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2006-07-05 Interview with Lonnie Napier, July 5, 2006 Leg001:2006OH114LEG117 00:56:31 Kentucky Legislature Oral History Project Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries Legislators -- Kentucky -- Interviews. Roads -- Design and construction -- Kentucky -- Garrard County. Gun control -- Kentucky. Education -- Kentucky. Kentucky. General Assembly -- Officials and employees -- Discipline. Kentucky. Governor (1983-1987 : Collins) Kentucky. Governor (1987-1991 : Wilkinson) Kentucky. Governor (1991-1995 : Jones) Kentucky. Governor (1995-2003 : Patton) Kentucky. Governor (2003-2007 : Fletcher) Collins, Martha Layne Wilkinson, Wallace Jones, Brereton Patton, Paul Fletcher, Ernie Blandford, Don Nunn, Louie B. Appropriations and Revenue Committee State Government Committee Transportation Committee infrastructure historic preservation recreation education Reagan, Ronald heads of state redistricting abortion same-sex marriage prayer in schools role of legislators gun control tobacco buyout lottery Republican Party BOPTROT lobbyists legislative independence Key Legislation: gun control Term and District: House (1985- ), 36th district Counties in District: Garrard County (Ky.) -- Madison County (Ky.) -- Jackson County (Ky.) -- Estill County (Ky.) -- Rockcastle County (Ky.) Lonnie Napier; interviewee Jessica Flinchem; interviewer 2006OH114_LEG117_Napier 1:|8(10)|16(8)|24(7)|32(9)|42(5)|49(11)|57(7)|64(3)|71(17)|79(15)|88(8)|98(8)|105(15)|114(1)|121(6)|129(5)|138(11)|148(4)|156(14)|167(13)|175(1)|181(1)|192(5)|203(2)|216(6)|226(7)|236(2)|246(10)|255(17)|265(16)|275(8)|285(1)|293(1)|300(9)|308(10)|320(11)|332(11)|339(8)|349(13)|359(5)|367(2)|375(9)|386(17)|402(2)|409(13)|419(9)|433(14)|443(1)|452(7)|462(2)|471(12)|479(4)|486(17)|493(9)|500(13)|508(1) audiotrans Legit interview FLINCHUM: Representative Napier, what's your full name? NAPIER: Lonnie Nelson Napier. FLINCHUM: Lonnie Nelson Napier. When and where were you born? NAPIER: I was in born in Garrard County, in a one-room shack, with a stovepipe sticking out the side in 1940. The place is called Narrow Gap Road in Garrard County. That was in a very remote section of this county. When I was a little bitty boy, I had to walk to school five miles a day; two and a half miles there and two and half miles back. There were no roads. There were no running water. They're no telephones, no electricity, and no indoor plumbing. When I was a little boy, me and my brother Wayne, we had to walk; some of the winters were very bad. It was cold and what few roads we had were nothing but mud. And we had no school bus route. We went to a one-room school. I knew that something wasn't right. That we shouldn't have to walk five miles a day to school, when in other parts of the county, people were being picked up by buses. So I promised myself when I was a little, bitty boy, if I ever got old enough to run for office, I would run for office, and I would fix that road for those people. The name of that road was called Hamilton Valley Road and Fall Lick Road. It was two names. When I got old enough to run for office, in 1966 I ran, and I was elected as a member of the Garrard County Fiscal Court. At that time, I was the youngest guy ever elected in Garrard County's history. Excuse me-so the history books says. Well, I went on and I served by term as a member of the Garrard County Fiscal Court, and I didn't run for that anymore. I was married at that time and I had two young boys, and I needed to make sure I could support them. Then, in 1984, I decided I would run for state representative. The district consisted of Jessamine County, Garrard County, and Madison County, at that time. It was a heavy Democratic district. Me being a Republican, nobody hardly gave me a chance to win. But I ran, and I was elected. I won by the largest majority of anybody in Kentucky being a Republican House member at that time. Well, it went on and they kindly said that was a flukes, you know. But let me back up just a little bit. I was campaigning in Jessamine County, and couple of friends came by. They told me, they said, "Here's a telephone number. You need to call." I kept asking what it was because peoples always playin' jokes on you, you know. Finally, they said, "It's really important that you call this." I called the number and the man on the other end said, "I need your Social Security number." He said, "President Ronald Reagan is going to be in Louisville, and he says that he will endorse your candidacy for state representative if you want him to." "Well, Lord," I said, "I want him to." Anyway, I went and I was endorsed by Ronald Reagan, in person, with his arm around my shoulder. Of course, that didn't hurt me at all; it helped me tremendously. I think we was going to win anyway because there comes a time, if people decide they're going to do something, they're going to do it; you can't stop 'em. I could see that things were looking real good, but I campaigned real hard, and I had a good opponent. He was a well-qualified man. A good man, he was running on the Democratic ticket. His name was Steve Conley, and he's now mayor of Berea. He does a good job there, and he's an attorney. But we won that race, and we won by, as I said, a large majority. As time went on, I was redistricted from that district. The majority party took half of my county away for me, which was Garrard County. Put me with a little bit-took part of Madison away from me. Give me a smaller amount of Madison. Give me some of Jackson County. Gave me part of Lincoln and Pulaski counties. I guess hoping it would be harder on me to