Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Clyde Middleton, September 22, 1988

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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BREAUX: Let me begin by thanking you for taking the time to talk with us today about your experiences while serving in the General Assembly in Kentucky. Let me ask you to start by just recounting your career in the legislature, starting with when you were first elected, the years you served, whatever committee positions you thought were important, maybe the leadership positions you held, just general information like that.

MIDDLETON: All right. I was first elected to the State Senate in 1968, or in `67, I served in the `68 session. Prior to that, I had run for Congress a couple of times, coming very close in 1962 against Frank Chelf in the old 4th Congressional District that ran from northern Kentucky down through the center of the state. Anyhow, I arrived in the legislature in 1968 along with Louie Nunn and a number of other Republicans that were 00:01:00elected along with Louie to both the House and the Senate. At that time, the 24th Senate District consisted entirely of Kenton County, although later it included parts of Campbell County, and then most recently, part of Kenton County and all of Boone County. When elected in `67, I was the first Republican since 1901 that had been in the State Senate from that district. And I suspect that there had never been a Republican prior to that time, because the fellow that preceded him was a gentleman by the name of William Goebel, who you may remember became rather famous when he was assassinated after having run for governor in 1899. So the fellow in 1901 that succeeded him must have succeeded him after he was assassinated. Anyhow, I was the first Republican after this fellow in 1901. I 00:02:00was then reelected in 1969, that was an unexpired term. I filled out the term of John Moloney, former Covington mayor, and then he occupied some positions in Frankfort as well, and then was elected to State Senate. While serving in the Senate, he ran against Gene Snyder for Congress and died two days before the election. Then the, that was the election of `66, then the vacancy was not declared by Governor Breathitt until `67, after the primary. And that's why I was nominated by the Republican Executive Committee of Kenton County, and Gus Sheehan was nominated by the Democrat Executive Committee of Kenton County. And there were two other candidates, Dixie Lee and Frank Tharp, who ran as Independents in that race, so we had a four-way race in `67. Then in `69, when I had to run again for a full term, we had a rematch between myself and Gus Sheehan. I had won the first election by the magnificent sum of 254 votes out of about 00:03:0027,000 cast. I won the second one by 127 votes, having voted for Louie Nunn's infamous two cent sales tax increase in 1968. So those were very narrow margins. I became known as "Landslide Clyde" because of those elections. The following year, just to add a sidelight to that, a new district was created following the 1970 census. We got a second senate district in northern Kentucky, and that one became occupied by Gus Sheehan, which he continued to occupy until just this year when he was defeated in the primary. So our time in the Senate was rather parallel from thereafter. And parenthetically, Gus 00:04:00and I were good personal friends, and we worked very closely together for the interests of the people in this community. Then I was reelected after the `69 election, in `73, in a district that, for the first time, included Boone County. And some of the Boone County Democrat Party leaders attempted to make it a cross-county kind of a battle. They tried to put me into a corner on getting a hospital for Boone County because I, at that time, was also the chairman of the Kentucky Comprehensive Health Planning Council. And they tried to convince the people that in that capacity I could get the rest of the council to approve new hospital beds, which would have had the effect of making all the other hospitals in the area run under capacity. Well, to get back onto the election, but that was an interesting sidelight I thought to the political aspects of the change in the senate 00:05:00district. I was then reelected in the same district in 1977 and in 1981, and then defeated after a five-year term in 1986, in large part because Boone County had become an increasingly large part of the district. And Kenton County had decreased as a percentage of the total population in the senate district, and I ran against a very popular county commissioner in John Weaver, from Boone County. While in the Senate, my chief interest has always been public education, all education, public and private education. I served on the education committee from the time I first came there and was vice chairman of it part of the time. At one time, I was chairman of a subcommittee, back in the early `70s, that was created to investigate an idea of my own, which I've never given up but never 00:06:00succeeded in getting enacted into law, and that was to create somebody to oversee all of education. It always bothered me that the elementary and secondary education people were coming down and fighting for their share of the budget, the higher education people were coming down and fighting for their share of the budget, the vocational education people were probably being squeezed out in the process, and I think people have become to realize that more in recent years. And I thought education was too serious to be left to that kind of a political battle. At that time, we had Bob Martin down at Eastern Kentucky University. We had, I think, Harry Sparks out at Western, and I regret to say I can't remember the president of Morehead's name, but he was famous during that period of time, too. And the three of them were pretty well known for their ability to swing 00:07:00political power in Kentucky. And consequently, we ended up, among other things, with a lot of dormitories that we were very hard-pressed to fill later, because they overbuilt during the first part of the baby boom wave. And I think that if we had had better control at the state level, we might have prevented some of those errors. But the thing that bothered me the most, I think, was the constant battle between elementary and secondary education and higher education as to where the budget dollars ought to go. And I felt that it was entirely possible for somebody to oversee all of education and to balance some of those interests out. So I headed up this subcommittee going into that. I remember the first time I ever met A.D. Albright, he said in his inimitable manner, "Well, Clyde, I think 00:08:00you've got a good idea there, but that's an idea whose time hasn't come" (laughs), and he obviously was right, because I never got that passed. I once brought it up as an amendment on the floor. By that time, Bob Martin was in the Senate, and he got up and made a rebuttal speech in which he said that there was nobody in the state that could have the ability to oversee all of that part of education, and that this would be known as an anti-education session. It was about the `72 or `74 session, maybe `76, when he said that, probably more like `76, to which I replied, "Of course there's somebody in this state can do that, and that's the senator from Madison," because he had been both the superintendent of public instruction at one time and had very good elementary and secondary credentials, and he was the president of Eastern. And he very well could have handled that job, but he didn't want anybody to handle it because he liked the political 00:09:00infighting method under which he had come up. I also became very much involved in health and welfare issues in the state, and served on the health and welfare committee from my second session, the 1970 session, on through the rest of the time that I was in the Senate. And that came about because, as I indicated in passing earlier, Louie Nunn had appointed me as the chairman of the Kentucky Comprehensive Health Planning Council, so I was running to Frankfort. I remember when I ran in `69, I added up, and I had spent over fifty days, almost three working months, in Frankfort on what was ostensibly a part-time job. And a big part of that was because of not only the three committees that I was on, but because as chairman of the Health Planning Council, I went 00:10:00down for a Health Planning Council meeting about every month, the Executive Committee of the Health Planning Council, other committee meetings from Health Planning that met all over the state. And so I was pretty nearly a fulltime legislator without being involved wholly in legislative matters. My third committee varied from year to year. Those two lasted the rest of my time down there, and the third committee the first time was Counties and Special Districts, I think. Then I got on Highways and Traffic Safety. I was on the Cities Committee at one time. And during the last session I was on Judiciary-Criminal, which is kind of ironic, because although I was a life insurance salesman when I went to the Senate, I got a law degree in the middle of that period of time going to the Chase College of Law on nights. And so I was a lawyer that didn't 00:11:00practice criminal law, and there I was on the Judiciary-Criminal Committee, but that's not entirely unusual. Doug Moseley was on it, and Doug was a Methodist minister. So I guess (laughs) being a non-criminal lawyer is equally appropriate. Do you want to ask some other question along the way so I can stop rattling on?

