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Democratic State Sen. Denise Harper Angel will not run for reelection next year

Sen. Denise Harper Angel, a Democrat from Louisville, asks a question about programs to help military families transition to civilian life during the November meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Veterans, Military Affairs and Public Protection.
Legislative Research Commission
Sen. Denise Harper Angel, a Democrat from Louisville, asks a question about programs to help military families transition to civilian life during the November meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Veterans, Military Affairs and Public Protection.

Democratic Sen. Denise Harper Angel, who represents the 35th district in Louisville, said she will not run for reelection this year after serving in the role for nearly two decades.

Harper Angel has been in public service for 49 years and was the first woman elected as the Jefferson County property valuation administrator.

The senator, who represents parts of the Highlands and Okolona, said she felt the time was right to vacate the seat and allow new voices into the legislature.

“A year ago, I lost my husband, and I really just want to spend more time with my family and travel a little bit,” Harper Angel said. “[I also want] to bring in a new voice. We're having quite a bit of turnover in the Senate. And I think it's always good to pass the torch when it feels right to pass it.”

Two other longtime state senators have also announced they will not run for reelection: Republican Sens. John Schickel from Union and Whitney Westerfield from Fruit Hill.

Harper Angel is also joining a list of Louisville-area politicians announcing they will not run for reelection. Republican Rep. Kevin Bratcher and Democratic Rep. Josie Raymond both announced last week they were not only leaving the Kentucky House, but would instead run for a position on Louisville’s Metro Council.

“I've been very proud of the accomplishments that I've made in my 20 years in the Senate, and I'm not going to the Metro Council,” Harper Angel said with a chuckle. “I'm going into retirement … I'm going out being proud and on my own terms, and I think that's all I can ask for.”

Harper Angel said she has largely gotten along with her Republican colleagues in the state Senate, and said many of her legislative wins would not have been possible without support, especially from Republican leadership.

In a statement, Republican Senate President Robert Stivers from Manchester said “I appreciate the time I’ve served with Denise. Sometimes we agreed and sometimes we didn’t. On the Senate floor though, no matter what, she was always professional in her conduct and decorum.”

The senator said she prioritized victims’ rights during her time in office. Harper Angel proposed the bill that required an audit of untested rape kits in Kentucky, and followed the startling results with legislation requiring the timely testing of those kits and the current tracking system.

Harper Angel will serve for another year in the Senate, including the upcoming biennial budget session. She says she hopes to continue advocating for victims of crime. She also intends to refile a bill to address period poverty by providing sanitary napkins in middle and high schools — which did not gain momentum in this year’s session.

No one has yet filed for her district, but Harper Angel predicted that her position will be a “coveted seat,” as it represents a diverse portion of Kentucky’s most populous city.

“It goes from downtown to Newburg, to Okolona, to the Highlands, to the University of Louisville,” Harper Angel said. “It's such a good variety of constituents. And it's such a good challenge. I know there'll be people that want to step up.”

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Sylvia is the Capitol reporter for Kentucky Public Radio, a collaboration including Louisville Public Media, WEKU-Richmond, WKU Public Radio and WKMS-Murray. Email her at sgoodman@lpm.org.
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