More bad news for Kentucky House Democrats.
State Rep. Mike Denham, a Maysville Democrat who has been strong in his northern Kentucky district, said Tuesday he will not seek re-election next year because of health reasons.
That will leave the 70th House District, made up of Mason, Fleming, Bracken and Robertson counties, an open seat in next year’s House elections. Republicans hope to win control of the chamber next year for the first time since 1921.
All 100 House seats will be up for election next year. Democrats had held a 54-46 advantage in the chamber earlier this year. That dropped to 53-47 with the switch of state Rep. Denver Butler of Louisville last month from Democrat to Republican.
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Republican Gov. Matt Bevin last week appointed Democratic Rep. John Tilley of Hopkinsville as his justice secretary, creating the need for a special election to fill that seat in the 8th House District. The Legislative Research Commission said Tuesday that Tilley has not yet resigned from his House seat.
Special elections also are needed when Republican state Reps. Ryan Quarles of Georgetown and Mike Harmon of Danville resign to take over their new jobs in early January. Last month, Quarles was elected state agriculture commissioner and Harmon was elected state auditor.
Denham, a banker, has represented the 70th House District since 2001.
“This has been an agonizing decision for me, but I can no longer ignore my doctors’ warnings,” Denham said in a statement.
“To do so would be a disservice to the people of the 70th District I represent and my family,” he said. “The people of Bracken, Fleming, Mason and Robertson counties have afforded me an opportunity of a lifetime, and I will be eternally grateful to them. I want them to know that I pledge to work as hard as I can for them until my term expires.”
House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, and House Majority Floor Leader Rocky Adkins, D-Sandy Hook, said they both understood and respected Denham’s decision.
“There is no legislator who has more integrity or who fights harder for their constituents,” Stumbo said. “Mike and the leadership he provides will be deeply missed.”