BREAUX: Let me ask you a couple of questions about your committee service. As a member of the minority party in the legislature, do you feel that you were able to have an influence on policies that came out of those committees, like the education policies?

MIDDLETON: Oh, decidedly. Sure. There were times-

BREAUX: You didn't find that you were somehow stifled by being a member of the-

MIDDLETON: Oh, no, there were times, you know, when there were things that you couldn't get done. Maybe one of the problems with my super-board efforts, as they 00:12:00were called by Dick Wilson from the Courier-Journal, was not being a member of the majority party, and they didn't want their apple cart disrupted. And sometimes they don't want a Republican to pick up good ideas and run with them, because if they are good, and they perceive them as being at least politically good, they want to do them themselves. But mostly, I think you gained respect of your colleagues, and they worked closely with you. I was frequently made a subcommittee chairman by my Democratic colleagues who were committee chairmen. And oftentimes, things split up more along ideological lines than necessarily party lines, if they split up at all.

BREAUX: And in Kentucky, those aren't necessarily the same.

MIDDLETON: Not at all. As almost any student of Kentucky politics is aware, western Kentucky is twenty degrees to the right of the Republican Party in some issues.


BREAUX: It probably also helped you, in terms of influencing decisions, to the extent that you had been a member of those committees for so long.


BREAUX: You didn't change or seek to change committee assignments every new session. You stuck with the Education Committee and the Health and Welfare Committee.

MIDDLETON: That's right. Yeah.

BREAUX: Was that pretty unusual? Or did membership on those committees usually stay-

MIDDLETON: Membership on the education committee was so fixed that there was no change in it at all for about ten years. Nelson Allen always used to stand up and brag about that, that the education committee had the same membership-

BREAUX: Continuity of membership.

MIDDLETON: for a, yeah, for a long period of time. And of course, that all broke up just about the time I left, because two or three other ones left at that time.

BREAUX: Let's move on to talk about leadership selection. From the records that 00:14:00I've looked at, you have held a couple of leadership positions, and I wonder if you could just discuss those.

MIDDLETON: Yeah, I became the minority whip somewhere along the middle of my time in service there. And then I became the caucus chairman in, probably `78, I guess, or `80, I guess I was the whip in `78 and became the caucus chairman in `80. If you have the records there you may be able to correct me (laughs), because I don't remember exactly which ones. The thing that I remember the most is that we had a big battle, even though the Republicans are very much in the minority, there were ten of us at that time, and prior to the 1986 session, we met in 1985 to elect new leadership in the short special session that's dictated by the constitution now. And we thought we had lined up a 6 to 4 00:15:00majority for our ticket, which at the time was headed by Gene Huff, who had been the leader in the `84 session. And it turned out that one of our votes had defected to the other side, and we ended up with a 5-5 tie. And that went on for several days until finally Doug Moseley decided that he would support Joe Lane Travis for floor leader. And so Joe Lane, who was the head of the, or one of the members of the opposing slate from the one that I was on, was made the minority floor leader, but we couldn't get a majority for caucus chairman. So when the legislature was about to adjourn, or the Senate was about to adjourn sine die at the end of the special session, I declared that no successor had been elected, and that therefore the existing caucus chairman would continue over, myself, and 00:16:00I did.

BREAUX: What was perceived to be at stake in those leadership contests? I mean from the example you just talked about, it was fairly hotly contested, or at least closely contested.

MIDDLETON: Well, I think there were a number of things. Of course, some of it is ideology. You know, there are times when Republicans disagree with other Republicans, just as Democrats disagree with other Democrats. And they wanted to get on the Rules Committee, which is about the main thing that goes with it, sitting on the Legislative Research Commission between sessions, and sitting on the Rules Committee and the Committee on Committees during the session. Some of it was purely political ambition. I think people see leadership positions, probably more the floor leader position than any, as something they can put on their resume when they're running for governor or they're 00:17:00running for Congress and the like. And I think that some of them were headed in that direction. And that's why there was a contest for an otherwise seemingly powerless sort of a position.

BREAUX: As a member of the minority party, do you have any feeling for the difference between the House and the Senate? I know you never served in the House, but do you have a feeling for if there was any difference between the House and the Senate in terms of sort of the tightness of the Democratic control? Was the Senate, in your opinion, more open to minority party influence?

MIDDLETON: It varied from time to time. There would be Democrat leaders that would come along and decide that the Republicans ought to take a sort of co-equal, not 00:18:00exactly, but sort of co-equal role in the functioning of the Senate. And we would have Republican committee chairmen and Republican vice chairmen on all committees, and things would roll along that way for a while. And then you'd get somebody else along that followed the spoils theory, and they would say, "The Democrats are going to be held responsible for what comes out of the legislature, so we're going to run every aspect of it." And I couldn't really identify that it was more so or less so in the House than in the Senate. At any given time, you might be able to make that identification, but overall I think it varied because of that circumstance. One thing that the House had that we didn't have, in recent years, was the rule that allowed anybody of either party to pick one 00:19:00committee that they were absolutely allowed to stay on if they were already on it. And that tended, because it was not party-oriented, I think, to give Republicans a little better chance on, at staying on Appropriations and Revenue, for example, if they were already on it.