get elected. That's just politics. I'm not mad about that or anything. We still went on to be elected. Then the courts overturned that, and then they put me with Estill County, Madison County, and Garrard County. Probably the worst thing about that was I had to defeat one of my friends who was the same party as myself. He was a Republican. His name was C.D. Nolan. He was in Jackson-excuse me, he represented Jackson at that time and Estill County, but he was from Estill County. So, as I said, we had Estill, Madison, and Garrard County, and C. D. Nolan was a good guy. He served on Appropriations and Revenue, and he was in leadership in Kentucky House of Representatives. But anyway, they pitted us two together. I had to run against my good friend, and I won. I have absolutely nothing against C.D. Nolan. He was a good guy. I still see him often, and I know his health is bad now, but, of course, I know he's doing pretty good at this time. As time went on, and, of course, in my position, you meet people from all over the country, you know. You meet people from everywhere. I've had an opportunity to talk to people like President George Bush Sr., Walker Bush, of course, Ronald Reagan. I met Bill Clinton in Arkansas. I've met numerous people. Of course, all the Governors that are living. Of course, I've served with five Governors. I started out under Martha Layne Collins. Martha Layne Collins was a very nice lady. She was a graceful person. She graced the Governor's office well. She carried herself good. People respected her. I think she was a good Governor, although I was a freshman at that time and didn't have my feet on the ground like I do maybe now, but she was a good Governor. Then I served under Brereton Jones and Wallace Wilkinson and Paul Patton, two different terms and, of course, now Governor Fletcher. I served in the House of Representatives with Governor Fletcher. He came in and served one term with me, and then he got redistricted out. So he didn't run for the state legislature the second time. All the people had good traits. I don't think anybody ever wants to be a bad elected official. I don't think anybody wants to be a bad Governor. Wallace Wilkinson was a brilliant guy. He learned fast. When he came in, he didn't know too much about politics or government, I guess you could say, but he learned fast. He and I became real good friends, and I was able to get a lot done under Wallace Wilkinson's administration for my district. Paul Patton probably knew as much or more about local government than any Governor, I've served with. I personally liked Paul Patton. Paul Patton liked me. We got along well, and I was able to represent my district really good under his administration. I guess you might say, "Well, what are some of the things that you feel the best about being a member of the General Assembly?" Of course, a state representative, in my opinion, always wants to do something for his local communities that he represents. Some of the things that I have to highlight at this time in my political career would be-let me back up just a minute. When I was a member of the Garrard County Fiscal Court-I just remember-I was real young. I looked like a kid, a child. The other members of the court-they were four of us-and they had their white shocks of hair, and they were old enough to be my daddy or granddaddy. When I went in, I was a good listener and kept my mouth shut until I won the respect of those people, but I guess as a member of the Garrard County Fiscal Court, one of the things that I'd have to recall or remember the best about it was that I helped get a library for Garrard County. They had to be a tax put on. I made that motion at that time to put a small library tax on, so we can have a good library for our children in Garrard County. I knew the importance of education because I felt like I had been deprived a little bit, and I had to work much harder to get education than some of the other people. I remember, at that time, some of 'em told me, "You will never be elected for anything else as long as you live because of that." I said, "Well, I've got to go with my conscience. My heart tells me it's the best thing to do because we have many, many, many children in this county are not-they don't have a good system, or they don't have a good way to get hold of books to read and do research." So I voted for that. I've never been sorry of that. That was a member of the Garrard County Fiscal Court. At that time, too, the roads were really, really, bad in my district. I come from a place called Cartersville-into Paint Lick, Hamilton Valley, Harmon's Lick, Fall Lick, Narrow Gap, Copper Creek area of the county, which a part of the county I've always been glad that I came from. The people at that end of the county stood behind me, and I guess they was-the ones that set me off into politics. They believed in me, and when I ran for the magistrate as a young child-boy, I think I got about 90 percent of the vote in my precinct. They've always stood behind me in that part of the county; helping me anytime, I ask them for help. Then, as we go on and you get in the House of Representatives, of being a Republican in a House at that time-I think in the House, there's only about twenty something of us Republican legislators, and it's becomes a buddy system. It's not what you know it's who you know. I've always respected people for what they believe in, and if they're the other party, I understand that. I try my best to respect them, but the first thing I did, was started working on them to get them to like me, so that I can get things for my district, which we're able