Smith challenges Higdon for Senate whip position

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By Special to The Sun





Sen. Jimmy Higdon isn’t the only senator who wants to be the Republican whip. He is being challenged for the job by his friend, Sen. Brandon Smith, R-Hazard.

Smith, who has been in the legislature two years longer than Higdon, filed for the position after Higdon did, he said, because other members encouraged him to do it.

“It’s a good feeling to have people who are senior members” say to him, “we’d like to see you pursue it,” Smith said.

He said he was told that in addition to the experience, he has the right “demeanor” for the job.

“I think they just thought I was well-suited for the role of whip,” he said, and made a “good argument.”

Smith said the position is a “gateway” position into leadership, and he wouldn’t want to remain in the role for more than one term, he said.

He described the role as one that involved presenting legislation to the members, collecting information, determining what they like and don’t like about it, and serving as a liaison between the members and the leaders.

“They facilitate a working relationship,” he said.

Smith has been in the House of Representatives for a decade and in the Senate for the past two years. He and Higdon share an office suite, and are “very good friends,” he said.

He wouldn’t say whether he believes he’s a stronger candidate than Higdon, only that he thought the position was a good fit for him.

He would have to give up his committee chairmanships if he were elected, he said.

He is the chairman of the Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee, co-chairman of the interim House and Senate Natural Resources and Environment Committee, and co-chairman of both the Senate and joint interim budget review subcommittees on economic development and tourism, natural resources and environmental protection. He is also vice chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee and serves on other committees.

The senator said he thinks the new leadership will differ from the Republican leadership under Sen. David Williams, R-Burkesville, who stepped down as Senate president to fill a vacancy for a circuit judgeship.

“David was a phenomenon,” Smith said. Williams had been in the Senate for so long and was so knowledgeable about legislation and projects that he often handled too much. It won’t be that way now, because there isn’t another legislator like him, Smith explained.

“The power base is going to be more diversified now,” he said.