BREAUX: You served under Governor Nunn's administration, and I would just like to get a couple of impressions from there. What do you perceive his leadership style to have been like? I mean we're looking at a Republican governor in a state that is overwhelmingly Democratic in terms of the legislature, yet he was fairly successful-

MIDDLETON: He certainly was.


BREAUX: in getting his budget passed, getting the tax increase that you mentioned earlier passed. Why? How was he so successful in getting some of those things done?

MIDDLETON: Because he knew how to play the game, in spite of the fact that he had never been in office in Frankfort before, and he was more than willing to play it. And the game that he played, of course, was trading off whatever he had to trade off to get the votes that he had to get. When the two cent sales tax measure went through the Senate, he had gotten a hold of me to try to get my vote lined up for that. And at one point, when I was very much in doubt that I was going to support it, I had people come to me on the floor and, Democrats, and say, "Are you going to vote for this? Because if you don't, I have to." And that, one of those that said those exact words ran for 00:21:00lieutenant governor on the Democratic ticket the following year. He didn't succeed in getting the nomination, but he was a candidate. And I've always understood that Carroll Hubbard was one of the votes that Louie had stashed away, and there, and that Carroll would have voted for it. I don't know what that would have done to his ambitions to run for Congress later, but I've heard many times that he was one of the votes that Louie had. But he had, oh, a fellow that was a car dealer, and I don't know what he had lined up for him, some blacktop in the county or buying automobiles for the state from his auto agency or heaven knows what. Another guy from up in Pike County, as I recall. And he was, as I recall, the son-in-law of the Brighton Engineering firm head in Frankfort. So to 00:22:00keep Brighton Engineering on the bid list for road construction projects, why, he voted for the sales tax increase. And I don't know what Lawrence Wetherby was promised. Maybe Lawrence was just statesmanlike, but he voted for the sales tax increase too, and he was a former Democrat governor sitting in the Senate. That was his last term there, but I think he intended it to be that way. So Louie, by persuasion, wheeling, cajoling, threatening, and promising, managed to play the game real well. And he did other things. Like, I think it was during the second session, the 1970 session, he sponsored hundreds and hundreds of bills. And we'd sit in there signing new bills on all sorts of imaginable subjects because he wanted to give the legislative system so much to do that they 00:23:00wouldn't have time to be looking for ways to cut his power off. And whether that was a good way to go or not, I don't know, but it worked, because as you say, quite correctly, I think, Louie got done the things that he wanted to do and that he had to do. He didn't lose many. And certainly, the sales tax increase was the most notable. Louie and I never got along very well, particularly after that when I felt that, I did vote for the sales tax increase. I was very narrowly reelected, as I indicated. He always thought that he got me elected in the first place and he got me reelected. I never really had a chance to say, "Louie, if I had voted against your sales tax bill, I not only would have been reelected, I wouldn't even have had an opponent against me." But then that's the way those things go. I think he was a really outstanding governor in many, many ways. It's too bad that those other aspects get in the way of that. Of course, in northern Kentucky, we wouldn't 00:24:00have Northern Kentucky University if he hadn't had the guts to made the sales tax increase, there wouldn't have been anywhere near the money available to found a new university, let alone to bring the apparently controversial law school into it. But he did it all, and the University of Louisville, at the same time.

BREAUX: Speaking about the electoral, or re-electoral consequences, I think a couple of people have mentioned to me that they thought that none of the Democrats in the legislature, who had went along and voted for Nunn's increase in the sales tax, wound up getting reelected.

MIDDLETON: Many of them were defeated.

BREAUX: So apparently they couldn't explain, to their constituents at least, why-

MIDDLETON: Well, what was ironic about it is that so many Democrats didn't get reelected, but most of the Republicans did. People were willing to forgive us more 00:25:00because, you know, I just took the bull by the horns and went out and said, "I voted for it because we had to have that money," and pointed out to them all of the things that already were on the line. Ned Breathitt had already cut the budget by $24 million before Louie was ever inaugurated, and we were going to be $104 million in the hole by the end of that fiscal year. So we had to start appropriating money for the fiscal year we were in, let alone the two that we had ahead of us. And I won't say that it couldn't have been done any other way, but it certainly would have been, it would have been destructive of a lot of the good things that have come out of it.

BREAUX: Let me ask you about Governor Nunn's role in leadership selection. We know that Democratic governors in the state played a pretty heavy-handed role in terms of selecting legislative leaders, at least until the election of John Y. Brown, Jr., who 00:26:00basically took a hands-off approach to that. When Louie Nunn was governor, did he take a role in that process at all?

MIDDLETON: Louie was a great believer in legislative independence, and so he called us down to the governor's mansion, and we sat in the front room and he said, "Here's who your leaders will be" (laughs).

BREAUX: So, yes, he did play a role in that selection process.

MIDDLETON: He certainly played a role in that selection process. One of them, in fact, Norman Farris was a freshman senator, and I think he was our whip, but he was a big buddy of Louie's, and so Louie wanted him in that slot. And the other two were more experienced members of the Senate. One of the Republican members that did not show up at that meeting, or did he? Well, I've forgotten. Anyhow, he was planning on being the floor leader, and that was Don Johnson, who was the Republican senator from Campbell County. And when Louie decided to name the legislative leadership, why, 00:27:00Johnson became rather upset over that, and later voted against the sales tax increase and went his own way, eventually changed his party affiliation.

BREAUX: Let's talk about legislative independence. We would say that starting, I guess, in the late `60s, there were at least some early efforts to make the legislature more independent from the governor's office. And at that time you had, for example, the creation of the interim committee system that allowed committees to meet in between those sixty-days, regularly scheduled sessions. What are your impressions of that early time period? Was there sort of a general mood that, you know, now was the time to make 00:28:00an effort at legislative reform? Or did that basically come about because we had a Republican governor?

