Kentucky Politics

The impeachment petition filed against Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear continues to drag through the legislative process while petitions against Republican officials haven’t been heard yet.

After meeting for two and a half hours behind closed doors, the Kentucky House of Representatives Impeachment Committee emerged to say that one of the four citizens who filed the petition against Beshear earlier this month wanted to be removed from it.

Rep. Jason Nemes, a Repubilcan from Louisville and the committee’s chair, said the committee took no action except deciding to send Beshear a letter “seeking a little bit of additional information.”

“That letter will be sent hopefully tomorrow, and we will ask the governor to turn that information around quickly, so we can resolve this matter as expeditiously as possible,” Nemes said.

Normally dismissed with little publicity, citizen impeachment petitions have captured attention in Kentucky this year after the Republican-led House of Representatives formed a special committee to review the petition against Beshear, which seeks to remove him from office for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Beshear submitted a 45-page response to the impeachment petition last week, calling the petitioners “activists ostensibly unhappy with the Governor’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The petitioners responded on Tuesday, challenging lawmakers to clip Beshear’s powers and accusing him of “attacking these citizen petitioners and a puerile and juvenile fashion” (sic).

“Will this legislature exercise its constitutional prerogatives to appropriately take action to re-establish co-equal branches of government, or instead permit continued infringements to occur?” the petitioners wrote.

The Kentucky Supreme Court ruled in November that Beshear has the power to issue orders that attempt to slow the spread of the virus.

The citizen asking to be removed from the petition against Beshear is Randall Daniel, a Bullitt County man who ran for the state legislature last year.

Daniel’s lawyer, Robert Sexton, sent a letter to Beshear’s general counsel explaining why Daniel was asking to be removed from the petition.

“I explained to Mr. Daniel that impeachment is not a proper response when public officials make policy decisions with which a citizen disagrees,” Sexton wrote.

“At the bottom line, I told Mr. Daniel that I wish I could grant him some power to turn back time and to refuse to sign the pending petition.”

Nemes has said that if petitioners are unsuccessful in getting officials impeached, they will have to bear the costs of the committee’s proceedings, including attorneys’ fees.

The committee did not take any action related to impeachment petitions filed against Rep. Robert Goforth or Attorney General Daniel Cameron, both Republicans.

Eight citizens filed the petition to remove Goforth, citing his indictment for allegedly strangling and assaulting his wife last year.

Three grand jurors from the Breonna Taylor case are seeking the impeachment of Cameron, saying he misled the public about the case.

Ryland Barton is the Capitol bureau chief for Kentucky Public Radio.