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Government/Politics

Blevins Resignation Date Uncertain

walter_blevins.jpg

One week after saying he would tender his resignation from his state Senator seat in January, Senator Walter "Doc" Blevins (D-27 District) is rethinking that decision.

On Monday, Nov. 17, Blevins told The Ledger Independent he would resign on Jan. 5, 2015, and assume his new duties as judge-executive of Rowan County on Jan. 6.

The 27th Senatorial District includes Bourbon, Fleming, Harrison, Lewis, Mason, Nicholas, Robertson and Rowan counties, covering a population of approximately 100,000 people.

Blevins' resignation date initiated a reaction from the Lewis County Republican Party, challenging why he was waiting until after the first of the year, leaving the district unrepresented in the 2015 General Assembly session.

On Monday, Nov. 24, Blevins was contacted again by the newspaper and asked why he wouldn't consider resigning earlier, so that a special election could be held sooner than late January or February.

Initially, Blevins said he "didn't see the urgency in it" and said the only people concerned were The Ledger Independent and the Lewis County Republican Party members.

"They'll just have to wait, I don't know why they're so concerned about it," he said of the Lewis County Republican Party.

He also noted the district would be represented in the Senate, through the efforts of state representatives who cover the same counties and "one vote isn't going to make a difference," when it came to selecting leadership roles in the early session in January.

Blevins said he was already considering moving the resignation date to Dec. 29, which could allow enough time for a special election and the seat be filled by the end of the General Assembly session.

By 5 p.m., Monday, Blevins said he was considering resigning Dec. 1, depending on how that decision would affect his state provided health benefits for the one month break in coverage, which he would have to pay out of his pocket. As of Tuesday afternoon, Blevins said he had not received that information yet and it could be a few more days before his decision is made.

Over the course of the week after his announced resignation date, political party leaders in Fleming and Mason counties were contacted for comment on the situation.

Mason County Judge-Executive and Democratic Chair James L. "Buddy" Gallenstein said he didn't think having a vacant seat during the session would hurt the district, since the first weeks in January are committee and leadership meetings, and the second week of February is when legislation would be introduced.

"He is a duly elected sitting senator, he holds his seat until his new term (as judge-executive), there is nothing we can do in the meantime," Gallenstein said.

Pat Price, chair of the Fleming County Democratic Party echoed Gallenstein.

"It's Senator Blevins' decision, he's the senator.  I would rather we had representation, but I don't think they (General Assembly) will hurt the district without it.  I think it's a thing that the Republicans are making a big deal," Price said.

Price said he was unaware of any Democratic candidates interested in seeking the seat at this time.

On the opposing side, Fleming County Republican Chair Charlie Masters said his party feels by delaying Blevins' resignation until after the first of the year, all eight counties in the district will only have representation in the state House, rather than representation in both the Senate and House during the 2015 session.

"We're not going to have any representation on anything as bills get introduced and passed," said Masters. "Who's that serving, why take our vote away from us.  He is purposely not allowing this to happen."

"I would implore him to go ahead and resign so we can get this process started, as the newly elected judge-executive of Rowan County, they will also be denied representation during this Senate session," Masters said.

Masters said to his knowledge, three people have contacted the office of State Senate Majority Leader Robert Stivers office, expressing interest in the seat.

When contacted for comment on the issue last week, Stivers provided the following comment:

“Senator Blevins, by operation of law pursuant to KRS 61.090, will be forced to vacate his Senate seat as soon as he takes the oath of office for county judge-executive. Sen. Blevins cannot hold both positions simultaneously.”

Senator Robin Webb, who represented part of the 27th District prior to redistricting in 2012 said with the 2015 session being only a 30-day session and not including budget issues, she didn't "think it will prejudice the district," if the special election isn't held in time.  She also noted it is important for the people of the district to become familiar with who will be representing them.

"You've got representation, as a commonwealth, that's what we are charged to do...you want to do due diligence in selecting a candidate for the balance of the term," Webb said.

According to the state constitution, county judges-executive take office on the first Monday in January following their election.

An official with the Secretary of State's communication office in Frankfort said last week once the resignation is tendered, a writ for a special election will be issued by either Gov. Steve Beshear or the General Assembly, setting a date for a special election. The election will take place 56 days after the writ is issued and both political parties will have the opportunity to submit petitions for (candidate) nominations 49 days before the election.

The Ledger Independent is online at: http://www.maysville-online.com