to do. I guess probably one of the biggest fears, as a legislator I had after being elected, was I knew probably 25 percent of the people were lawyers there, and I'm not a lawyer and professional people. Of course, I consider myself a professional, but I guess I thought the fear of being a good speaker on the House floor, you know, because of all these other people had the experience, but as time went on, I was in my freshman year, I was the orator of the year. I was picked by the House as orator of the year. That gave me confidence. But, some of the things that I have to highlight at least-many, many things but I know I have to narrow it down-was getting Highway 52 from Lancaster to Richmond, Kentucky into the plan to be constructed, and as you know, now part of that is already built, and there's more under construction. That will be a great, great avenue for the city of Lancaster to the interstate, I-75. Without good infrastructure, no community is ever going to do good. So that is a highlight of mine, and I feel like I gave that birth. I'd have to commend Representative Moberly and other people for helping me with that. But that was an idea that I had, and I'm so thankful that I did. Another thing that I have done is been able to pass some legislation and put money in to build a new state park at Herrington Lake, which is in the process, at this time, of being done. They're looking to buy the land now. Course, I guess the happiest time of my life, as a legislator, I was able to sit down, negotiate a deal with Eastern Kentucky University and the Bluegrass Community Technical College, form a partnership, and put a college here in Lancaster. That has now become a reality. Classes will start this fall. We've already had the dedication ceremonies, and we are going to have a college here in Lancaster. I'd have to say that's one of my proudest moments of my life. Knowing how important it is to get an education, how rough it was on me, I just want to make it a little bit easier for my community. I'd like to keep our brightest and best students here at home. Where they don't have to drive so far, and maybe we can have more kids or more high school children to go on in and try to get a college education, especially when they can get a four-year college here now, a degree, or a degree from EKU. Oh, other things, I've been able to put lots of money in for Madison County, Garrard County for sewer and water projects. Everybody ought to have water. We have a few people that don't, but we're still working on that. The artesian center in Berea is another thing that is one of my highlights because I passed the legislation to make Berea, "The Folk Arts and Crafts Capital of Kentucky." Another highlight-I'd have to say I can't take full credit, but I can take some credit-I was instrumental in getting Big Hill rebuilt. The people in Jackson County needed that bad while I was their state representative. They never believed it would happen, but we set it up and put it in a six-year plan while I was a member of-when I was a state representative for Jackson County, and some of the other people I'd have to give credit for that would be Senator Huff from London, Kentucky. C.D. Nolan was with us. William Smith, the county judge in Jackson County at that time, among other people, helped with that project, and Brereton Jones was the Governor at that time that we set that up. I guess that's the most I ever got out, under Governor Jones, you know. But his highway commissioner at that time-I believe his name was Don Kelly-he graciously decided that it should be done with us. And, of course, along with Madison County officials, Kent Clark the judge, and everybody else was pushing for that project-the mayor of Berea at that time, Mayor Kirby. That would be, have to be another highlight in my legislative career. But another thing I like to do too is preserve some of our historical sites. I've been able to put some money into-we're going start restoring our theater here at Lancaster. Also, I have been able to put monies in for recreation for our children and their parks and things like-always makes you feel good when you can do that. I have two sons of my own. Together they have five children. I have five grandchildren. Of course, now anything that I do, I think of them and other people's children. What's the best for 'em. People have been wonderful to me. I continue to win by the largest in Kentucky every time I run. Not Lonnie Napier, it's the people. I'm just thankful they believe in me. I sometimes wonder why that I can continue to go on getting that kind of vote, but I've had good help down through the years. I've had some of the finest men, young men to help me in my office. Well, they call 'em interns, but they were brilliant young men, and they've gone on to do well. Many, many, many hundreds and hundreds of volunteers that's helped me get elected. You know, it's unbelievable. FLINCHUM: You've also worked to pass some legislation of firearm laws, right? Some of those successful recently? NAPIER: Yes, I believe-I don't believe you should take your guns away from the good citizens in this country. I feel like if you take your arms away from the good people-I guess we could say the citizens that's going to break the law, they'll be able to get a hold of 'em. I feel like if people think that you have protection in your home, that chances are they'll walk on by and not bother you. Yes, I've always been endorsed by the National Rifleman's Association. One other thing I wanted to hit on, while I'm at it, being a Republican but I have always had the support of the working man. Very few