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Government & Politics

After Yarmuth’s retirement, who will fill Louisville’s Congressional seat?

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John Yarmuth.

So far two Democrats are running for Kentucky’s 3rd Congressional District seat with long-time Rep. John Yarmuth announcing he won’t run for reelection next year.

State Rep. Attica Scott and state Sen. Morgan McGarvey are the only ones officially vying for the seat at this point, but Yarmuth’s retirement announcement could open the floodgates for more candidates to get into the race.

Scott was first. When she launched her campaign in July, it was a long shot primary challenge against Yarmuth, a well-known 16-year incumbent and powerful chair of the U.S. House Budget Committee.

After Yarmuth announced he wouldn’t run again Tuesday, Scott congratulated him on his retirement and said she was honored by people who supported her campaign early.

“I said this when launching our campaign for Congress, no political seat belongs to any family member, front-runner, or legacy, and the people of Louisville deserve someone who will best fight for their needs in Washington,” Scott wrote in a statement.

Scott is a community organizer and won her seat in the state legislature in 2016 after defeating incumbent Rep. Tom Riner, a pastor and conservative Democrat who held the seat for 35 years.

That was also the year Republicans won control of the state House of Representatives for the first time in nearly a century, making Democrats the minority party.

Scott was the first Black woman elected to the General Assembly in nearly 20 years. One other Black woman has been elected since, Louisville Democratic Rep. Pamela Stevenson, but they’re two of only seven Black people in the 138-member legislature.

Scott has pushed for bills to exempt menstrual and baby products from taxes, ban discrimination based on hairstyles and ban no-knock warrants in the wake of Breonna Taylor’s killing by Louisville police.

And she was arrested by Louisville police during protests over Taylor’s shooting. Prosecutors dropped the charges.

McGarvey is an attorney elected to the state Senate in 2012. He became the minority leader of the chamber in 2019.

He announced his candidacy minutes after Yarmuth unveiled his retirement. In an interview Tuesday afternoon, McGarvey said he has fought the “Trump-Bevin Republicans” in Frankfort and wants to push for things like affordable health care, fighting climate change and legalizing marijuana.

“I think we need to have a proven leader in Kentucky’s Democratic district who’s willing to build those coalitions to get those things done in Washington, too,” McGarvey said.

McGarvey has advocated for legalizing casino gambling in Kentucky and using tax proceeds to prop up the state’s ailing pension systems, giving subpoena power to Louisville’s civilian police review board and allowing student athletes to profit off their name, image and likeness.

As the state Senate’s top Democrat, he’s been a vocal opponent to policies pushed by Republicans in the GOP-dominated legislature, including private school scholarship tax credits and abortion restrictions.

When asked if his candidacy would split Louisville Democrats after Scott launched hers months before, McGarvey responded by saying he knows how to build coalitions.

“I’m still going to listen, I’m still going to go into every community in Louisville, listen, do the hard work and try to get things done in Washington as well,” McGarvey said.

There’s still time for other candidates to get into the race. The deadline to run for Congress in Kentucky next year is Jan. 7, 2022. The primary election is scheduled for May 17.

Roberto Roldan contributed to this report.

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