FRANKFORT, Ky. – Kentucky's governor, under indictment in a state hiring scandal, asked Lt. Gov. Steve Pence to resign after Pence announced he would not run for re-election with the governor next year. Pence said Thursday he had declined the request to step down.
"The lieutenant governor's office does not belong to me, nor to the governor. I temporarily occupy it," said Pence, a former U.S. attorney with a reputation as a corruption fighter. "The citizens elected me for four years to occupy that office, and my inclination is to serve my entire term."
Gov. Ernie Fletcher's spokesman Brett Hall said Pence had "left the door open" to run for governor after telling the governor he would not seek re-election.
"There's still honor left in this business called politics," Hall said.
Fletcher, vacationing in Florida, released a written statement Thursday, saying Pence "has his own separate agenda from this administration."
"He is entitled to that. However, any administration functions best when everyone works together," Fletcher said, insisting that he called for Pence's resignation because it is "in the best interest of Kentucky."
Pence announced Wednesday that he would leave the lieutenant governor's office after his term expires next year.
He would not say if the hiring investigation weighed in that decision, though he did say: "I believe it's held the commonwealth back more than anything on things that could have been done."
"The conversation I had with the governor is a private one and I won't get into all the details of that," Pence said. "But I did tell him that I did not have any plans at this point to run for governor or any other office. But I have to face the reality that circumstances may change."
Fletcher, Kentucky's first Republican governor since 1971, is facing misdemeanor charges alleging he broke state law by rewarding political supporters with protected state jobs after he took office in 2003. Last summer, he issued a blanket pardon for anyone in his administration who might face charges in the probe — except himself.
This is not the first time Fletcher has called for a resignation and was snubbed. Last September, Fletcher asked for the resignation of Kentucky Republican Party Chairman Darrell Brock. Brock and party leaders ignored the request.