Republicans get the endorsement of the unions. I'm a small businessperson myself. Run retail stores. But I believe without the working person, this country-they need to make good wages because they're the ones that spends the money. If they're paid good, they spend the money within the community, it turns over, and it helps economic development. It helps the growth of our communities. I guess you could say, if I was to be rated-one time the newspapers said, "One of the best ways for us to define Representative Napier is, he's a conservative populist." What they meant by that was that I've always come down on the side of the people. When it comes to the social part of this, I'm a pro- life. I'm pro-family. I have strong convictions when it comes to my Christian beliefs, and I will hold those up no matter what happens. I'm bitterly opposed to same-sex marriage, and these kinds of things that are big in the headlines today. I just think that some of-I'm for prayer in school. I see nothing wrong with it. I don't see anything wrong with hanging the Ten Commandments anywhere you want to hang 'em. You don't have to read 'em. There's not anything in those Commandments that would hurt anybody. So, I'm looked upon-I'm not for gambling. I've never voted for any gambling bills. I guess what you do is your business, but I guess that's probably the best way to define my political beliefs. FLINCHUM: You've had strong support from farmers as well, right? NAPIER: I have. Coming from a rural community, oh, yes, and I guess some of the best speeches I've ever made on the House floor was trying to protect the farmer with their Phase II monies. Getting, I guess, standing ovations, saying that our farmers were getting slip shucked if they didn't get their money. Because the tobacco buyout, what it did to them was it took their quota away from 'em, took their support price away from 'em, and they just took their buyout money, and rolled it over into another pool to buy 'em out, you know. So, their Phase II money, I didn't think they were done right. Myself and two or three other legislators led a big charge in the last session to see that they got their Phase II money done right. Yeah, I'm happy about that. The first dollar I ever made was chopping crabgrass out of tobacco. I made one dollar a day. The two adults that was helping made three dollars, and I did the same work they did, and I never did think I was treated right for that. I guess that's the reason I always come down on the working man's side. I just feel like that people should be treated like humans. [Pause in recording.] FLINCHUM: You served on some very important committees; Appropriations and Revenue, Economic Development, Tourism, State Government, the list goes on. What are some of the memories you have of those committees? Some of your greatest accomplishments? NAPIER: Well, of course, I served on Appropriations and Revenue, State Government, and Transportation are my standing committees, and then you have your subcommittees that branch out from there. Of course, the Appropriations and Revenue is the most powerful committee you can be on. Being at the right place at the right time and having seniority helps get you on the Appropriations and Revenue. That's the committee. They can never take away from me. That's one that we can Rule 39 [Rules of Procedure], and I'll always do that. That gives you a seat about anywhere you want to go, if you're on Appropriations and Revenue, because everybody's looking for money. State Government is a very powerful committee. State Government is where, for instance, the lottery bill had to come out. I recall that Wallace Wilkinson called me one time and said, "Lonnie, I've just got to see you." Of course, I felt like I knew what he wanted, and he called me on the House floor, and they brought me a note and said, "The Governor said he'd like for you to stop by, Lonnie, when you get off the House floor." I sent him a little note back and I said, "Governor," I said, "I won't be able to come by. I've got a committee meeting. I won't be able to come by." So he sent me a note back, and he said, "Well, could you come by Friday?" I said, "Well, I've got a bill on the floor, I think, that day,"-I believe that's what I told him-and I said, "I won't be able to come." That was in March. That's when we had the Super Tuesday Presidential primaries. They've since been done away practically with. Anyway, that was a big deal, the Super Tuesdays were. He said, "Well, come by Monday, and I'll talk to you." I sent him a note back and I said, "Governor, we won't be here Monday because Tuesday's a holiday. It's Election Day, and we're going to be out on Monday." Well, he sent me a note back, and he said, "Well, if you'll come by after Tuesday, after you vote," he said, "I'd love to talk to you." I said to myself, "Anybody is that persistent, I'll do it." 