MIDDLETON: I think it was both. I remember going to Kentucky Dam Village, and I always think of legislative independence as beginning on that day. We used to go to Kentucky Dam Village for the pre-legislative conferences because there was no place, at that time, in Frankfort that would handle everybody at once, along with all the lobbyists that showed up. And Harry Lee Waterfield made a farewell speech in which he said, "You ought to build a legislative building and get the staff that you need to become a co-equal branch of government." But of course, we didn't do that, but I think that that spirit of the legislature, going from the days of Statutes One, Two, and Three, when all the bills were controlled by the governor's office through the legislative leadership, to the 00:29:00days when the standing committees really had some influence on what went on, I think it really began there. But of course, the incentive to be independent of the governor's office came along fortuitously at the same time, with a Democrat legislature and a Republican governor. And I think you're quite correct, that that was a major factor in it, although some of that was sham, too. You know, a lot of these things I didn't know until years later, but there was a senator from Lexington, a very bright fellow who had a lot of influence on the way the budget went. And I found out years later that he used to go and meet with the governor for breakfast every morning, the governor being Louie Nunn, and they worked out what it was going to be like. And they later were law associates, as a 00:30:00matter of fact, so this isn't too surprising. But, of course, with Julian Carroll sitting as the Speaker of the House and Wendell Ford sitting as the president of the Senate, two very ambitious Democrats, it wasn't all sham. Some of it was they were trying to embarrass Louie whenever they could, and certainly they made the most of the sales tax increase. Although they knew full well that the state had to have the money, they still referred to themselves as the proven tax-cutters, and went out and elected two successive governors on that particular platform, all based on "Nunn's nickel." So that was certainly a major factor in the whole thing. But even in those first couple of sessions, you didn't get the serious application to the job that I would have identified in later years. There were still 00:31:00legislators that came to Frankfort and played for two months, but in the last five or six sessions that I was involved in, you just didn't have that anymore. There were a lot of receptions and things like that going on, but I can't think of a legislator in the Senate, or any in the House that I had contact with, that wasn't conscientious in getting to committee meetings. I suspect that if they have attendance figures for a long period of time, that even the attendance records for later years would show up more, because the legislature really, like legislatures all over the country, was the place to come to get legislation through, rather than just the governor's office. And I'm sure you've seen the figures on the number of lobbyists that were registered, and how they have tripled, 00:32:00quadrupled, and beyond in more recent years, because they are dealing with the legislature. Another major factor was the creation of the oversight committees: Program Review and Investigation, and the Personal Services Contract Review Committee, the Regulation Review Committee, and the Capital Construction Committees were all created to give legislative oversight to the executive branch of government. And that was an important step in the direction of legislative independence, because each of these committees served notice on some part of the bureaucracy that the legislature took seriously the fact that it had delegated the powers of the commonwealth to that particular department or agency, and that it expected them to carry those responsibilities out in the manner that they were delegated. And, of course, we've gotten in a lot of battles over 00:33:00whether they can write regulations and whether we can un-write them. And the courts have sided with the bureaucracy there, not to my, not with my approval, as you may gather, but still the committees are there, and I think they've been an important factor, along with the interim committee system.

BREAUX: Were they taken very seriously at first? I mean even, like the interim committee system and these committees that sort of provided tools for oversight of the executive, were they taken fairly seriously, let's say, in the, you know, early `70s, early stages of this?

MIDDLETON: Well, I think it grew. Probably in the very first years, people weren't accustomed, people who had been there a while, weren't accustomed to going to Frankfort that much. You know, it used to be that when you adjourned the regular session, they didn't see Frankfort again for another two years, pretty much. They might be down there twice a year or something like that, and now they were going down there, 00:34:00for a while most legislators were going down there four or five times a month, minimum. After a while, the legislature, like everybody else, found out they had to watch their budget too, and began to combine subcommittee meetings with committee meetings. Used to be you'd be down there six times a month because you'd have a subcommittee meeting, and then you'd have the full committee meeting on a different day. And then you had three committees, so you had, at least senators all had three committees, and you'd have six trips down there. Well, they eventually got wise to that, and they started holding subcommittee meetings at maybe ten o'clock in the morning, full committee meetings at one o'clock in the afternoon, and so they only had to pay legislators one day for doing both jobs.

BREAUX: Efficiency in government.

MIDDLETON: Yes. Well, yeah (laughs). I guess the legislature is inherently not too efficient because it's designed to be a forum. And there was many a committee meeting 00:35:00that I sat down there, and I did so only out of a sense of duty, to be there to hear what citizens had to say about some particular subject. After a while you've heard it all ten times over, you're not learning an awful lot that can be applied to new legislation, but you have an obligation to give them their forum, and so there's a lot of time chewed up that way.

BREAUX: In general, what's your estimation of the Republican Party members' attitude toward this early effort at reform? Were the Republican Party members and the legislature basically united for this push for independence? If so, what was perceived as 00:36:00being in it for the Republicans? Or was it a partisan issue?

MIDDLETON: Oh, I think the Republicans went along with it because the Democrats were in control of the legislature, but most Republicans were still waiting to hear what the governor's office had to say about it. Legislative independence was not our bag right at that moment. It became more so when the situation was reversed and you had Democrat governors, and you'd get a different view of it. I think that I and most other Republicans down there would have been more independent of a Republican governor, if another one had been elected, because we valued the legislature as a legislature. But when 00:37:00we first went in there, and of course, a lot of us were new to the process. Incidentally, we were talking a little bit earlier about the effect of the sales tax vote. Not too many people remember that we went from thirteen Republicans in the Senate to fifteen Republicans in the Senate in the next election, in the election in 1969 following "Nunn's Nickel." Now, that dropped off a few years later, down to the ten that were there when I left, but many Republicans did survive that. And to get back on the line of your question, I think that most Republicans in there first of all felt that if they didn't feel Louie sold them on the idea that this was the first Republican governor in twenty years and it wasn't a smart thing for Republicans in the legislature to be trying to show their independence, and, as he probably would have put it, "working for their own political futures," they ought to 00:38:00pull together, and he would take care of their political futures. He made a tremendous speech to the Republican candidates in the spring of 1969. That thing must have run for an hour and a half, and he started out, when in the early days down in Barren County, his job in politics was go to the back of this building and look up at this window, and when the guy held up the ballot, he was to look and see whether he had marked it under the log cabin or the rooster. And if it was under the log cabin, he nodded his head and the guy at the other end then knew that the fellow had voted properly. And you can only guess what happened after that.

