.
- House Budget Chairman Jason Petrie, R-Elkton. This south-western Kentucky lawmaker has only been in office since 2017 but is up and coming. Petrie is positioned as one of the leaders of the rural GOP caucus. While he is currently the House Budget Chairman he has also positioned himself to run for House speaker if the time arises.
- House Majority Floor Leader Rep. Steven Rudy, R-Paducah. – The former budget chairman stepped up to lead the House as the Republican floor leader – moving bills through the lower chamber. Rudy is also vying for the speaker’s seat, at the right time – angling for the same block of rural votes as Petrie. Rudy locked horns with U.S. Senate Leader Mitch McConnell this session, filing his own bill which would replace the governor’s ability to name a U.S. Senate successor in the event of a vacancy. The General Assembly backed a senate version of the bill, which I wrote about for the Intercept, breaking the news that it was McConnell behind the push for the legislation.
- Senate Majority Caucus Chair Julie Raque Adams, R-Louisville. – She leads a large group of 30 Republicans in the caucus. In the Senate leadership group, Adams is the lone voice for the largest city in the state and a voice for women – of which there only three in the GOP caucus.
- Senate Minority Leader Morgan McGarvey, D-Louisville. Even amongst Republicans McGarvey is well regarded and acknowledged for working across the aisle. McGarvey was a key player in several bills the past session, including the no-knock warrant legislation.
- Rep. Samara Heavrin, R-Leitchfield. Born in 1992, she’s one of the youngest legislators in the General Assembly, but is well respected and seen as a legislator on the rise. Heavrin won a special election in 2019 to replace Tim Moore when he retired. She is well-liked and connected in Republican circles. She worked for state Treasurer Allison Ball and is connected to Congressman Guthrie and Sen. Rand Paul.
- Rep. Jason Nemes, R-Louisville. He was expected to have a tough race in 2020 but was able to run away with his race in what could be a swing district. Nemes is a trial lawyer, but formerly ran the Administrative Office of the Courts, so often sees both sides of legal issues before a legislature that has no prosecutorial or judicial voices.
- Rep. Kim Moser, R-Taylor Mill. Moser plays to her strengths in the legislature and it’s paying off, she is a major voice on health care among lawmakers as the chairwoman of the House Health and Family Services Committee. Moser’s stock is on the rise and is being positioned for an eventual run for Congress.
- Sen. Ralph Alvarado, R- Winchester. Alvarado chairs the Senate Health and Welfare Committee, he takes the helm on complicated issues and boils them down for the upper chamber. He is a doctor and also ended up on the ballot with Gov. Matt Bevin in the 2019 election as his running mate.
- Sen. Max Wise, R-Campbellsville. The Senate Education Chairman finds himself at the crux of major debates on a variety of topics in the General Assembly. The former FBI analyst is a leader on pharmacy issues in the legislature.
- Rep. Adam Koenig, R-Erlanger. The northern Kentuckian chairs the licensing and occupations committee, giving him the ability to practically rewrite all the business laws in the state. He’s also single-handedly rewriting the state’s antiquated liquor laws. He has no problem voting against his own party.
- Rep. Matt Koch, R-Paris. – The horse farmer has led the way the past session in passing legislation to resume historical racing in the Commonwealth after a state Supreme Court decision. Koch was elected in 2019 claiming the once Democratic district.