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[Audio] Whitfield Talks Washington Gridlock, Ethics in 1st Interview Since Announcing Retirement

U.S. Congress, Cropped

In his first interview since deciding not to seek a 12th term in Washington, Kentucky’s 1st District Rep. Ed Whitfield told WKMS the prospect of yet another campaign and increasing gridlock in Congress contributed to his decision.

Whitfield said he had been thinking about stepping away from politics for some time and almost didn’t run in 2014. He says he’s frustrated with Congress failing to pass appropriations bills.

“It’s almost like Groundhog Day in Congress now," Whitfield said. "Every single year we find ourselves at the end of the year not having completed a budget, not having passed these appropriations bills and we always have to have a continuing resolution to keep the government operating.”

Meanwhile,Whitfield says he will eventually make an endorsement in the Republican primary for his seat, but he says it’s too early in the process at the moment. His former field director Michael Pape, Agriculture Commissioner James Comer and Hickman County Attorney Jason Batts have all announced their candidacies for the Republican nomination.

"Mike Pape has been with me 20 years, going on 21, and he's done everything I've ever asked him to do, he's bent over backwards to help constituents," Whitfield said. "He knows the issues, he knows the people of the 1st District. So, you know, the governor's race is still going on, so I think it's a little premature to endorse anyone."

Whitfield said he won't be making too many speeches on the campaign trail for the candidate he endorses.

"One of the reasons I didn't run again was I just did not want to go through another full bore campaign," Whitfield said. "I'm going to be involved to an extent, but I told Mike and everybody else, I don't intend to be out there making speeches, driving all over this district campaigning. These candidates need to make their case to the people of the 1st District."

Whitfield said an active ethics investigation into his work in Congress did not factor into his decision to step away. Some have questioned the ethics behind Whitfield's legislation related to animals because his wife is a former Humane Society lobbyist.

"In the last election, that all was public and I was fortunate enough to win every county except one," Whitfield said. 

Reflecting on his time in Congress, Whitfield said he was proud of his involvement with making Land Between the Lakes a National Forest, his work in establishing the health care program at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant and working with the Pentagon on issues related to the Fort Campbell community, among others.

John Null is the host and creator of Left of the Dial. From 2013-2016, he also served as a reporter in the WKMS newsroom.
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