Kentucky’s lone independent state senator says his record as budget chairman is the reason he should be the next state Senate president. Originally a Democrat, Leeper made the switch to the GOP in 2000, before becoming an Independent later that decade. He may be the one state senator who can say he has literally worked with each side of the aisle in Frankfort.
Now, he’s hoping to convince Senate Republicans to make him the next president of the chamber, because he has been a loyal GOP caucus member and budget chairman.
And having helped navigate two tough budgets during the recession, Leeper said his conservatism is the way to go forward.
“And I think that's the way we’re going to make Kentucky a better place, to recognize our fiscal constraints and get our fiscal house in order and that’s when we’re going to be able to attract industry, attract the jobs people need," he said.
But first, Leeper must beat Majority Floor Leader Robert Stivers in a caucus race, since Republicans hold an overwhelming majority in the chamber.
That vote will take place next week. While the Senate President is elected by the entire chamber, the 24 votes the Republicans bring far outweighs any other votes.
Leeper says if the Republicans he caucuses with elect him over Stivers, they would be making a huge statement about moving forward.
“If they saw fit to elect me, I think it would make a statement that they are looking for a new day," Leeper said. "I don’t know that Robert doesn’t present that view but I think it’s very clear if they see fit to elect an independent it’s a very clear statement in that aspect."
Leeper’s candidacy is also getting support from tea party groups -- they don’t like Stivers votes on the pseudoephedrine and pill mill bills.