10/26/2012 3:19PM

Kentucky Governor Beshear appoints political rival to judge's seat

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Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear appointed Kentucky Senate President David Williams, a longtime political rival, to a judgeship in southern Kentucky on Friday – a move that could change the political climate for expanding gambling in the state.

Williams, head of the Republican-controlled Senate, regularly clashed with Beshear, a Democrat, and the Democrat-controlled Kentucky House of Representatives over many issues, with expanding gambling being the most prominent.

According to a press release issued by the state, Beshear selected him from a pool of three candidates.

The two have been longtime rivals, and rarely agreed. They ran against each other for governor last fall, with Beshear soundly winning a second term as governor.

Even with Williams’s departure from the Senate, Republicans still control the Kentucky Senate, and for expanding gambling to pass, Democrats would have to persuade numerous Republicans to vote in favor of a gambling bill. Currently Republicans hold a 22-14 advantage over Democrats in the Senate, with one independent and one vacant seat.

A constitutional amendment on casino gambling failed to garner enough votes to pass the Senate earlier this year.

Williams’s Senate seat will be filled via a special election.