'Course, I liked this man; I want you to remember, I like him. I communicated well with him. Most anybody else I've been able to communicate with, but. I remember it was a beautiful day, it was on Tuesday, and I voted. That was when George W. Bush was a running. I remember he had a primary. So I drove down, and I got there. There was nobody in the capitol building, nowhere to be seen except a few guards. When I walked up on the first floor, he was standing in the doorway. He was a small fellow. He was leaned against that big slab of marble, you know. He said, "Lonnie, oh boy," he said, "I'm so glad to see you." He said, "I've burned the sheets up since last Thursday night." He said, "I've worried. I've not slept much." He said, "I've got to talk to you." I said, "All right." So we went on in and he said, "You want something to drink?" He fixed me a cup of coffee. I sat down across from him at his desk, and he said-and I knew what he was going to asked me because I served on the State Government committee, or I felt like I knew-he said, "Lonnie, I ran for Governor on a platform that I would implement the lottery in this state, and I can't even get it out of committee." He said, "And you're my savior. You can help me." He said, "You're on that committee, and I lacked one vote of being able to getting it out of committee." Whew. I said, "Governor, can I talk to you just a few minutes, just like you were my brother?" He said, "Of course. Sure you can, Lonnie." I said, "I'm talking about blood brothers. I mean, I'm talking about really, we'll be friends here?" He said, "We can." I said, "Alright, well, don't get upset"-because he had a little bit of temper sometimes, but he never did show that toward me. He did the news media, but-I said, "Now, don't get mad. I want to talk to you just a minute." I said, "Governor," I said, "I can't vote for your lottery bill." I said, "It's against my religious convictions." I said, "I'm a member of the Church of God Church in Lancaster." I said, "I serve on the board. I just can't do anything like that." Well, he stopped, big tears rolled down out of his eyes, he got up, and he came around and gave me a big hug. He said, "Lonnie, as long as I live, I will never hold that against you." He said, "My dear old grandmother was a member of the Church of God in Liberty, Kentucky, and if she knew that her grandson was here trying to pass a gambling bill, she would turn over in her grave. Anything you ever need or want from me, you can have." Oh, that was wonderful news, you know, but anyway, he went ahead, and he got his lottery bill out, and I was against it. That just some of the things that I can remember about the State Government Committee. Of course, some of the greatest things that I can remember about A&R [Appropriations and Revenue] is being able to put money in, for my district. No matter whether it was Estill County, and I was able to put hundreds of thousands and thousands of dollars in for Estill County, you know, when I was there. Same way to help with Madison, and here. Of course, putting money in for a park, the college, roads, the artisans center, a ballpark, Little League, recreational centers and stuff like that. It's good to be on A&R and putting money in for higher education and secondary education. It makes you feel good. Transportation, another committee I always liked-of course, I'd have to recall back-being able to build roads in my district like Highway 52. Being able to put US Highway 27 back into the plan to be built, that was another big thing. Put it in the six-year road plan. It's a road that needs to be constructed. They're supposed to start in 2008 on it. I guess those are some of the best things I can remember about those committees. Seniority gets you where you're at. I think now, I probably am fifth or sixth in seniority in the House, and when we go back in January of 2007, it may change. I have no opposition. So I could have a little bit higher seniority then that. The speaker of the House has got a little bit more than I have. Representative Moberly has. Two or three more of them. FLINCHUM: Earlier you mentioned some of the Governors you've worked with. Who are some of your favorite all-time Kentucky Governors? NAPIER: Well-the man that I was the closest what Governor Louis B. Nunn. We've traveled many a mile together. We've stayed in the same motels together. He was a-in my opinion, he will go down, in history as one of the all-time greatest Governors this state ever had. I'm not saying that because of his politics. Because every day of my life you can still see Governor Louis B. Nunn. Education, merit system, building hospitals for the mentally retarded, he was more of a people's person. He was one of the best stump speakers in the state. If you ever jumped on him, you could get ready cause he was going to bring you down the next day because he'd scorch you. I really thought a lot of 'em. If there's one thing I wish that could have happened. It's been now-when Governor Patton ran his second term, the Republican Party was having a hard time to find somebody to run, and Louie Nunn was considering running again, and I fully believe he would have been elected, looking back over how well the candidate did that nobody knew. Just ran to be running, could raise no money. He has told me on numerous occasions, he wished he'd come and ask me to run with him, and we would've run together. That's one thing I wished would have happened. He was my-he had my style. I knew what he was thinking; he knew what I was thinking. I guess if anybody ever paid me a compliment that I really liked. He said he thought I was the best campaigner he had ever been around. Coming from Governor Nunn that meant something to me. Governor Patton was a good Governor. He knew a lot about local government. Wallace Wilkinson was a good Governor. He did education reform. Wallace was a good Governor. Of course, I mean this when I say this; I think a Governor that comes from rural Kentucky makes the best Governor because he's been there. He really knows how hard it is for a rural community or the rural part of the state to get their part, when it comes to economic development, jobs, roads, water, sewer. They have to work probably four or five times harder to do it than the bigger, larger cities. Governor Louis B. Nunn probably blacktopped more roads than any Governor in Kentucky. Again, Paul