State Rep. Joni Jenkins, the Shively Democrat who serves as the minority floor leader, pulled her candidacy for re-election Wednesday, one day after the current deadline to file for the May primary and November general election ended.
The move came after the Republican majorities in the General Assembly pushed through a redistricting plan that made her Louisville area district a minority-majority one. In a statement she posted on her Facebook page, Jenkins said she did not want to stand in the way of a person of color joining the state House of Representatives.
Jenkins first won election to the legislature in November 1994, representing parts of Shively and southwest Jefferson County. The county and the city of Louisville formed a metro government nearly two decades ago that kept smaller suburban cities intact.
“I have loved representing my beautifully diverse district for many years and will be forever grateful that the voters gave me the chance to serve them,” she said in the statement. “I will finish my term the same way I started my first: Fighting for those I represent and for a better commonwealth.”
Accolades from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle and others followed Jenkins’ announcement.
House Speaker David Osborne, R-Prospect, said Jenkins provided a voice for Kentuckians statewide for more than a quarter of a century.
“Her extraordinary work on behalf of women and children has brought attention to the challenges our state faces, while her willingness to work across the aisle has provided an opportunity to seek meaningful solutions,” Osborne said. “Leader Jenkins always puts people before politics, and while we have not always agreed, I have never doubted her commitment.”
Kentucky Democratic Party Chair Colmon Edridge called Jenkins a “trailblazer” in state government.
“As the first woman to be elected the primary leader of either party’s legislative caucus, Leader Jenkins built an impeccable record serving the commonwealth, protecting our most vulnerable and improving the lives of Kentuckians from all corners of the state,” he said in a statement. “While she is not running for another term, we know her work is far from over, and she will continue to be a champion for all Kentuckians.”
Beverly Chester-Burton, a Jefferson County Public Schools teacher who became Shively’s first Black mayor, filed to run for Jenkins’ seat Tuesday. She is a Democrat.
Chester-Burton is the only candidate from either party remaining in the race.
The KDP has challenged in court the redistricting maps the Republican-led lawmakers approved in the first week of the General Assembly session, which began earlier this month. Democrats accuse the GOP of gerrymandering and trying to “dilute the voices of minority communities” in the legislature.
This article was originally posted on Kentucky House Democratic Leader Jenkins opts to not seek re-election