The Kentucky state House of Representatives Democrat announced on Wednesday that she will not run again this year, saying she would not oppose the election of a ‘person of color’ in her new district where racial minorities represent the majority of those eligible. voters.
Representative Joni Jenkins, who is white, said she would retain her legislative seat and title as House Minority Leader until the end of the year. She withdrew from her re-election campaign a day after the deadline for submitting candidates to run in this year’s primary election in Kentucky.
The new House redistricting map was passed this month by Republican supermajorities in the Legislature, though a lawsuit challenges the new House boundaries. In the newly redesigned district of Jenkins in the Louisville area, blacks make up nearly 50 percent of the voting-age population, whites nearly 45 percent, and Hispanics about 5 percent.
“I’ve long advocated for a General Assembly that looks like Kentucky, so when minorities became the majority population in the newly redesigned 44th District, I didn’t want to be an obstacle for a person of color to join the Kentucky House of Representatives,” Jenkins said in a statement to withdraw his candidacy.
Shively Mayor Beverly Chester-Burton, a black Democrat, ran to run for Jenkins’ seat. She was the only other candidate to appear in the race.
Jenkins has been a House stalwart for decades and made history with her rise to the top of the depleted House Democratic caucus. She was first elected to the House in 1994 and for most of her term, Democrats were in charge of the 100-member chamber.
His announcement comes amid a legal challenge to the newly redrawn boundaries of Congress and the Kentucky State House.
A lawsuit, filed last week, claims the limits reflect “extreme partisan gerrymandering” in violation of the state constitution. Republican legislative leaders say the new maps meet legal requirements. Major proponents of the new lines said they were confident the once-a-decade mapping would stand up to any prosecution.
Republicans took control of the House after the 2016 election, cementing GOP dominance in the Kentucky legislature. Jenkins’ fellow Democrats selected her to lead their ranks in late 2019, making her the first woman to lead a legislative caucus in the Kentucky legislature.
She said Wednesday there was “no greater honor” than leading the Democratic caucus.
“I loved representing my beautifully diverse district for many years and will forever be grateful that constituents gave me the chance to serve them,” Jenkins said.
Lawmakers have a packed agenda for this year’s session, complete with work on a new two-year state budget that comes with a massive revenue surplus.
Praising his long legislative record, Democratic Party Chairman Colmon Elridge said Jenkins “has built an impeccable record serving the Commonwealth, protecting our most vulnerable and improving the lives of Kentuckians in every corner of the state.” .
Republican House Speaker David Osborne said Jenkins “puts people before politics.”
“Her extraordinary work on behalf of women and children has drawn attention to the challenges facing our state, while her willingness to work across the aisle has provided an opportunity to seek meaningful solutions. “Osborne said in a statement.