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Sen. Jimmy Higdon, R-Lebanon, was being considered for a Senate leadership position when The Kentucky Standard went to press Tuesday (Nov. 27) afternoon.
The Senate Republican Caucus was scheduled to meet at 2:30 p.m. to choose a president, president pro-tem, majority leader, majority whip and party caucus chairman.
Higdon, 59, was a candidate for party whip. His only challenger for the position was Sen. Brandon Smith, R-Hazard.
“I’ve told people for a long time that I’d like to get off the bench and get in the game,” Higdon said Monday afternoon.
The senator, whose district includes Nelson County, said he has been encouraged by constituents to seek a leadership role, and he has some ideas about things he would like to accomplish in leadership.
The Republican party’s reshuffling of its leadership was caused by Senate President David Williams’ acceptance of a circuit judgeship appointment by Gov. Steve Beshear.
Williams, R-Burkesville, had led the Kentucky Senate since the Republican Party took control of it from the Democrats in 2000.
Sen. Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, is seeking the Senate presidency and has no opposition within the Republican Party. He is, however, being challenged by Sen. Bob Leeper of Paducah, an independent who caucuses with the Republcans.
Sen. Damon Thayer of Georgetown and Sen. David Givens of Greensburg are vying to succeed Stivers as floor leader of the Republican majority.
The whip post came open when Sen. Carroll Gibson, R-Leitchfield, said last week he would not seek re-election to that position.
The Republican Party caucus chairman, Dan Seum of Louisville, faces a challenge for his job from Sen. Joe Bowen, R-Owensboro.
Sen. Katie Kratz Stine, R-Southgate, was unopposed for re-election as president pro-tem.
Higdon has been in the legislature for 10 years — seven in the House and three in the Senate. He represents District 14, which includes Marion, Mercer, Nelson, Taylor and Washington counties.
He is co-chairman of the statutory Program Review and Investigations Committee, vice chairman of the Licensing, Occupations and Administrative Regulations Committee, and chairman of Senate Transportation Committee’s Budget Review Subcommittee.
He also serves on several other committees, including Appropriations and Revenue.
Higdon said that if he is elected to the whip’s post, he would have to give up his chairmanship and possibly other committee assignments.
One of the main responsibilities of the party’s whip is to round up votes for the party’s positions “in the heat of battle,” Higdon said. But the job is broader than that.
“There’ll be a lot of different assignments that I have,” he said.
Higdon said he has several business interests, but he is not actively involved in all of them, and he has time for the leadership post.
Higdon said his qualifications include having leadership experience in the private and public sectors, “good people skills” and “a fair amount of institutional knowledge.” But that’s also true of Smith, he added.
All the candidates for all the leadership roles are capable, Higdon said, so the choices are competitive.
“I think it’s going to be an interesting day,” he remarked.
Higdon thinks that, whatever the outcome of the election contests, the new Senate leadership will be more “diplomatic” than it was under Williams.
“My goal is to be kinder and gentler,” he said.
The Republican Party is going into the 2013 session in a stronger position than it had prior to Nov. 6 after the party made gains in the Senate and House. Still, the party will have to work with Democrats, who control the House and governor’s office, in order to get important work done.
“We’ve got a lot of issues to deal with — very big issues,” he said.
He called dealing with the state’s massive unfunded pension liability “job one,” and said the Senate last week made some recommendations. “There’s something for everybody not to like,” he said, but legislators are going to have to make hard decisions.
Legislators will also look at tax reform, but a task force is studying the matter, and it’s unlikely there will be a comprehensive tax reform bill before the 2014 session or a special session, Higdon said.
Higdon outlined the Republican position on taxes.
“Our goal is to cut the personal income tax and spread some taxes to services,” he said. “It’s going to be interesting. We need to do that to make Kentucky more attractive for businesses to locate here.”
Higdon said he has pre-filed “a couple of bills,” including one regarding money for special needs children in preschool.
“I look forward to serving my constituents in Nelson County whether it’s in leadership or not,” Higdon said.