FRANKFORT — Democratic leaders in the 14th Senate District picked a former state representative on Saturday to run in a Dec. 8 special election for the seat recently vacated by former Senate Majority Leader Dan Kelly.
The Democratic leaders from Marion, Mercer, Nelson, Taylor and Washington counties choose Jodie Haydon, Democratic leaders said Saturday.
Haydon, a Democrat from Bardstown, retired from the legislature in 2004, after serving for eight years. He will face state Rep. Jimmy Higdon, R-Lebanon, in what promises to be a closely watched and expensive race. Higdon was picked by Republican leaders in the Senate district last week. Democrats are trying to make a dent in the Republican hold in the state Senate. They recently won a seat in an August special election that was held by a Republican.
With Kelly, the Republicans had a 20-17 majority in the Senate. One independent caucuses with the Republicans.
Kelly was appointed last week by Gov. Steve Beshear to an open circuit court judgeship.
A lot is at stake. Beshear and many in the Democratic Party want to pass legislation that would allow video lottery terminals at the state's racetracks. A bill that passed the House this summer was killed in the Senate Budget Committee.
Haydon, a grandfather and semi-retired businessman, said he wanted to return to Frankfort because he felt that more needed to be done to move the state forward.
Haydon says he supports the expansion of gambling because the state needs additional revenue. Higdon has said he is not for the expansion of gambling, but says he would support a constitutional amendment allowing the public to vote on the measure.
But both Haydon and Higdon say the public wants to hear more than just their stances on gambling. Much of the Central Kentucky district is rural. Haydon said he wants to do more to expand economic opportunities outside of the state's metropolitan areas.
"I am a progressive," Haydon said. "Kentucky has regressed in the past 10 or 12 years. We just haven't grown. We have to grow economic opportunity so we can grow tax revenue so we can better fund education and other needs that we have that aren't being funded."