BREAUX: That's a great story (laughs).

MIDDLETON: It is. It is. And, you know, it's not something that I approve of, or most people do, but there it is. And he told all about it and went on and just really sort of bared his soul because, boy, he'd been under a lot of, a lot of criticism following the sales 00:39:00tax bit. And he was out running around the state trying to get the bricks and mortar to show what he'd done with that money. And he just made a fabulous speech about the Republican Party and its place in Kentucky and how he was, his sole mission in life was to elect another Republican governor to succeed him, which, of course, he failed at.

BREAUX: In the long run then, you do perceive that there have been some benefits, in terms of these reforms and the minority party being able to influence decision-making?

MIDDLETON: Yeah. Talking with people that were in the legislature, Republicans that were in the legislature before I came, in the old days, I would say that they had far less influence over what went on in the legislature than we had during my time there. Art 00:40:00Schmidt and Ken Harper were both there prior to the time that I went there, and they've both served since, and I think they would agree that Republicans had a lot more influence under the system. It just became a more serious effort to make the legislature the governing body in Kentucky.

BREAUX: What about the Rules Committee? That was a committee that underwent some amount of change with these efforts toward reorganization.

MIDDLETON: Well, at first it didn't go, undergo any change at all. It still met in secret, and that was the critical thing. And while there were members of both parties on it, they were all sworn to secrecy.

BREAUX: So it was still a very effective way of-

MIDDLETON: As far as I know, they kept it that way.

BREAUX: very effective way of killing legislation.

MIDDLETON: Very effective way of killing legislation without being able to 00:41:00identify who really killed it. Everybody that walked out of there could promise the sponsor that they'd voted for the bill, but everybody else had voted against it.

BREAUX: That's interesting.

MIDDLETON: And really, of course, the press pushed a lot of that. And when the open meetings legislation came along, they applied it to the Rules Committee, eventually. Of course, they could still kill legislation, but it's done a lot more subtly. The majority floor leader simply doesn't bring it up.

BREAUX: You served after Nunn's administration under Wendell Ford. How would you compare those two? Or what did that transition mean to you as a Senator?

MIDDLETON: Well, of course, it made a great deal of difference in our role in the whole process because we were no longer the people that were carrying the ball for the 00:42:00administration. And, of course, it was kind of a sigh of relief too, because you could go out and do your own thing. And you didn't need to feel any obligation.

BREAUX: Obligation to the governor's office?

MIDDLETON: To the governor's office, yeah. And, you know, that's a nice thing. Everybody likes to feel like they are independent, that their own judgment is going to govern on every issue. And sometimes I felt sorry for my Democrat brethren (laughs). We'd go in there, and you knew they didn't want to vote for some measure or other that came down the line, but they'd do it anyhow. So there was that advantage in it.

BREAUX: Let me pause a minute. I'm going to have to change sides.

MIDDLETON: Yeah, I saw you looking.

[End of Tape #1, Side #1]


[Begin Tape #1, Side #2]

BREAUX: We were talking about serving under Governor Ford. Let's pursue that, I guess, a little bit more. Under Wendell Ford, did the Republican leadership have much access to the governor? Was he very involved in terms of legislative decision-making? And did that involvement include courting the Republican vote?


BREAUX: No to both?

MIDDLETON: That's the shortest answer I can give you.

BREAUX: Was he involved and just did not court the Republican vote?

MIDDLETON: He, oh, he was very involved in the legislative process. He watched every bill that went through there.

BREAUX: Was that a setback for legislative independence, you think?

MIDDLETON: Oh, sure. You know, I don't think there's any doubt about it. You no longer had that Democrat leadership in the legislature trying to cut off the governor. 00:44:00However, remember that Wendell Ford and Julian Carroll were not originally allies. Julian Carroll was on the Bert Combs ticket in the Democrat primary in 1971. And I remember well the day when "Dee" Huddleston, who was a Ford man, and was during that session the majority floor leader, and he got up after Julian Carroll, the first day down there or the second day of the new session, would have been 1972. And Carroll said, "The chair recognizes the gentleman from such-and-such a place," which is the terminology of the House. And Huddleston, the next time he got the chance, got up and said, "The floor leader would remind the chair that in the Senate, we're all senators, and you can refer to 00:45:00the senator from so-and-so." And without breaking stride Julian said, "The chair apologizes to the senator for referring to him as a gentleman" (both laugh). But that-

BREAUX: That type of tone-

MIDDLETON: disappeared after a while. They began to see their careers as not being that competitive, and so they worked together more after that. But there was a certain amount of that still remaining, and that probably helped legislative independence. The only thing I remember about Republicans goes back to Don Johnson again, because he was, he must have been in Ford's office all the time. I remember him coming back to the Republican caucus on one occasion saying, "Well, the governor wants to get this passed." And I looked at (laughs)-"Hey fellow, whose governor do you think this is?" 00:46:00And at one point we almost dumped him out of the leadership, came within a very small margin of doing that, because he was so close to Wendell Ford. So I think that both Ford, and Carroll later, worked through Johnson to some degree. He was a very flexible sort of fellow.

BREAUX: But neither of those governors, in your estimation at least, actively made room for Republican influence in decision-making or courted the Republican support. Was it because they just simply didn't need it?

MIDDLETON: They didn't need to. They didn't need to, yes. I remember Carroll telling me one day, "I don't need any other support. If I ever get into a problem on a bill, I've got a vote on the floor of the Senate that'll change the vote, and I won't have to vote if I don't want to." And I later decided that that vote had to have been Joe Prather, who 00:47:00at that time had just come over from the House, was a relatively junior member of the Senate. But one day Prather changed his vote on something that was of some moment, I don't remember what it was by now. But he changed his vote and broke the tie before Carroll had to, and I think it was on something that Carroll didn't want to get involved in. And then, of course, later, Joe became the president pro tem of the Senate.