Patton was a good Governor. I think they all had their good parts. Martha Lane Collins did a good job. She was the first woman Governor of this state, and I'd have to give her high remarks. Let's see, who else did I leave out? Brereton Jones did some things in his own right. Although I was probably was never as close to Brereton Jones as I was some of the other Governors. I don't know why. I never had anything against the Governor. Like I say, I'd have to contribute Big Hill being set up under his administration, and I did play a part in that. They all, like I say-then some of your other Governors, Bert Combs has been recognized as being a good Governor. Of course, there'll never be another Happy Chandler. He had the color, you know, a good stump speaker. He and Louis B. Nunn will always be remembered as having a lot of political color. You know, being colorful when they spoke. I don't know. Everybody has some good in 'em, you know. Of course, you look back over members of the General Assembly, and you could think of some of the great ones, you know. FLINCHUM: What about Presidents? Do you have some favorite or least favorite Presidents? NAPIER: Well, yes, that's not hard for me to say. My favorite President, of course, was Ronald Reagan. He's my hero. He is my all-time hero. I think Richard Nixon was one of the best presidents this country ever had. He froze the prices and the economy was good in the seventies, and he knew a lot about foreign affairs. Some people won't agree with me on that but I think President Nixon was one of the smartest and best Presidents we've ever had. I think that Jimmy Carter was one of the best men as far as an individual to ever grace the White House. I think that he had a hard time. He brought people with him from his administration in Georgia, and they just wasn't accustomed to national politics. So I think that was a deterrent for him. I think that-did you ask me who I thought the worst President was? FLINCHUM: Sure. NAPIER: Lyndon Baines Johnson. I think Lyndon Johnson was probably the worst president we had. I say that because of the Vietnam War. I say that because of the way some of the things that he did. I don't think-and he may in some people's minds, I know there's some things he did do that was good. Passed the Civil Rights Act, you know. He helped pass that- which I would have voted for-but I don't think he was a good President. I think that, I can say Jimmy Carter was a good man. I think he was a good Christian man. I've met him. I talked to him just like I'm talking to you. He's easy to talk to. Of course-you have to go back to Abraham Lincoln, was the all-time great, you know. Reading history, a lot of people, like I said, I don't think that anybody wants to do a bad job. Everybody has different ideas. Some of their ideas I agree with, some I don't. FLINCHUM: What do you think about the trend in Kentucky towards voting Republican in national elections? You know, it's traditionally a Democratic state. NAPIER: Well, Kentucky's always been a conservative state. Strong family values. You'd have to call it a Bible-belt state. Lots of Baptists; good conservative people Baptists are, you know, in their beliefs. Pentecostals are big in Kentucky. The Full Gospel [Baptist] churches are big in Kentucky. About all of Western Kentucky is really, really conservative, although a lot of them, the majority are registered Democratic. The reason they registered Democratic was there's probably the Jeffersonian Democrat back from years and years ago, and then, in order to get elected, you had to run on the Democratic ticket, and people wanted to be able to vote in the primaries. Now, since I believe, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that you can be elected anywhere in Kentucky, no matter if you're Democrat or Republican, if you'll take your messages to people and it's the right message and you're in tune to what the people are thinking. Little old me, you know, but if I've been asked one time, I've probably been asked a thousand times, if I'd run for Governor. I've probably been asked that many times if I'd run for United States Senate, Congress. Been considered different times for Lieutenant Governor candidates, you know, and have been asked already if I would be interested in running on a Republican ticket this time around. I'll not say who's asked me right now, but. (laughs) I never did see anybody that I didn't like. I like people. Oh, all the people in this state want-the only thing they want; they want somebody that they can communicate with, somebody they feel good around, and somebody they trust. If you can't get the job done, you say, "I can't do that. I just can't. I'm not able to get that done." They'll understand. People likes to know a man or a woman they've elected. They want them to be the same tomorrow and the next day and a year from today. They want 'em to be just like they were the day they voted for 'em. That's what happens to a lot of elected officials. They get elected today, and if they've been going to the local cafe to drink coffee every morning, and they don't show up on Wednesday, and they don't show up anymore. They thought, Well, he's forgot about us, or She's forgot about us. People want you to be the same. They don't want you to change. They want to feel comfortable about coming into your office. They don't want to be scared to death. "Can I communicate with this man?" One of the things about my campaign or about my elections-I can't answer all this now-I am a social conservative. I'm a registered Republican. Berea College is one of the most liberalist colleges in the country. They have