For the first time since 1992, Jesse Crenshaw is not on the ballot for election to the Kentucky House of Representatives from Lexington's 77th District, but he's still campaigning.
Crenshaw, a 67-year-old Democrat who decided not to seek re-election this year, is backing the candidacy of J. Michael Haskins to replace him in the heavily Democratic district, which primarily covers a hunk of northwest Lexington between Russell Cave Road and Leestown Road.
Haskins, a Fayette County magistrate, faces George A. Brown Jr., a former member of the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council, in the May 20 Democratic primary election. The winner will have no opposition in the Nov. 4 general election.
Brown, 65, said he understands that a departing state representative would want to endorse a successor, "but I think my experience, skills and talents will be what will win this race."
Haskins, 57, said Crenshaw's support "has got to help me. Citizens sent him to Frankfort for all these years and they have to respect what he says."
Haskins said he is running on "pocketbook issues" that resonate in the district.
"I tell the people how I'm for a living wage and opposed to right to work and that gets their attention," he said.
Haskins said in an interview this week that one of the biggest differences between the candidates is their stances on right-to-work legislation, which would make it harder for unions to organize in Kentucky.
Brown, who has worked for 24 years in facilities management at the University of Kentucky, said his support of a right-to-work law does not make him anti-union.
"I'm very much pro-union," he said in an interview this week. "However, I do not think it should be a requirement to pay union dues to have a job."
Brown said most of the voters in the 77th District know he is pro-union and understand his position on right to work.
The district is strongly Democratic — 17,509 Democrats, 6,209 Republicans and 2,691 other. About half of registered voters in the district are black or another minority.
Brown argues that his experience on the Urban County Council, where he represented the 1st District for 12 years beginning in 1994, makes him more qualified for the job.
Besides his work on the council, Brown has served as co-chairman of the annual Martin Luther King Holiday Celebration, and as vice chairman of the annual Roots & Heritage Festival. He also is president of the Friends of the Lyric Theatre in downtown Lexington. He formerly served on the National League of Cities board.
Haskins is a former president of the Georgetown Neighborhood Association and current president of the Arbor Homeowners Association. He serves on the Democratic Party's county executive committee and was a delegate to the 2012 national convention.
In the state House, he said, he wants to help Gov. Steve Beshear bring more jobs to Kentucky and continue Crenshaw's longtime push to restore voting rights to nonviolent felons who have completed their sentences.
Both Brown and Haskins have raised more than $12,000 in campaign funds and are spending the money on yard signs, mailers and radio ads.