Lieutenant Governor Hampton Says She Is Battling ‘Dark Forces’

May 31, 2019

Credit J. Tyler Franklin

Kentucky Lt. Gov. Jenean Hampton took to Twitter on Friday to ask for prayers as she battles “dark forces” following the firing of her deputy chief of staff.

In the Tweet, Hampton said that “person(s) unknown initiated unauthorized personnel action” ending the employment of Adrienne Southworth, who had served as Hampton’s deputy chief of staff since the administration took office in 2015.

“CALLING PRAYER WARRIORS,” Hampton wrote in the tweet on her official account. “Yesterday, person(s) unknown initiated unauthorized personnel action ending employment of my talented, stellar Deputy Chief Adrienne Southworth, against my wishes. Pray for me as I battle dark forces.”

Southworth is from Lawrenceburg and worked for conservative advocacy group Take Back Kentucky before she was hired by Hampton.

Hampton did not immediately respond to a request for comment. It’s unclear who authorized the firing, though Hampton’s staff serve at the will of Gov. Matt Bevin’s administration.

Elizabeth Kuhn, Bevin’s communications director, said only that “we don’t comment on personnel matters.”

Hampton’s relationship with Bevin has been rocky over the last year after Bevin didn’t select her to be on his reelection ticket, instead tapping state Sen. Ralph Alvarado.

Bevin also fired Hampton’s chief of staff Steve Knipper earlier this year after Knipper filed to run for secretary of state. The Bevin administration has a policy requiring non-merit employees to resign if they run for elected office.

Hampton tried to file an executive order to re-hire Knipper, though her office doesn’t have the power to do so. Knipper lost the Republican primary for secretary of state to Michael Adams, former lawyer for the Republican Governors Association.

A packaging industry executive, Hampton was a Tea Party activist in Bowling Green and unsuccessfully ran for the state House of Representatives in 2014.

She was an early supporter of Bevin’s political efforts, endorsing him when he challenged U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell during the Republican primary in 2014.

Bevin selected Hampton to be his running mate for his 2015 campaign and, when they won, Hampton became the first African American elected to statewide office in Kentucky.

A 1992 amendment of the Kentucky Constitution stripped most of the powers from the lieutenant governor’s office. Prior to that, lieutenant governors were elected independently from the governor, could cast tie-breaking votes in the state Senate and became governor any time the governor was out of state.

Now the office is largely symbolic, though a lieutenant governor becomes governor in the event of a governor’s death or incapacitation.