Kentucky Narratives: Bob Gable

Kentucky politics is an ever-changing environment. And as our political system evolves, it is important to remember where we have been to learn valuable lessons. In The Bottom Line’s newest series, Kentucky Narratives, we sit down with big names from both sides of the aisle who have had an impact on Kentucky politics to hear their stories.

Bob Gable is seen by many Kentucky Republicans as the “unsung hero” of the party’s success over the years.

“If Mitch McConnell is the architect of the modern-day Kentucky GOP, he built that house on a foundation laid by Bob Gable,” former Republican Party of Kentucky Chair Ellen Williams said at an event honoring Gable’s work in 2017.

Gable served as Chair of the Republican Party of Kentucky from 1986-1993. According to those close to him, the party had a net worth of around $300 at the time he took over and only had one statewide official, Kentucky U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell.

Since that time, the Republican Party in the state has gone on to hold most seats at the federal level and now controls both the state House and state Senate.

Gable first entered Kentucky politics in 1968 when he was appointed Commissioner of State Parks by Governor Louie Nunn. He went on to run for governor himself in 1975 but was defeated by incumbent Democratic Governor Julian Carroll. Gable states he knew he had no chance of winning but wanted to run because he thought that was the only way the Republican platform could get that kind of attention. His campaign for governor in that year is remembered by Gable’s use of a “truth bell” he used in debates.

He ran for governor again in 1995 but lost in the Republican primary to Larry Forgy who went on to be defeated in the general election by then-Governor Paul Patton.

Gable, now 85, is the first to admit that his memory is not quite what it used to be. And he is not much on taking credit for the accomplishments seen by the state’s Republican Party. But in a sit-down interview with The Bottom Line, he discusses his time in Kentucky politics, the campaigns he ran, his approach to elections when leading the party, if he has any regrets, and what he hopes to see for the party in the future.

Watch the full interview with Bob Gable for the Kentucky Narratives series here:

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Jacqueline Pitts
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