BREAUX: So in your opinion, both Wendell Ford and Julian Carroll, although they had worked for this legislative independence we've been talking about, once they became governor, that was a setback to what they had been working for.

MIDDLETON: Julian Carroll, when he made his first speech after he was elected governor, of course now he'd already been governor for a year by then, because he filled 00:48:00in that last year of Ford's term after Ford appointed himself to the United States Senate. Carroll said, "I learned more in the last year about Kentucky government than I learned in the ten years that I was in the legislature." You know, that's sort of saying, "You guys really don't know very much. I'm the governor, and now I have all the marbles, and I've got all the knowledge. You know, I really understand now, and now I understand even how ignorant you are." And he had as absolute control of the process as anybody I ever saw down there. He had a very bright young lawyer, whose name escapes me, down in the basement of the Capitol building. And he had a file on every bill that had ever been filed in, during that session, and had comments from every department on it and from anybody else that was necessary, so that they had an administration position on everything that went on down there. And to a high degree, I think the reputation that 00:49:00Brown got later as being a hands-off governor was because he didn't do that. He did, he was more like Louie; he did what he needed to do, and he kept his hands out of everything else. But Ford, and especially Carroll, had absolute control over everything that went on.

BREAUX: Yeah, I wanted to move to sort of talk about Governor Brown and Governor Collins. Were they, in your opinion, just totally different styles of leadership?

MIDDLETON: Between the two of them or-

BREAUX: Between the two of them, and also between that pair of governors and the earlier two, Ford and Carroll.

MIDDLETON: Yeah. Yeah, I'd say that both of them were very different from Ford and Carroll. Of course, if you bleep on up to Martha Layne Collins for a moment, 00:50:00she always had hanging over her head the fact that she was the first female governor, and I think she felt that, and I think probably correctly. A lot of women leaders say that they don't have to prove, that they have to prove that they're competent, where a man only has to prove that he's not incompetent. And I think that's true. I read that the other day about business leaders, and I think it's true. And I think Martha Layne had that problem all along; that she couldn't stumble and fall without that being the fall of her being an untried woman, rather than just an untried person. Whereas, of course, John Y., he didn't care (laughs). He had a sort of laid-back attitude towards life in general. And when I say he didn't care, I mean he didn't care whether people thought that he did everything the way they thought he ought to do it. If they could go turn Kentucky Fried Chicken from a 00:51:00$5 million dollar operation into a $500 million dollar operation, they could tell him how to run Kentucky. And until they did that, never mind. "I've got going what I want going." And I think he did, you know. I think what's really interesting about the Brown administration is that because he had this law and business background, I don't think he was a great manager himself, but he was a great entrepreneur and he knew how to pick good managers. And I was just talking to a state employee the other day about that because the state employees hated him, because they always thought that he was against them. But what he was really trying to do was to get a handle on the administration of state government, which nobody has ever done. And why is it necessary, for example, just one small example, to have a graduate of an engineering school to run a highway district office? It is because it's always been that way, and it is again, but it wasn't during 00:52:00the Brown administration. And maybe it didn't work particularly well, but it wasn't because of that. You don't have medical doctors administering hospitals. They were smart enough to recognize many decades ago that a management job ought to be run by a manager, and a medical job ought to be run by a medical doctor. And the same thing is true of highway engineers (laughs). They ought to develop how to properly lay down a road, but running a highway district office is a managerial job, and you need an MBA to do that and not a bachelor of science in mechanical engineering or civil engineering or something like that. And he tried to do that and he got rebuffed at every turn. And it's probably unfortunate, because he was really trying to do what everybody talks about when they're out on the stump, and that's streamline state government.

BREAUX: It's hard to change the status quo.


MIDDLETON: Sure was. He found that out. Been interesting to see what would have happened if he'd had a second term.

BREAUX: Now, you were in the leadership under both of those later governors, Brown and Carroll.


BREAUX: Excuse me, Brown and Collins.


BREAUX: Were they fairly accessible to you as a member of the leadership?

MIDDLETON: Sure, um-hm. Yeah, and they never went out of their way, particularly Brown, never went out of his way to try and slap you down because you were a Republican. The one time that I saw him do that, he had told somebody, and he told the wrong person, I guess, that, because remember that John Y. owned the Kentucky Colonels basketball team. He told somebody, "I buy and sell jocks like Jim Bunning," and you can bet that Jim Bunning will never forget that, even today. Bunning came up when 00:54:00Brown was going to increase the gasoline tax, because he needed more money to build roads with. And Bunning came up with the idea that if the need for more money in the road fund resulted from increases in the cost of building roads, why not tie the gasoline tax increase to an index that was widely available nationally regarding the cost of building roads, rather than to make it a flat, across-the-board thing, which it was. No, it wasn't flat, but it was tied into something else. And frankly, I can't even remember what that is now. But the irony of the thing is that they did slap that idea down because it came from Jim Bunning. They did pass their increase. Their increase was tied to 00:55:00something else, and memory won't serve me. But they never got a cent out of it. And if they had passed Jim's amendment to the thing, they would have had millions of dollars to build roads with that they never got because they tied it, they tied it to the cost of crude oil, and it was in the days of the OPEC price control business, and they were sure the price was going to go up, and it didn't. And so they never got any more money, the tax never went up. That was the only example I can think of where Ford, not Ford, but John Y. Brown got very partisan. But most of the time, why, he was very accessible, and Martha Layne Collins was, too. Her first session, though, she was just spinning her wheels. She was trying to get more money for education. She didn't know quite how to go about it, and instead of doing what Louie did, and that was decide, "This is the way 00:56:00I'm going to go, this is the amount of money I need, this is the tax that will do that, and now I'm going to go down and twist the arms I have to twist and do the persuading I have to do and get that through." Instead of that, she had a meeting in the mansion one day, and had all the education committee people over, even me, and was asking them, "Well, if you don't like this program, what do you like?" you know, and it just showed a lack of leadership that just didn't get the job done. One thing about being in the legislature is that you have to realize somewhere along the line that the governor is going to get credit for the good things. So you have to be careful to avoid getting credit for the bad things, and letting the governor have the good side and you take the bad side. So, you know, if she's going to get credit for all this new education expenditure, she better darn well get credit for the tax too, and not the legislature. And I think that was her 00:57:00problem in there. Eventually, of course, she went out and she sold her program between the, what, '80 and `82 sessions, I guess? No, `83 she was elected. Between the `84 and the `86 sessions, and then she amazingly enough got the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce to endorse taxes on business. And so with much of the natural opposition to the tax proposal already neutralized, she got her bill through. She got her tax bill through.

