Kentucky Sports Radio host Matt Jones told his radio audience Monday morning that he is considering a run for the U.S. House of Representatives and would make a decision before the University of Kentucky basketball season started.
Jones devoted the first 30 minutes of his show to the idea of challenging U.S. Rep. Andy Barr in Central Kentucky's 6th Congressional District after the Herald-Leader reported Sunday night that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has been recruiting Jones as a candidate.
"I'm not afraid to lose," Jones said.
In his remarks, Jones said the Democratic group first contacted him in May — the same day he was asked to emcee this year's Fancy Farm picnic — and that he had made a trip to Washington, D.C., to meet with committee officials.
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Jones also said a committee official was in the audience when he broadcast his show live from Somerset this summer, and he recalled a story about talking to U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., the No. 2 person in House Democratic leadership behind House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, on the phone while a "drugged-up woman" beat on Jones' car window, threatening to hit him in the face.
Jones joked that he was getting off to a "perfect start" after repeatedly referring to Hoyer as "Stony."
Jones told his listeners he was torn about the decision, taking them through the list of pros and cons he is considering as he contemplates a run.
Among the cons, Jones said, was that "I hate the idea of raising money," and he wondered aloud whether he could run for office and still be himself.
On the pro side, Jones said, he thinks he "can make a difference" and loves the idea of public service.
"I have not made a decision and probably won't for a little while," Jones said.
The UK men's basketball team opens its season with Big Blue Madness on Oct. 16. Its first regular-season game is Nov. 13 against Albany.
The big question facing Jones and his listeners is whether he could continue his radio show if he runs for federal office.
On Monday's show, Jones emphasized that he would not stray from the sports-centric programming that has led to the show's success.
In an interview Monday afternoon with the Herald-Leader, Jones said the future of the show would be a "huge factor" in his decision.
The Kentucky Sports Radio website, which is largely run by other writers, probably would be fine without him, Jones said, but the radio show might be a different story.
"I do think about that a lot and I think about them a lot," Jones said of the show and his colleagues.
"I built this website and this radio show from nothing, with the help of a lot of good people, and giving that up or even altering it is really difficult," he said.
Jones said he thought the audience for a radio program focused on UK basketball would be there whether he runs for Congress or not. So if he lost or didn't enjoy Congress, he could go back to doing what he loves.
"The good thing is the market, which is UK sports, probably ain't going away," he said.
Jones said he has nothing against Barr personally, and he said on the show that he would not run a negative campaign if he decided to jump in.
"You can run against somebody and not be a jerk," Jones said.
In a statement to the Herald-Leader, Barr spokesman Rick VanMeter said Barr "is a big fan of Kentucky Sports Radio."
"But like Congressman Barr, KSR listeners are passionate about University of Kentucky athletics, not politics," VanMeter said. "Apparently, the national Democratic campaign committee knows so little about our state they have confused the two."
As Jones contemplates his political future, VanMeter said Barr would remain focused on "doing the job he was elected to do and tirelessly advocating for the interests of the people of Central and Eastern Kentucky."
"Sixth District voters appreciate this, they know Andy Barr and they agree with his values and record of accessibility and advocacy," VanMeter said.
Jones acknowledged that he doesn't live in the congressional district, but, as he told the Herald-Leader, he said he plans to move from Louisville to Lexington within the next year regardless of whether he runs.
A number of people called the show to encourage Jones to follow his heart. His co-hosts said they would hope he wouldn't have to stop doing the show but they wanted him to do what he thought was right.
"I honestly believe if you wanted to do this, dude, you would win," co-host Ryan Lemond said.
"There's no doubt it would be great radio," Lemond said.
Jones said the initial reaction he had received from fans was "pretty gratifying."
"The most common reaction has been, honestly, people say, 'Matt, you should do what is best for you,'" Jones said.
He said UK athletics "unifies people" around the state in a way that economics, political views and other divisive issues don't.
"Because of that, I think I have a connection with all different types of people," he said.