FRANKFORT -- State Republican officials have rejected Gov. Ernie Fletcher's pick for the party's top committee, raising more questions about the embattled governor's influence.
Fletcher and his aides had wanted former gubernatorial candidate and supporter Larry Forgy to be elected to the Republican Party's 54-member executive committee.
Instead, party members selected Stephen Huffman during a secret ballot vote Saturday. Huffman is the chief of staff to Lt. Gov. Steve Pence, who dropped off Fletcher's 2007 re-election ticket in May.
Fletcher, who is in his first term as governor, gave a speech before the vote acknowledging some of the difficulties his administration has faced.
"I know we've had our difficulties. I know we've had our problems. But believe me, this administration is staying focused," Fletcher said.
Fletcher, the first Republican governor in more than 30 years, is under indictment on charges that he improperly rewarded political supporters with protected state jobs after he took office in 2003. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges and has alleged that they are politically motivated by a Democratic attorney general.
The day before the party's vote, a judge ruled that Fletcher could not be prosecuted while in office but did not dismiss the charges.
The party's decision isn't the first sign of political trouble for Fletcher.
Some prominent Republicans -- including Pence, Senate President David Williams and Jefferson County Republican Party chairman Jack Richardson -- have started to distance themselves from Fletcher. Williams and Richardson have questioned whether Fletcher can win another term.
In addition, Fletcher's statewide finance chairman in the 2003 gubernatorial campaign has announced his intent to run for governor and Secretary of State Trey Grayson has said he also is mulling the possibility of a gubernatorial campaign.
Stan Cave said some in the party's "hierarchy" appear to be abandoning the governor.
"Certainly you'd rather have it," Cave said of party officials' support, "but the governor has an organization of his own. He can move forward with that organization independent of the party."