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Jenean Hampton’s power struggle with Matt Bevin’s administration accelerates since she was dumped from his re-election ticket
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor
FRANKFORT, Kentucky (CFP) — Kentucky Lieutenant Governor Jenean Hampton has fired off an angry letter demanding that Governor Matt Bevin‘s administration stop firing members of her staff, as the relationship between the state’s two top political leaders continues to deteriorate.
“In the future, you are not to execute any personnel action involving my staff unless you have my express, written permission,” Hampton said in a letter to Troy Robinson, the head of the governor’s Office of Administrative Services, which was obtained by the Lexington Herald-Leader.
On May 30, Robinson’s office, which oversees human resources for state executive officers, terminated Hampton’s deputy chief of staff, leaving her with just one staff member.
The lieutenant governor then took to Twitter to ask for prayers “as I battle dark forces.”
The firing marks that second time Hampton has seen one of her staff members fired without her assent.
In January, her chief of staff, Steve Knipper, was fired when he filed to run for secretary of state. She tried without success to rehire him by issuing her own executive order.
The reasons for the latest firing remain unclear; Bevin told reporters he was not aware of the staffer’s termination and did not know the reason for the firing.
The personnel dispute is the latest sign of a deteriorating relationship between Bevin and Hampton, who was vaulted to the No. 2 position in Kentucky politics after he selected her as his running mate in 2015.
Earlier this year, Bevin announced he was dumping Hampton — the first African American to serve in a statewide constitutional office — from his ticket in favor of State Senator Ralph Alvarado..
He offered no explanation for the switch other than to say he chose not to run with Hampton “because I chose to run with Ralph Alvarado.”
Hampton, 61, a former Air Force captain from Bowling Green, was a favorite of Tea Party groups, who had lobbied Bevin to keep her on his ticket.
Kentucky is one of 13 states where candidates for governor select a running mate, rather than electing lieutenant governors separately.
The duties of the lieutenant governor are limited to participation on several state boards and taking over in the event a governor cannot continue in office. The lieutenant governor does not preside of the State Senate, as is the case in 26 other states.
In her letter to Robinson, Hampton said she “did not advise or authorize you to terminate employment” of Adrienne Southworth, her deputy chief of staff.
“I was not consulted in this action, and I fail to understand how my staff can be terminated without discussing matters with me, their immediate supervisor,” she said. “Neither you nor anyone other than myself is positioned to determine if the services of my staffers are needed or not.”
Hampton demanded that Southworth be reinstated and that she be provided with the reasons behind her termination.
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Hampton, a Tea Party favorite, was first African American to hold statewide office
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor
At a January 25 news conference in the Capitol rotunda unveiling the new team, Bevin did not offer a detailed explanation for the change, saying only that he chose not to run with Hampton “because I chose to run with Ralph Alvarado.”
He described Hampton — the first African American to ever hold statewide office in Kentucky — as a “dear and personal friend” and “an extraordinary lieutenant governor.”
Tea Party groups who backed Bevin in his 2015 race had been lobbying him to keep Hampton, an Air Force veteran and Tea Party activist from Bowling Green who had never held elected office before Bevin picked her as his running mate.
Hampton did not make any immediate comment about her departure from Bevin’s gubernatorial ticket, although she told her hometown paper, the Bowling Green Daily News, that she wanted to continue as lieutenant governor.
Alvarado, 48, is a physician from Winchester who was first elected to the Senate in 2014, becoming the first Latino to serve in the commonwealth’s legislature. The son of immigrant parents, he gave an address at the 2016 Republican National Convention, partially in Spanish.
“I’m humbled the governor has even considered me,” Alvarado said of his selection. “I think the vision that he has had for this state needs to be carried on and carried forward.”
Alvarado’s presence on the ticket could help Bevin mend his frayed relations with Republicans in the legislature, with whom he has sparred over pension reform, an issue that has roiled politics in the Bluegrass over the past two years.
Bevin, whose job approval rating in a December Mason-Dixon poll lagged at just 38 percent, is facing a GOP primary challenge from one of Alvarado’s legislative colleagues, State Rep. Robert Goforth from London.
However, Alvarado could also become a target for Bevin’s Democratic opponents due to his record in the legislature.
Alvarado helped push through a controversial law that made it more difficult for patients to pursue malpractice claims against doctors, which was unanimously struck down by the Kentucky Supreme Court.
The Lexington Herald-Leader also reported that Alvarado works for several nursing homes that have been rated as being of substandard quality by federal inspectors while pushing legislation that would make it more difficult for nursing home patients to sue.
The primary is May 21.
The Mason-Dixon poll in December showed Beshear with an 8-point lead over Bevin in a head-to-head match up, right at the poll’s margin of error; Adkins and Bevin were even.
Kentucky is one of 13 states where candidates for governor select a running mate, rather than electing lieutenant governors separately. The only other Southern state using this system is Florida.
In Kentucky, the duties of the lieutenant governor are limited to participation on several state boards and taking over in the event a governor cannot continue in office. The lieutenant governor does not preside of the State Senate, as is the case in 26 other states