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After the election

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By Walt Reichert

To the victor belong the spoils. Shelby's top Republican officials are hoping Beshear's victory Tuesday does not spoil the county's hopes for a good spot at the table waiting for handouts from state government.

"Gov. Fletcher was very good to Shelby County, I'll say that," state Sen. Gary Tapp said. "But I'll do my best to work with him {Gov.-elect Beshear} to take care of Shelby County and the whole Senate district."

The county's representatives in Frankfort are both Republicans -- Tapp and state Rep. Brad Montell. The county's top official, county Judge-Executive Rob Rothenburger, is also Republican. Democrat Beshear beat Republican Fletcher by about 18 percentage points statewide Tuesday.

While Fletcher was governor, Shelby County was the recipient of more than $1 million in road funds and hundreds of thousands of dollars in Homeland Security and sewer and water line development grants. Traditionally members of the governor's party have had an inside line on getting money from state appropriations, especially from discretionary funds.

But Montell said there is already evidence Beshear will work well with both parties.

"He spoke to the LRC {Legislative Research Commission} yesterday and he was very gracious and was specific in his comments about how he would work with both sides of the aisle," Montell said. "At this point I'm optimistic we will be able to work together."

Rothenburger said he believes Shelby's position as one of the top growth counties in the state will translate into attention from the General Assembly when it comes to divvying out the revenue.

"In some areas we won't have as much success {securing funds}, but Shelby County is positioned well as a growth county," Rothenburger said. "I think we've shown we take and use the money wisely. We may just have to work harder than we used to."

Election results

Democrat party chair Nathan Riggs said Shelby County will not get left out of the loop with Beshear as governor.

"I think Steve Beshear is going to be a great governor for the state and a great governor for Shelby County," Riggs said.

Riggs had predicted a strong win for Beshear in the county, and that is what happened. Voters here backed Beshear with about 57 percent of the vote, about 2 points shy of his statewide margin. Fletcher carried precincts in the Simpsonville and Finchville area and ran close in some city of Shelbyville precincts but was hammered in most Shelbyville precincts and on the east side of the county.

While Riggs said the election results are a foreboding of good things to come for Democrats next year, Republican officials predicted that this year marks no turning point for Democrats in their effort to regain local momentum in a county that has trended Republican in recent elections.

"Most local races are on the individual," Montell said. "Kentucky is a pretty conservative state and if Hillary wins the nomination I bet there are not many Democrats in the state or in Shelby County that want to be on the ballot with her."

Issues

Though the governor's office is changing hands, the General Assembly will be dealing with familiar issues when it meets in January. The budget will be the big issue, as it has in the past, Tapp said.

The legislature will also have to address the retirement program for state workers, Tapp said.

Expanded gaming has been on the agenda for the past couple of sessions and Beshear said during the campaign he favored putting the matter to the voters. But Tapp said there is no way a plan to put a proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot will make it through the legislature.

"It takes two-thirds votes to move it, and I don't think there's two-thirds votes in the House much less the Senate," Tapp said. "I think that's not going to happen."

Montell said the legislature will also look at a plan to deal with illegal immigrants at the state level. He said one measure likely to be proposed will allow the state's jails to hold undocumented immigrants who have been arrested for possible deportation. Deputy jailers would be trained to spot illegals through the federal 287(g) program.

"If it's determined they are illegal they will not be released on the streets and that's what's happening now," Montell said.

But Montell said the state will have to work with the federal government on ways to provide legal labor from immigrants to businesses that rely on them but at the same time stop the flow of illegal immigrants.

"It's just taxing our schools and our jails and our health care system," Montell said. "Something needs to be done."