Citing a desire to be closer to his family and economic issues in Pike County, Senate Minority Leader Ray Jones, D-Pikeville, said Monday that he plans to run for judge-executive in his home county in 2018.
“At this point in my life, I think I can make more of a difference here,” Jones said on the phone from Pikeville.
Jones has been in the Kentucky Senate since 2001 and has been the minority leader for three years. He was re-elected to a four-year term in 2016.
Jones was critical of the county government’s leadership, particularly its magistrates.
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“When you have magistrates making more than school teachers, there’s something wrong,” Jones said.
Candidates cannot file to run for the judge-executive seat until November, but they can register with the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance to begin raising money for the position. Jones said he mailed his letter of intent to the registry on Friday, but it had not been received as of 10:30 a.m. Monday.
Should he win, Jones would leave his leadership role in the Senate at a time when Democrats have an unprecedented lack of power in Frankfort. Republicans hold a 27-11 advantage in the Senate, a supermajority in the House and control of the governor’s office.
Jones said being in the minority didn’t factor into his decision.
“I’ve been in the minority since I’ve been there,” Jones said. “I’ve been able to get things done for my district.”
Jones might be getting out of state politics at a time when Eastern Kentucky is rapidly turning red. He won re-election in his district last November with 71 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary, and he didn’t face a general election opponent, but President Donald Trump won the county with 81 percent of the vote.