Attorney General and presumptive Democratic gubernatorial nominee Jack Conway has some strong words for a Republican lawmaker who criticized his job performance on the Senate floor during the closing hours of the 2015 legislative session.
Somerset Republican Chris Girdler pushed for passage late Tuesday of a resolution calling on the Attorney General to respond to legislative requests for opinions within 30 days if needed to help draft bills – a move some Democrats interpreted as a political shot at their likely 2015 nominee for governor.
The measure, which was co-sponsored by Senate Judiciary Committee chair and Republican Attorney General candidate Whitney Westerfield, was prompted by what Girdler argues are sluggish responses from Conway’s office.
Following an appearance at the University of Kentucky Thursday, the Attorney General fired back at the freshmen senator, calling the resolution a political stunt.
"I would say that reflects on his job performance and it actually reflects on how much he actually knows about the office of the Attorney General," he said. "So the next time he opens his mouth when he ought to be doing the people’s business in the waning hours of a legislative session where they procrastinated too much he ought to be doing the people’s business rather than showing himself to know nothing of what he’s talking about."
Pointing to a 40 percent budget cut endured by his office, the gubernatorial hopeful defended his record, citing the closure of half of the pain clinics in Kentucky, the creation of a cyber crimes unit, and other initiatives. Standard wait times for legal opinions, he said, are generally 90 days.
But Girdler says the wait time on a request he submitted last September was closer to six months.
In a statement to WUKY, the lawmaker writes that he was surprised by the antagonism in Conway’s response, adding, “The insulting language he used attacking another elected official daring to question his job performance is beneath him and the trust the people of Kentucky have placed in him.”
Girdler continues, "What isn’t surprising to me is that Jack Conway used his comments to make this a political issue. He’s the one who brought the Governor’s race into this conversation, not me. "
And while both sides aren't likely to agree on the politics, one thing seems clear. The tone of the rhetoric in the disagreement could foreshadow a combative campaign season ahead.
Read the full remarks from Attorney General Jack Conway and Sen. Chris Girdler below.
"It was a resolution introduced by Chris Girdler I believe and I think it was a very cheap political stunt. It was an example of rank partisanship at a time when the Senate should have been about its business on issues like the heroin bill and other pieces of legislation. And it was a really cheap political stunt by a young senator that has no idea of what he’s talking about. And for him to try to score cheap political points against a candidate for governor when the General Assembly is in its closing minutes and people are literally looking for help, I thought it was the lowest of the low.
"And he just didn’t have his facts straight. He’s asked us for a couple of opinions and it’s standard for the Attorney General’s office to turn an opinion around in about 90 days. If they’re complex we ask for a little more time. We also ask for stakeholders to tell us what they think the law is because we don’t want to issue an opinion without getting input from all sides. We try to be thorough. And the General Assembly during my tenure has cut my office’s budget by 40 percent… 40 percent. We’re doing a heck of lot more with a lot fewer employees. Despite my office’s budget being cut by 40 percent, we’ve shut down half the state’s pain clinics. We’ve turned the tide on the epidemic of pills. I’ve created a cyber crimes unit that has a 100 percent conviction rate that’s taken 800,000 child porn images off the internet. We have civil collections up over 600 percent, more than $300 million returned to Medicaid. I’ve gone after for profit colleges that have lied to a lot of students and veterans. I have elder abuse prosecutions up over 300 percent.
"And so for a relatively new freshmen to come in and criticize my job performance because he thought I should have turned his opinion around in 30 days is severely misinformed. And I would say that reflects on his job performance and it actually reflects on how much he actually knows about the office of the Attorney General. So the next time he opens his mouth when he ought to be doing the people’s business in the waning hours of a legislative session where they procrastinated too much he ought to be doing the people’s business rather than showing himself to know nothing of what he’s talking about."
"I’m surprised by the antagonism in Jack Conway’s comments about my Senate Resolution asking his Office to respond to requests from legislators quickly. The insulting language he used attacking another elected official daring to question is job performance is beneath him and the trust the people of Kentucky have placed in him.
“If you look at SR 193 it’s really quite simple and straight forward - I asked Jack Conway to respond to requests from legislators in 30 days if the request had do to with assistance in drafting legislation. I filed the resolution because I sent a letter seeking assistance to Jack Conway’s Office on September 9, 2014 and did not receive a response until March 4, 2015 (after I filed the resolution). I think everyone will agree that’s just too long.
“What isn’t surprising to me is that Jack Conway used his comments to make this a political issue. He’s the one who brought the Governor’s race into this conversation, not me. While he’s worried about campaigns, I’m trying to draft legislation to ensure big government isn’t forcing private business out of the marketplace.
“I will concede one point to Jack Conway, I am younger than he is and I haven’t spent my entire political career using one government job to campaign for another. But I do have enough experience working for Congressman Hal Rogers and as small businessman to know what’s right. So when Jack Conway tells me keep my mouth shut and mind my own business I know that’s the time to stand up and talk even louder."