the most liberalist precinct probably in the United States of voters, and I carried the precinct. They vote for me. They overlook it. They know I'm pro-life, but they like some of the other things about me. I've had 'em tell me, "We don't agree with you. We're pro- choice. We don't agree with you on that, but we are still going to vote for you." I believe sincerity. People know when you're real and when you're not real and when you're just say you are. I really think that, that has something to do with it. FLINCHUM: Do you think the House will ever have a Republican majority in Kentucky? NAPIER: Well, we have a possibility this time in 2006 but probably not likely. We may pick up one or two and we could lose one or two. And that, I don't know; I'm only surmising. Yes, it's possible, someday in the future. It's possible this time or sometime in the future. It'll be based on-politics is a funny thing. It can change overnight. Yes, it's possible. Let me say again, it doesn't make any difference to me. It makes a difference to me, but if they are Republicans or Democrats, I get along with people. I think if I was Governor of Kentucky, I'd have no problem getting along with the Democratic controlled House. They know me. They know my heart, you know? [Pause in recording.] FLINCHUM: Okay, what are some of your reflections on BOPTROT? NAPIER: That's been several years ago. I can't hardly remember how many years ago it's been, but it was probably in the nineties, early nineties, I guess. Well, that was a huge issue. Of course, it made national news. We lost speaker of the House Don Blandford-by the way, I'm going to say this. Was one of the stoutest and most forceful speakers that I've ever served under and one of the most fairest men. I was a Republican, but if I got up to speak, he would recognize me. When I first went in, it was hard for us to get any recognition because there was a very few of us. I think that some of it was entrapment. Some of it was set up. But let me say this-if you do wrong, then you're no different from anybody else. You need to pay for what you did. I think some of 'em did. I think some of them probably did not deserve to get the wrap that they got. I think we had some lobbyists that got their selves in trouble, and they was probably plea-bargained with somebody, somewhere, the FBI maybe. I said maybe. And they tried to set people up because I remember one time this lobbyist that made all the news, he met me in the hallway in the basement early one morning, and he said, "Lonnie," he said, "What would you take to vote for that horse bill this morning?" Well, he probably didn't mean what would you "take," you know. I never will forget. I said, "I told you that I'm not going to vote for that bill." I said, "I'm not going to subsidize a wealthy horse industry while they live in their penthouses in Florida and drink their mint juleps on the backs of the working people in Kentucky. I'm opposed to it." I never will forget. He said, "Well, then, that's no problem to know where you stand," but as the day went on, the news he was wired up that day. He was wired up trying to trap people. I remember, I went on into to my office, sat down at my desk, and there was a message to call Governor Jones. Governor Jones said, "Lonnie," he said, "could you vote for that horse bill today?" And I told him, "No- [Pause in recording.] NAPIER: -to my cubicle that day. I remember when I went into my office, and there's a message to call Governor Jones and I thought, Well, what's Governor Jones want? I called him, and it was about that same bill. It was about a horse bill. I told him, "No, I wouldn't vote for that bill." He said, "Well, promise me you won't speak against it on the House floor. Could you promise me you won't speak against me on the House floor?" And I told him I wouldn't make any promises. (laughs) It'd maybe based on how I was moved when I got there. When I got there, I made a hard speech against it on the House floor and glad I did. Some of my friends that I knew that I did not did not have any idea that they was messed up in BOPTROT. Let me say-of all the years that I've been there, I can't ever think when somebody's asked me to do something that wasn't upfront. They know me. All of them's got a file on me they could pull, if they know what I'm thinking, and then they know how I'm going to vote for it, if it ever comes up, practically, you know. BOPTROT, I saw some of my friends go to the penitentiary. It hurt me because you become friends, and I wished that things like that would never happen. Then we went on to pass legislation, you know, to make it much harder for somebody to get in trouble as far as taking money or the no-coffee law, you know. Right now, a lobbyist, we don't take anything from a lobbyist unless it's registered. I mean, if he buys your lunch, it is for the whole members of the General Assembly, not just for one person. I think Don Blandford, the speaker of the House, I know that it look like he did some things, but I don't really believe. In my heart, that Don Blandford sold anybody out. I don't believe it. He's on the other party from me. I don't believe it. I know someone gave him some money one time and told them to take some of his friends out for dinner. I don't think they swayed his mind. It was just a way of life at that time. Of course, looking back over it, it shouldn't have happened. Same-sex marriage, um, the largest crowd since I've been in Frankfort showed up against same- sex marriage. When we were trying to get an amendment on the ballot to do away with same-sex marriage, I'd say we had like five thousand people to