FRANKFORT Republican Gov. Matt Bevin has apparently picked off another House Democrat, appointing Rep. Tanya Pullin, D-South Shore, to an administrative law judge position.
“I understand Gov. Bevin has filed the paperwork,” Pullin said Tuesday night in an interview with CNHI but she wasn’t certain the appointment had been filed in the Secretary of State Office or would have to wait until Wednesday.
Pullin was nominated for a similar position by a nominating commission in the final days of Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear’s administration, but Beshear instead appointed Tyra Reedus.
But Pullin said she was recently approached by representatives of the administration - she declined to name them - asking if she would be interested in another administrative law judge position should a vacancy occur.
“I said, well, yes - if there’s another vacancy,” Pullin said, adding she wasn’t aware of a vacancy or an impending one.
Pullin said she was told by a member of the Bevin administration late Tuesday afternoon that “the paperwork is done and is being filed. I don’t know if that meant it was filed this afternoon or would be tomorrow.” She said she received the call after closing time for state offices.
Pullin said she did not speak with Bevin directly about such a position or appointment.
Pullin’s departure from an already shrinking Democratic House majority comes the day after Mike Denham, D-Maysville, announced he would not seek re-election for health reasons.
It also follows the departure last week of Democratic state Rep. John Tilley of Hopkinsville, whom Bevin named Secretary of the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet and the earlier announcement by Rep. Denny Butler of Louisville that he was switching his registration from Democrat to Republican.
Combined, the departures of Pullin, Tilley and Butler reduced the Democrats’ number in the House from 54 to 51. Republicans hold 46 seats, but two of those will shortly be vacated when Ryan Quarles resigns to become Agriculture Commissioner and Mike Harmon resigns before being sworn in as state Auditor of Public Accounts.
All but Butler’s seat will be filled by special election but those aren’t likely to occur before sometime in March and Republicans think the political winds in Kentucky are behind them and they can retain theirs while picking off the Democratic held seats.
While Republicans have publicly set their sights on taking over the House after the November 2016 election rumors are swirling in Frankfort about additional defections by Democrats offered jobs by the Bevin administration or others being induced to switch parties giving Republicans hope they can achieve a majority by January when the General Assembly convenes.
Those efforts and rumors have led Democratic House Speaker Greg Stumbo to suggest some members have “put out a for sale sign,” comments which have drawn harsh criticism from House Minority Leader Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, and others. They point out Beshear appointed three Republican senators to higher paying positions when he tried unsuccessfully to engineer a Democratic takeover of the state senate.
Pullin said she met personally Tuesday with House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, to tell him of her decision, saying Stumbo took the news graciously.
She described Stumbo’s reaction as “friendly and generous.”
The governor’s press spokeswoman did not immediately return a call and message left on her cell phone seeking comment.