FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — A citizen’s petition calling for the impeachment of a prominent Kentucky lawmaker who is facing a domestic abuse charge was filed with the state House on Wednesday.
The petition signed by several people says Republican state Rep. Robert Goforth, who represents the 89th district which covers Jackson and parts of Laurel and Madison counties, should be removed from office for an incident in which he allegedly tried to strangle his wife.
The petitioners said Goforth’s ouster would signal that such abuse will not be tolerated.
“Kentucky families are suffering historic levels of abuse today, and sadly that violence has reached the members of the House, requiring immediate action,” the petitioners said in a news release, according to media outlets.
The former gubernatorial candidate noted Wednesday he was reelected by a wide margin to his House seat last November despite “a nearly constant assault upon my character.”
“I am focused on the work of this session that the people who sent me here expect me to fulfill,” Goforth said in a statement. “Any citizen can submit a petition such as was delivered today targeting me against any elected official.”
Republican House Speaker David Osborne said the petition was sent to an impeachment committee. The panel already is reviewing a petition from four Kentuckians seeking Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear’s removal from office.
That effort stems from COVID-19 restrictions imposed by the governor that the petitioners claimed infringed on the constitutional rights of Kentucky’s residents.
Goforth was arrested last spring after a woman accused him of choking her with an ethernet cable and trying to “hog tie” her during a domestic dispute.
The woman told authorities that he assaulted her while three small children were in the home, the sheriff said at the time. The woman had “visible marks” on her forehead, neck and arms, and bruises on her leg when she went to the 911 Dispatch Center in London, Kentucky, to file her report, according to the sheriff.
The woman said she fled after Goforth made several attempts to “hog tie her,” according to the citation.
Goforth allegedly strangled her with an ethernet cable to the point where she said she had difficulty breathing and thought she was going to pass out, the citation said. She said she escaped after promising to unlock her phone, which sparked the altercation, the citation said.
Goforth was a relative newcomer to the legislature when he decided to challenge then-Gov. Matt Bevin in the 2019 GOP gubernatorial primary.
Goforth won nearly 40% of the vote, exposing Bevin’s political vulnerability. Bevin never fully recovered from the lackluster showing, and he lost a close election to Beshear in the general election.
Goforth represents a rural section of eastern Kentucky. He dropped out of high school to help support his family, then earned his GED, served in the Army and went on to college. He became a pharmacist and opened a small chain of pharmacies.
The petition against Goforth comes several days after four Kentuckians submitted a petition calling for Beshear’s impeachment, claiming the Democratic governor violated the state and U.S. constitutions with a series of restrictions he ordered to try to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Beshear says there are “zero grounds” for his removal. He points to a state Supreme Court ruling that said he had the authority to put restrictions on businesses and individuals to combat the virus.
A committee formed by the GOP-led House to review the petition against Beshear had its first meeting Wednesday. Osborne has said he was required by law to create the committee after the House received the petition. At a press conference Wednesday, he insisted that he was not worried about more petitions slowing down the legislative process.
“I would hope not,” Osborne said. “We’re trying everything we can to keep this from being anymore of a distraction if possible.”
Associated Press Writer Dylan Lovan in Louisville, Kentucky, contributed to this report.