Kentucky lt. gov. asks for prayers against 'dark forces'

Posted at 1:59 PM, May 31, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-31 13:59:37-04

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky's lame duck lieutenant governor asked for prayers Friday in her fight against "dark forces" after Gov. Matt Bevin's administration dismissed her deputy chief of staff.

In a tweet, Republican Lt. Gov. Jenean Hampton said she doesn't know who initiated the "unauthorized personnel action ending (the) employment" of her assistant, Adrienne Southworth.

Hampton praised Southworth for her "stellar" work and said the ouster went against her wishes. Hampton's tweet ended with a request that people "pray for me as I battle dark forces."

Bevin's office said Friday it doesn't comment on personnel matters.

Southworth's dismissal marked the second time this year that Hampton has feuded with Bevin's administration over the removal of one of her key assistants.

Bevin dropped Hampton from his ticket in January as he launched his reelection campaign. Bevin chose state Sen. Ralph Alvarado as his running mate this year. Bevin faces his political nemesis, Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear, in the November election.

Democrats quickly pounced on the internal GOP squabble. State Democratic Party spokeswoman Marisa McNee said undermining his own lieutenant governor was "an embarrassing new low" for Bevin and another example of the "Bevin train wreck in Frankfort."

As Bevin's running mate in 2015, Hampton became a political trailblazer as the first black person elected to statewide office in Kentucky. Since then, she has had a small role in Bevin's administration, traveling the state to meet with school groups while promoting entrepreneurship and science, technology, engineering and mathematics education for girls.

Hampton had lobbied Bevin for a spot on this year's ticket, telling the Bowling Green Daily News she felt she had done "a fantastic job." Bevin has called Hampton "an extraordinary lieutenant governor" and "a dear and personal friend," but she has said little publicly about her removal from the ticket.

But the tweet signaled Hampton bears hard feelings toward some in Bevin's administration — at least over personnel matters.

Hampton was attending a daylong meeting Friday and was not immediately available for comment, according to Hampton aide Ruth LeMaster, who opened the closed door of the lieutenant governor's office at the state Capitol.

Asked how many staff members are now working in Hampton's office, LeMaster replied: "Right now, it's me." She serves as Hampton's executive operations director.

Southworth was making $81,000 a year and had worked in Hampton's office since late 2015.

Earlier in the year, Bevin's administration fired Hampton's chief of staff, Steve Knipper, against her wishes after he filed to run for secretary of state. Knipper finished third in the state's recent Republican primary.