BREAUX: Some people would say that, I guess beginning with John Y. Brown and him taking a more hands-off approach, that that really has contributed to even a greater degree of legislative independence, maybe even go as far as saying that that sort of 00:58:00cemented legislative independence in place, and we're not going to see it sort of slide back the way it did when Wendell Ford became governor. Would you agree with that?

MIDDLETON: I would agree with that up to the point where you say, "We're not going to see it slide back." I think that's always a threat that's there until perhaps some changes are enacted into the constitution that will prevent its ever happening, and I don't know what those changes would be off the top of my head.

BREAUX: So are you saying it would depend upon the personality of the governor?

MIDDLETON: I think, yes, it would depend a lot upon the personality of the governor. A governor that really wanted to control things, that went in there and did it right, rather than making nasty comments in public about the legislature as Wallace Wilkinson did. You know, of course whatever should have been done he did it wrong, 00:59:00and ended up with "Eck" Rose apparently with his back up all the time, and much of the rest of the legislature. But I think that a governor that, well first of all, that had more of a mandate than Wilkinson had. He just was a come-from-behind candidate that won, I don't know, 20 percent of the total Democrat vote, a plurality in a wide field, and he really didn't have that much of a mandate to do anything when he went in there. And he needed to have done an awful lot of fence-mending along the way. And if it had been a situation where there were only two or three candidates in there, and one of them had gotten more than 50 percent of the primary vote, I would have thought that he would be more in a position to run the show. But interim committees and everything else, the 01:00:00governor can still run that show if he wants to. There's just nothing really built in there to give a legislator a good career pattern view, I think, that's part of the whole thing. There are people like Joe Clarke who have made a career out of being in the legislature just because he's such a topnotch person and loves the legislative process so much that he stays on. He must have lost a lot of earnings that he could have had if he hadn't done it that way.

BREAUX: Other people, this is interesting, because other people I've talked to seem to be saying the same thing, that Governor Wilkinson really, though, wants to run the 01:01:00show, as you put it, but just doesn't know how because he doesn't have that legislative experience that people like a Julian Carroll had. Julian Carroll-

MIDDLETON: Yeah, but Louie Nunn didn't have it, either. And he had a-

BREAUX: That's a good point. That's a good point.

MIDDLETON: he had party opponents against him, but he knew how to do it. And it wasn't, I don't think, just because of anything built into the constitution or the statutes. He didn't have the oversight committees looking over his shoulder, but what does he care? You know, if you really understand what you're doing in there, the governor and the administrative agencies of state government aren't the same animal anyhow. They're going to be there when he's gone. But the governor, to get his program through, has to know where the skeletons are buried and how to play that particular game. And, of course, Wilkinson doesn't really have even too many people around him that have it. He's 01:02:00got one fellow I know of, and his name escapes me even at the moment, who came out of the legislative branch. But, you know, Floyd Poore is used to going out and twisting arms for money, and I guess getting votes isn't the same thing.

BREAUX: One other trend that I think could be linked to changes in the legislature is this trend toward careerism by members of the legislature. You're, I think, maybe an exception to the rule here because you entered the legislature in the late `60s and then stayed there until just recently. But a lot of members, it seemed, were satisfied with serving two or three terms, and then voluntarily just retiring and not running for re- election. That seems to be changing not only in Kentucky, but in all the states as well, that 01:03:00there's been a trend toward people staying and making a career out of serving in the legislature. Do you, what type of effect do you think that has in terms of the legislative process or in terms of legislative independence?

MIDDLETON: I suppose I'd have to be in favor of it (laughs). And certainly, legislative independence is one of the reasons, although I said a little earlier that I think a strong governor could come back and turn the clock back, I wouldn't want to see that happen. I think it's to the benefit of the public that they have somebody with the strength to oversee the governor and the administrative agencies of state government. And they can only do that if they have some kind of a history in the legislature, not just the short- term objectives that you have when you go in there. If they have 60 percent turnover 01:04:00every session, and you've got all of these new people in there, I think they would be much more susceptible to the powers of the governor's office than would an "Eck" Rose or myself or somebody else.

BREAUX: So in general then, if I've been interpreting all that we've been talking about today correctly, you would argue that all these trends we've been talking about that started over twenty years ago, some of them, have been to the benefit of government and the state. Is that correct?

MIDDLETON: Decidedly. When I went around and spoke to people on that subject, that was always the concluding point that I made. You can't pick up the telephone and call the governor and have your point of view put forth. You can pick up the telephone and call your state senator or your state representative because they've got a 01:05:00listed phone number, and even when they're in Frankfort you can get a hold of them. And unless you've got that ability somewhere along the line, representative government doesn't do the job the way the theory of representative government calls for it doing. And the legislature is the people's branch of government, I'm sure you've heard that one before, that performs that function.

BREAUX: Do you think voters are sophisticated enough to make those kind of decisions?

MIDDLETON: Yeah, I think to a high degree they are. They passed the legislative amendment. And, of course, many people had gotten to the point where they despaired of the public passing any amendments to the constitution. They have just balked at annual session amendments, but they did make some other changes. I think they generally detect 01:06:00when the legislature is available and when it's unavailable.

