Politics

A scion of the family behind Brown-Forman will be the new chairman of the Republican Party of Kentucky.

The state GOP announced Monday that its executive committee has appointed Brown-Forman vice president Mac Brown to its top leadership post. Brown’s great-grandfather founded the Louisville-based spirits company.

It’s the second major appointment for Brown in a week. On Thursday, Governor-elect Matt Bevin selected Brown to lead his 21-person transition team, which is currently working to fill hundreds of executive branch positions and set up the incoming administration.

In a statement on Monday morning, Brown said he would work toward electing a Republican president, support U.S. Sen. Rand Paul and secure a Republican majority in the state House, which he called a “bastion of liberalism.”

In his new role, Brown will be responsible for developing the GOP’s strategies. He replaces Steve Robertson, who is taking a lobbying job with CivicPoint, a subsidiary of Louisville law firm Frost Brown Todd.

Robertson became chair of the Kentucky GOP in 2007. His tenure brought on major Republican victories in the state: Andy Barr’s defeat of Ben Chandler in the 2013 congressional race, whittling away at Democrats’ majority in the state House and capturing the governor’s mansion for just the third time in 65 years.

Brown has hosted fundraisers for state political leaders, including Bevin, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Agriculture Commissioner James Comer and Republican state lawmakers.

Brown contributed $1,000 to Agriculture Commissioner James Comer’s campaign for governor before the May Republican Primary, which Bevin narrowly won, according to the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance. He also hosted a fundraiser that raised nearly $47,000 for Comer’s gubernatorial bid and contributed to the agriculture commissioner’s political action committee.

In September, Brown hosted a fundraiser that brought $8,500 to Bevin’s campaign, according to the Registry of Election Finance. He also contributed to the campaigns of several statewide Republicans, including Whitney Westerfield for attorney general and state Rep. Ryan Quarles for agriculture commissioner.

In past years, Brown contributed on multiple occasions to the congressional campaigns of Anne Northup, who represented the Third District from 1997 to 2007, according to the Federal Election Commission.

Brown has also made campaign contributions to Democrats, according to the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance. In 2007, Brown contributed $1,000 to Steve Beshear’s campaign to unseat then-Gov. Ernie Fletcher, a Republican. He also contributed to campaigns of former Gov. Paul Patton and Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson.

Kentucky’s Republican elected leaders, including Bevin, its two U.S. senators, five congressmen, and GOP leaders of both state legislative chambers all congratulated Brown.

“Under the leadership of Mac Brown, our party is in good hands as we head into the very important 2016 elections,” McConnell said in a statement.

In 2016, Republicans will try to gain the majority in the state House, which has been under Democratic control since 1922. They’ll also try to protect Paul’s U.S. Senate seat, keep their hold on five of the state’s six congressional seats and maintain Kentucky’s support for Republican presidential candidates.

Brown has been vocal for legislative causes recently.

During this year’s legislative session, he was an outspoken advocate for the local option sales tax bill, which would have allowed cities to raise the sales tax by 1 percentage point to fund local development projects. In June, Brown published an op-ed in The Courier-Journal arguing for changing the state’s expungement laws so some non-violent felons could have their criminal records cleared.

Brown earned a bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University and a master of business administration degree from George Washington University.

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