FRAKNFORT -- Kentucky Republicans on Thursday nominated David Osborne to be the next speaker of the state House of Representatives, putting him in charge of a caucus that had been rocked by a sexual harassment scandal but emerged with a super majority following the midterm elections.
The 61-member GOP caucus selected Osborne during an election that was closed to the public. Osborne declined to say if he had opposition. The caucus did not release vote totals.
"It's not something that I ever thought I would do," Osborne said. "It is important to me. It's very humbling and I am extremely humbled and appreciative that I've been given the opportunity."
A real estate agent and horse farmer from Oldham County, Osborne has served in the House since 2005. He was elected speaker pro tempore in 2017 when Republicans won a House majority for the first time in nearly 100 years.
Republicans seemed invincible heading into the 2018 legislative session, with a governor and super majorities in both chambers of the state legislature. But things changed in late 2017 when the Courier Journal revealed Speaker Jeff Hoover and three other GOP lawmakers had signed a secret sexual harassment settlement with a woman who once worked for the House Republican Caucus.
Hoover eventually resigned as speaker, but kept his seat in the legislature. Osborne assumed the role of speaker without a formal vote. He steered the chamber through a turbulent session that included a sales tax increase, an income tax cut and public pension legislation that prompted thousands of teachers to close more than 30 school districts so they could march in protest at the Capitol.
The turmoil gave Democrats hope they could diminish the Republicans' grip on power, but on election night the GOP still emerged with 61 out of 100 seats -- a net loss of only two seats.
"There were 61 family members here today. It was a united group," Osborne told reporters after Thursday's leadership elections.
Osborne said GOP leaders will meet next week to discuss an agenda for the 2019 legislative session, which begins in January. But their first task could be to lead recounts in at least five House races that were too close to call on election night. Democrats won four of those races, including Democrat Jim Glenn who defeated Republican Rep. DJ Johnson by one vote .
State law requires any contested elections to be settled by the House of Representatives. Osborne said the deadline to contest an election is Friday. Osborne said he did not know if any races will be contested.
"It's not an easy process to go through. It's not an inexpensive process to go through," he said.
Republicans nominated David Meade of Stanford as the speaker pro tempore. The House of Representatives will formally vote on Osborne and Meade's nominations in January.
Also on Thursday, Republicans selected John "Bam" Carney of Campbellsville as majority floor leader, Suzanne Miles of Owensboro as majority caucus chairwoman and Chad McCoy of Bardstown as majority whip. It's the first time House Republicans have selected a woman to their leadership team.