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Former Kentucky Lt. Gov. Jenean Hampton Defends Her Time in Office

Becca Schimmel

Kentucky Lt. Gov. Jenean Hampton managed to stay relatively out of the spotlight until the final year of Republican Governor Matt Bevin's administration.

In January, eyes turned toward her once Bevin filed to run for reelection without her on his ticket, and without explanation for several months.

In an interview with WKU Public Radio, Hampton discussed that moment and several other lessons from her time in office.

Part Two of an interview with former Kentucky Lt. Gov. Jenean Hampton.

Hampton first agreed to run with Bevin in 2015 after both of them lost political races the previous year.

Hampton lost a bid for Bowling Green's 20th State House District seat against then-Rep. Jody Richards. Meanwhile, Bevin had attempted to defeatU.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in a primary challenge. 

As a member of Bowling Green Tea Party, Hampton helped vet Bevin as a candidate before getting to know him better during her own campaign. When she got the call to run with him for governor, she needed time to evaluate herself.

"I did an honest assessment of my own skills and I asked myself, 'Could you step up and run this commonwealth if you had to?' And my answer came back, 'yes'," Hampton said.

Four years later, Hampton said she's incredibly proud of her tenure as Kentucky's second-in-command.

Hampton cited her more than 200 school visits, sharing with schoolchildren her story of growing up low-income in West Detroit, joining the military, and spending a decades-long career in the packaging industry. When Bevin eventually addressed why he left Hampton off his reelection ticket, the Louisville Courier Journal reports he alluded to her school visits as not being a top priority for his administration.

Hampton said strong relationships she built with teachers could've helped during some of the rockiest moments of Bevin's administration, including a widespread feud with teachers stemming from pension reform efforts.

"Teachers, of course, had questions for me, and I was happy to address those questions," Hampton said. "I would just talk with them wherever I was, and dispel some of the myths I was hearing."

Hampton also lists as accomplishments her development of entrepeneurship, literacy, and STEM challenges for young people. She started the Kentucky Aerospace Industry Consortium to help the state's largest export industry, and worked on emergency management preparedness.

Hampton said she found out she wouldn't be on Bevin's reelection ticket just before he announced he would run alongside state Sen. Ralph Alvarado. Hampton said Bevin broke the news during a short visit to her office. 

But the most high-profile problems she encountered didn't happen until two of her staffers were let go.

Hampton said she handselected aides Steve Knipper and Adrian Southworth, and needed them to finish out her term. But a decision was made by Bevin's administration to fire the two.  

"I still don't understand why my people were fired without my involvement. They were great. I just want to say that for the record," Hampton said.

Knipper's dismissal came after he filed to run for Secretary of State in January, a violation of a Bevin adminstration policy. Southworth's firing came without a stated cause.

The two actions led Hampton again to the top of the headlines as she sued the governor's office for reinstatement in an action she described as "purely procedural".  She ultimately lost the suit.

"Even if the rules said that, I could tell you if I was govenor, I would treat my lieutenant governor as an equal partner," Hampton said.

Bevin would go on to lose the 2019 Election to Democratic challenger Andy Beshear by a close margin.

"It was a small margin...5,100 votes, and I think I could have easily made that up," Hampton said when asked if she gave credence to the state Libertarian Party's claims that her removal from the ticket cost Bevin the election.

Though she publicly remained silent on the election, she said she privately cast her vote for Libertarian Party Candidate for Governor John Hicks.

"My vote was [Bevin's] to lose, and I didn't like the way he treated my people. It was not good," Hampton said.

Now that she's no longer in office, Hampton is free to pursue her next mission. Despite assumptions that she may carry bitterness, she seems excited for her next steps.

She said her faith is stronger than ever and she's waiting on a sign for her next mission. Whether that will mean going into schools as a subsistute teacher, returning to libertarian political activity in Warren County, or going full steam ahead in a new direction is unknown.

For Hampton, one thing she does know is this: she's lived the American Dream.

"I really have, I mean to go from to Detroit, I've worked part time in a bank. Then I've worked for GM, working my way through school, then working in the United States Air Force...definitely there's so much opportunity here," Hampton said.

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