By Ronnie Ellis
CNHI News Service
David Williams was gracious and reflective Wednesday following a 20-point loss to incumbent Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear Tuesday night.
The Republican Senate President, as he promised in is concession speech Tuesday night, was back at the capitol Wednesday, meeting with staff and with reporters to talk about what happens now. He made clear he intends to stay on as the Republican leader in the Senate, but he gave hints he may take on a more conciliatory tone — at least at first.
“Governor Beshear has been re-elected governor for the next four years and he gets the first shot at selling his agenda,” said Williams, adding that it’s just not as likely his own agenda can be pursued from the Senate President’s position as it is from the governor’s office.
As he did Tuesday night, Williams said he still believes the agenda of tax reform, adjustments to the pension system and right-to-work legislation he pushed during the campaign is the right prescription for Kentucky. But he also acknowledged that he lost the election.
“There are things I proposed that will be very difficult to accomplish if you don’t have the support of the governor,” Williams said. Other than that, Williams declined to speculate on the prospects of expanded gambling, re-districting or other measures facing the General Assembly which convenes in January — barring a special session before then to take up re-districting. But he said again he’s ready to work together with Beshear and the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives though he will oppose those measures he thinks poor policy for the state.
He said he called Beshear and congratulated him on his win and Beshear “suggested we get together” after each takes some time to rest after a grueling election.
“It serves no one well for us to have a failed session of the General Assembly,” Williams said. “And it serves no good purpose for me to be critical of the governor.”
A constant Beshear campaign theme was the weariness of voters of “rank partisanship” among the two parties, both in Washington and in Frankfort. While seldom mentioning Williams by name, Williams was clearly the target. Beshear blamed Williams for the failure of the legislature to pass expanded gambling and a bill to raise the high school drop-out age. Both men at times demonstrated deep disdain for the other, with Williams calling Beshear a “caretaker governor with no agenda and no vision.” So it remains to be seen if Williams’ more gracious tone Wednesday is genuine or long-lasting or if Beshear will try to reciprocate.
But Williams said he’s glad he made the race and is better and stronger “physically, intelligently and spiritually.” He said he made a lot of new friends and benefited from their support and that of his wife and family. Williams said his health is good and he no longer must take insulin for his diabetes — “I fell 100 percent better than I have in 10 years.”
He also said he doesn’t know of anything he’d do differently in his campaign, other than raising $10 million, the amount Beshear raised for the campaign.
“I don’t think my message was wrong,” Williams said. “I was just too unpopular to be elected.”
He said he is not bitter about the election.
RONNIE ELLIS writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow CNHI News Service stories on Twitter at www.twitter.com/cnhifrankfort.