show up. I guess I spoke from my heart. I probably made some of my better speeches. This was one time that the fundamentalists or the church people in this state was heard. Their numbers pay off, and that's what people really need to learn and know. That paid off. That was a big issue. We made the Fox news. We made national news. BOPTROT made national news. KERA made national news. I think that all different denominations came together, and ministers from across the state brought their congregations with them and spoke, and some very, very eloquent speakers came, ministers, they were great. I think that helped get that bill out of committee and on the House floor, to be called, to be voted on. We was just having a hard time getting it to the House floor to vote on it. We knew if it got to the House floor it was going to pass, but they wouldn't let it out. That's about it. FLINCHUM: Okay. What are some of the most important ways, looking back, you think Kentucky has changed in the past decade? What are some of the ways most important ways you'd like to see it continue to change? NAPIER: [pause] Well, some of the most important things that's happened since I've been there is letting the legislature or the members of the General Assembly come in to full play where they have a say so. It used to be run by the Governor. The Governor just pick up the phone and say, "I want this bill passed," and that was it. The leadership in the House would do anything he said. They were controlled by him. Back in the '86 and '85, '86, '87, the legislature came into their own being. You have three branches of government: the executive branch, and your judiciary branch and your legislature branch. The legislature came in to their being or their selves in the eighties, and it was for the best for the people of Kentucky. I would like to see the legislature make the decisions pretty much and not somebody dictate to 'em. I'd like to see it stay like it is and even get better. I'd like to see rural Kentucky, a better infrastructure, continued good roads and water, and for our people, and educational opportunities to continue to stay like they are or even be better. I guess that's it. FLINCHUM: Okay, any final comments or thoughts. Maybe there's some things that I failed to bring up that you'd like to have on the tape? NAPIER: Well, I guess I could say that looking back over my life; I started fooling with politics when I was seventeen-years old. Working precincts, doing what I wanted to do, and not taking political machines or political bosses telling me I had to do this or do that. When I first ran for office, I did not have the blessings of a political machine. I ran on my own, and I won. I think that serving in public life is a great honor that's bestowed on you by the citizens of the state, or district where you live. I don't think that should be taken lightly. I think that, and I can truthfully say this, that when you become elected official, when you take the oath of office, you are there to represent everybody, regardless of their political faith. When a person calls me and asks me if I can help 'em in this or that, I don't ask them their politics. A lot of times, I know, a lot of times I don't know. Personally, I don't care what your politics are. It's in a person's heart that what counts. It's their inside, the way you believe, and the way you believe it will come out. It'll be noticed. I'm just thankful that the people had enough confidence in; I guess you could say, this country boy to place me in the position that they've placed me. Being able to meet wine and dine, and touch people, from all the way, from the ditch digger to the President of the United States. Something I would have never thought that would've happened to me, but I fully believe that you can do anything, in this country that anybody else can do a whole lot of. My daddy told me, he told me three things. He said, "Don't ever forget from where you came from. You can do a little bit of what anybody else can do a whole lot of, and always be honest." I never forgot those things, and the only thing my daddy ever told me after I got elected to office, he said, "I will never tell you how to be a legislator. There's only one suggestion I'd like to make to you. Don't ever do anything to hurt the working man." My daddy left Clay County, Kentucky, when he was fourteen-years old, and he dug coal for a dollar a day. That's what he was referring to. Always be fair to the working person. Let them have a decent pay or a decent days work, you know. I never forgot that. Like I said, I'm only one of the few Republican legislators that the unions statewide would endorse. They have and would back to me for most any kind of office. But what's been amazing about my career, the poorest person in my district to the wealthiest person in my district, to the most uneducated person to the highest educated person has supported me. Excuse me. That is very, very unusual. As a rule, they segregate themselves, and I'm thankful for that. I don't know why, but they have. FLINCHUM: Thank you for a good interview. NAPIER: Thank you. [Tape 1, side 1 ends.] [End of interview.] Napier (House 1985- , 36th district; Republican) recalls an early interest in politics stemming from observations of the lack of infrastructure and education as a child in rural Garrard County. He discusses his stance on moral issues, philosophy of government, meeting heads of state, legislation resulting in projects for infrastructure, education, preservation and recreation, support of anti-gun control measures, committee work, and the BOPTROT scandal. Kentucky Legislature