Politics & Government

GOP representative ousted by teachers to join McConnell’s 2020 Senate campaign

Majority Floor Leader Jonathan Shell, R-Lancaster, spoke in the House of Representatives Chambers on the opening day of the General Assembly in the State Capitol in Frankfort, Ky., Tuesday, January 2, 2018. The 2018 General Assembly convened at noon.
Majority Floor Leader Jonathan Shell, R-Lancaster, spoke in the House of Representatives Chambers on the opening day of the General Assembly in the State Capitol in Frankfort, Ky., Tuesday, January 2, 2018. The 2018 General Assembly convened at noon. cbertram@herald-leader.com

Kentucky House Majority Leader Jonathan Shell will try to get U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell re-elected in 2020, months after teachers played a big role in turning back the Lancaster Republican’s bid for reelection.

McConnell, 74, speaking at the Graves County Republican breakfast Saturday morning, announced that Shell will be chairman of his 2020 re-election campaign. It’s an unpaid position.

Shell, 30, who was one of the Republican lawmakers who introduced the controversial pension bill, was upset in his Republican primary this May by Rockcastle County teacher Travis Brenda. Teachers, both Republican and Democrat, actively campaigned against Shell in the district.

Shell called it “a big honor” to represent McConnell and denied that the opportunity was just a consolation prize.

“I never was searching for what I found when I ran for state representative,” Shell said. “I just felt a desire and a need to help out my community and change my state. If you told me six years ago that I could help create the change that we have in the state, but I’d lose, I’d do it a thousand times. “

Shell said he considers McConnell the best candidate in Kentucky for the 2020 U.S. Senate race. Republican Gov. Matt Bevin has been mentioned as a possible candidate.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell addressed attendees at the annual Fancy Farm political picnic on Saturday.

McConnell, who has been in the Senate since 1984, said Shell will be making public campaign appearances for him. McConnell previously had tapped Shell to recruit GOP candidates in the historic 2016 Republican takeover of the Kentucky House for the first time since 1921.

After the announcement, several teachers tweeted that they defeated Shell in his bid for re-election to the House and they will defeat McConnell in 2020.

McConnell was nonplussed.

“It’s a free country,” McConnell said. “Everybody can have their fair say.”

McConnell was the subject of several Democratic barbs at the Fancy Farm picnic on Saturday afternoon.

Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes said McConnell was in a rush to confirm Brett Kavanaugh as a justice to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“Like many men, he suffers from premature confirmation,” Grimes said, “and like many men, he claims it never happens to him.”

House Majority Leader Jonathan Shell faces opponent R. Travis Brenda in the Republican May 22 primary election for the 71st House District, which includes Garrard, Rockcastle and part of Madison counties.

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