FRANKFORT (AP) — Five of Kentucky’s six statewide elected officers took office on Monday, giving the state some of the youngest elected leaders in the country.
Four of the five officers are under 40. Two of them are 32-year-old Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles and 34-year-old Treasurer Allison Ball. Both are Republicans.
“We are part of the millennial generation, we are part of a Republican growth area that is going to bring our party into the 21st century,” Quarles said. “And it’s exciting to me because our generation rejects the partisanship. We are focused on solutions.”
Coming into the November elections, Democrats held five of the six statewide elected offices. Now, they have just two: 37-year-old Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes and 38-year-old Attorney General Andy Beshear. Republicans now control four of the offices, including Republican Gov. Matt Bevin and Lt. Gov. Jenean Hampton, who were elected on the same ticket and took office last month. Republican Auditor Mike Harmon, a 12-year veteran of the state House of Representatives, is 49 and the oldest of the group.
Kentucky’s new leaders also lack experience. Four of them — Bevin, Hampton, Beshear and Ball — have never held public office. And Grimes, now in her second term as secretary of state, is the only one with experience running a state agency.
“We’re seeing a great generational shift and it’s happening in every state throughout the nation,” Beshear said. “For me, it means I come in with an energy and an aggressiveness to tackle these issues.”
Monday’s swearing-in ceremony comes just one day before the state legislature convenes for its 2016 session, one that is expected to be dominated by the crafting of a two-year state spending plan and the battle for control of the House of Representatives.
Grimes, in a speech following her swearing-in, called for both sides to compromise as she pledged to support legislation that would restore the voting rights of some nonviolent convicted felons, an issue that has attracted support from both parties. Andy Beshear said he wants to increase how much money law enforcement officers are paid through a state incentive program and wants to overhaul how the state does background checks for child care workers.
Harmon said he wants to audit all of the state’s pension funds, which face multibillion-dollar shortfalls in the coming decades that have lawmakers fretting about their solvency. Quarles, the agriculture commissioner, says he plans to “start a conversation” about hunger in Kentucky while Ball, the treasurer, promised to be a watchdog on the government’s finances.