‘I want a seat at the table’ says Rep. Rocky Adkins, on why took the senior adviser position with Gov.-elect Andy Beshear. –Matt Stone, Louisville Courier Journal
Andy Beshear names Rocky Adkins senior adviser in upcoming administration
Gov.-elect Andy Beshear announced Monday that House Minority Floor Leader Rocky Adkins will serve as the senior adviser in his upcoming administration, while former Lexington Mayor Jim Gray will serve as secretary of the Transportation Cabinet.
Beshear also announced at a press conference that Lt. Gov.-elect Jacqueline Coleman will serve a dual role in the administration, as she will be secretary of the Education and Workforce Development Cabinet.
Adkins, who finished second to Beshear in the Democratic primary for governor in May, said he would likely step down from his House seat before the governor-elect is sworn in on Dec. 10. It’s a seat he has held since 1987.
Beshear said that while he and Adkins may have been competitors in this year’s primary, “I don’t think we were ever rivals.” Adkins campaigned with Beshear during the general election in Eastern Kentucky and starred in one of his campaign ads, with the governor-elect adding that “he’s one of the reasons that I’m here today.”
“I couldn’t ask for a better teammate to go into these next four years to be standing right there beside me than Rocky Adkins,” Beshear said.
The governor-elect said he chose Adkins — who was rumored for weeks to be in the running for the Transportation Cabinet position that Gray will fill — because of his good relationships with legislators of both parties, knowledge of the inner workings of state government, and ability to set the administration’s “tone” of common ground and respect.
Adkins said he and Beshear are “in it for the same reasons” — wanting to help Kentucky reach its full potential while showing compassion for all.
“Whether it be a rural part of the state or an urban part of the state, we’re going to be working hard to lift them all up to be the best they can possibly be,” Adkins said.
This move also ends speculation that Adkins will run for U.S. Senate next year, where he was considering joining the Democratic candidates in the field.
Adkins said it was not an easy decision to leave the House seat he has held for 33 years and the leadership position his Democratic caucus gave to him. He also said he was humbled by the encouragement he received to challenge Sen. Mitch McConnell next year. However, he felt that this position was not only best for himself and his family, but where he could be the most effective.
“I want to be where I’ve got a seat at the table to where we really can build a better Kentucky,” Adkins said.
Gray served as mayor of Lexington from 2011-19, electing to run for U.S. House in 2018 instead of running for a third term. He lost the Democratic primary in that race, and was also defeated by Sen. Rand Paul when he ran for U.S. Senate in 2016.
Beshear said he appointed Gray to lead the Transportation Cabinet because of his success running the state’s second-largest city and his experience with construction and infrastructure projects, having previously run Gray Construction.
Noting that the large cabinet has 4,100 employees and a massive budget, Gray said that “we will run it with integrity and with transparency.”
At the helm of the Education and Workforce Development Cabinet, Coleman said, “We will make sure public education gets the respect that it deserves.”
“We will listen to our teachers, schools, social workers, principals, because they are on the front lines and they know what works,” Coleman said. “And they also know what doesn’t work.”
Beshear campaigned on replacing the current members of State Board of Education and Commissioner Wayne Lewis with an executive order on his first day in office, arguing that they undermined public education and teachers.
Asked what her relationship would be with those individuals as secretary, Coleman said, “One of the first things that we’re going to do is put together a team of folks that value public education in the same way that we do.”
Beshear told reporters he did not yet have any specific information about the transition of Attorney General-elect Daniel Cameron into his current office, though he said the two sides are continuing to have conversations. While Beshear will be sworn in as governor on Dec. 10, Cameron is not set to be sworn in until the first week of January, with numerous pending lawsuits involving the offices of the governor and attorney general.
Col. Haldane B. Lamberton was named by Beshear as the next adjutant general, who is responsible to the governor for the Kentucky National Guard.
Beshear also announced that retired Army Lt. Col. Keith Jackson, who formerly ran Lexington’s fire department under Gray, would be named the next commissioner of Veterans Affairs.
BY Joe Sonka, Louisville Courier Journal
Reach reporter Joe Sonka at email@example.com or 502-582-4472 and follow him on Twitter at @joesonka.