BREAUX: Are there any other trends out there or things stirring up that you think could have an effect on the legislature in Kentucky? We've talked about a lot of different topics here and a lot of different trends, but I'm just wondering if you think there's anything out there that-

MIDDLETON: Well, there was one interesting little thing that has piqued my interest and bothered me that's come down the pike, and that's the use of tax money set aside for education to hire lawyers to go and sue the General Assembly, and to get a decision by a judge who used to be the paid attorney for the Department of Education, and a judgment that was as inevitable as Mars rising in the east. And I refer, of course, to 01:07:00Judge Corns' statement that the General Assembly had violated the constitutional mandate to provide an efficient system of public education, whatever that is. And I don't see trial judges as being setters of great constitutional issues anyhow. Granted, they have to start there, and somebody has to make some kind of a decision. I thought that that judge should have recused himself to begin with, because I had a feeling that that's how it had to come out. He was part of the education establishment himself. And I hate to speak that way of a judge, but I just didn't like that. I didn't like his setting up his own little commission to go running around the state and become a little legislature. And I 01:08:00don't see how anything very positive can come out of that, although I may be surprised. I've been wrong before. I don't see anything positive coming out of that because the legislature's got to do that job anyhow. And the legislature has gone around and held hearings. In fact, the education committee's doing that again, as we did three or four years ago. They're going around and holding hearings around the state, and everybody gets their input on the whole subject. It all comes down from the fact that there are a lot of people and certainly almost the entirety of the education establishment that think that we ought to have more money, and they may be right. I believed they were right in 1968, and I voted to give them more money. But I'm also aware that I could have listened to them in `70, `72, `74, `76, `78, `80, `82, `84, and `86, and they would always have been 01:09:00asking for more money, and more than we could have gotten out of the present budget. So there was never a lack of opportunity to increase taxes, so it takes some judgment. Maybe the time has arrived when they have to increase taxes again, but still the question keeps coming back: Is there no end? Do we always have to increase the tax rates?

BREAUX: In your opinion then, what will it take? I know you're interested in education or you wouldn't have served on the committee so long.

MIDDLETON: Oh, I'm very much interested in education. Well, I think that-

BREAUX: What will it take to turn it around?

MIDDLETON: I think it takes an interest on the part of the public that is reflected in a willingness to absorb more taxes. And that's beginning to happen, but I think it's a horrible precedent, and I hope that the things that I foresee in that won't happen. But what's to stop the strong advocates for, let's say, Aid for Dependent Children, which is not a good example because they just increased that, but let's say they hadn't increased 01:10:00that. How about the AFDC people taking some AFDC money, and that's the analogous situation as I understand it, and hiring Bert Combs to go down and, which is what the educators did, to go down and file a lawsuit saying that maybe on the equal protection section of the Fourteenth Amendment or at comparable equal protection section of the Kentucky Constitution, the General Assembly wasn't providing equal protection to women under the AFDC program. And get Judge Corns, only we can't have him in there, we've got to have a guy that was the attorney for the Cabinet for Human Resources that is now sitting on the bench, to decide that the legislature can't do that either. And, you know, pretty soon you get to the point where we have unfortunately gotten, with federal 01:11:00judges sitting and running the school district to provide integration. I'm not going to get off on that subject, but whether you like what they've done or whether you don't like what they've done, I don't think anybody can say that school districts ought to be run by federal judges, and I don't think they ought to be run by state judges either. That's not our system. Their job is to declare the validity of legislation, and not to say that it's simply unconstitutional if it doesn't reflect the view of a particular group of people. So that's something that's come into government that's kind of interesting. Whether anything more will come out of it, or whether it just happened to occur because of a coming together, a juxtaposition of a number of different things at the same time.

BREAUX: Do you think the leadership is there in the legislature to get something 01:12:00done-


BREAUX: on education? Or are we going to be basically at a stalemate, in your opinion, for the next however many years?

MIDDLETON: I think the governor has got to make it reasonable for the legislature to do what the legislature needs to do. And he can't do that by coming in and saying, "Okay now, you fellows, here's my new program, and I'm going to be the shining knight of education, and you people can pass the tax bills to pay for it," when he won't let them have their programs that were there before he came along, to pass the tax-I think they were ready to provide more money. I think they would have probably, with a little bit of leadership, would have at least accorded the Kentucky tax structure to the federal tax 01:13:00structure and gotten that additional money in. But he killed that too, because he wanted it to go into his program and not in their program. And I don't know whether he's going to be able to come back from this or not. Martha Layne did, but he's not showing signs of that. When he pops up at some inappropriate place and says, "I'm going to call a special session of the legislature," and he hasn't talked to the legislative leaders about that, he hasn't lined up the votes to pass his bill, but he's going to call a special session in January, I don't see them doing anything other than going down there and adjourning. Although maybe they won't do that because of the bad press that they would get out of it. But, you know, I think he's got to get a better understanding of how you deal with the legislature and how you give them some of the strokes that come out of doing the good things as well as the tough things.

BREAUX: I hope progress is made somehow.


MIDDLETON: Somehow, yes.

BREAUX: Because we need to move on that issue.

MIDDLETON: Yeah, there is no doubt about that. Although, you know, sometimes we need to stand and look at what we have done, too, and put the thing into perspective. If you haul out some of these books that the Kentucky Education Association turns out every year and look at ten year increments instead of the last two years, you'll see that we may stand eleventh in the country or fifteenth in the country in the rate of increase in teacher's salaries. Did you know that?

BREAUX: No, I didn't.

MIDDLETON: I've forgotten what the numbers are, although I've got some up there. But our standing over several different decades, I taught a class in political science last fall and got these things out to try to put the thing into perspective. We're not trying to tell everybody the job's done. We're trying to tell them to stop saying that everything 01:15:00is bad. We have made some progress on education in Kentucky. Yes, we're fiftieth in the number of people over twenty-one years-of-age that have a high school education, but we're not fiftieth in the dropout rate at the moment. Maybe we're only 41st, but that's progress. We're not going to go from fifty to one, we have to go through forty-one on our way there. And I think that you have a better way to get the people that are for tax increases every time, and the people that are against tax increases ever, to come together and talk, if you talk reality rather than keep crying wolf.

BREAUX: Well, I want to thank you for taking time-

MIDDLETON: That's all right (laughs).

BREAUX: out of your busy schedule. I think you've shed some light and some 01:16:00interesting insights on a lot of different topics today. I want to thank you for taking time to do that.

MIDDLETON: I was honored to be asked.

[End of Interview] 1