Pledging to make his administration bipartisan in spirit, Gov.-elect Steve Beshear received pledges of cooperation Wednesday from legislative leaders in both parties.
Beshear held a press conference on Wednesday morning and met with the leaders of the Legislative Research Commission that afternoon.
Beshear said his administration will include the best ideas and staff regardless of political affiliation. He told reporters he will examine programs and cabinet officials and retrain those proven to be valuable assets.
"We're not going to go in wholesale and fire everybody just because they didn't happen to be hired by a Democratic governor," Beshear said.
Although he said he would maintain contact with local leaders who supported his campaign, Beshear also pledged to uphold the Merit System. He said his contacts in the 120 Kentucky counties would not be used to recommend candidates for state jobs.
"People will be hired on the basis of merit for both merit and non-merit positions," Beshear said.
Gov. Ernie Fletcher conceded his loss to Beshear in a speech at the Griffin Gate Marriott Hotel at approximately 9 p.m. in Lexington Tuesday. He asked his supporters to back Beshear when he takes over the reins of government on Dec. 11.
"Now it's time to move on," Fletcher said. "Now is the time to put party views aside and lend our energies to the common good."
He instructed his cabinet secretaries to assist in the transition and said it's time to come together after the confetti and balloons are swept from the floor.
"The voters have made up their minds and I accept their decision," Fletcher said.
In addressing leaders of the Legislative Research Commission on Wednesday afternoon, including House Speaker Jody Richards, D-Bowling Green, and Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville, Beshear reiterated his commitment to working with Republicans and Democrats.
"We've got to work together to get anything done," he said. "I offer both sides of the aisle my hand in friendship and cooperation."
Williams said he looks forward to working with Beshear to tackle the challenges Kentucky faces.
"We are Kentuckians before we are Republicans or Democrats," he said.
Richards also pledged to work in a bipartisan manner.
Williams said he has had a long and cordial personal relationship with Beshear but said they will not always agree on every subject. But he said Beshear's decision to initiate a cooperative spirit with legislative leaders is a good first step toward working in a bipartisan manner.
"His presence here today bodes well for the beginning of a good relationship," Williams said.
However, he warned the relationship could sour if Beshear gets involved in recruiting and supporting legislative candidates. He said it's natural to have a negative reaction to someone who is working against you.
"The governor will find it a very complicating factor if he wants to sit down with you and at same time try to plot your demise," Williams said.
As head of the Kentucky Democratic Party, Beshear said he would certainly be involved with partisan contests next year but hopes it won't disrupt his efforts to work with Republican legislators.
Beshear also told reporters he expects to make announcements regarding his choices for budget director, chief of staff and secretary of the Finance and Administration Cabinet soon. A press conference is scheduled for this afternoon.
"We only have five weeks to put a government together," he said. "We only have a short time to hit the ground running."
Beshear also said he plans to live in the Governor's Mansion but still maintain and visit his farm. Lt. Gov.-elect Dan Mongiardo said he plans to live in Frankfort during the week and return home to Hazard on the weekends.
Mongiardo, a physician, said he will continue his private practice because he provides his patients with specialized care.
Beshear said he has no specific plans to appoint his wife to any board or commissions yet but will examine how she can provide leadership on issues Kentucky faces.
Mongiardo will resign his seat in the Senate before the inauguration. An account for the inauguration will be opened soon and Beshear will also announce the inauguration committee co-chairs soon as well.