By Ronnie Ellis / CNHI News Service
The Democratic minority in the Kentucky state Senate might get a bit slimmer as Sen. Walter “Doc” Blevins of Morehead Thursday filed to run for Rowan County Judge/Executive.
Blevins, 63, a dentist and graduate of Morehead State University, has served in the General Assembly since 1982 when he was first elected to the House and in the Senate since 1992.
Republicans control the upper chamber with 23 members to Democrats’ 13 with one vacancy and one independent who caucuses with Republicans.
Blevins earlier toyed with the idea of not seeking re-election to the Senate but when new legislative maps were drawn this year, Blevins was placed in a largely Democratic district covering his home Rowan County and Lewis, Mason, Fleming, Nicholas, Robertson, Bourbon and Harrison counties.
But Thursday, Blevins filed papers with the Rowan County Clerk to run for Judge/Executive. Current Judge/Executive Jim Nickell isn’t seeking re-election. Blevins is the fourth candidate to file so far, joining Democrats Harry T. Clark, Paul Caskey and Jerry Alderman, the current Deputy Judge/Executive. Blevins said he expects at least one more Democratic candidate to join the field.
Blevins said it is “an opportune time” to run and if he wins he can focus on one county rather than the larger, eight-county 27th Senate district which he now represents.
“It’s a big district and it requires time and I can spend more time with my wife and family,” Blevins said.
“I’m excited because it’s another opportunity to take care of the people of Rowan County.”
Blevins conceded the higher salary of a judge/executive could boost his retirement but he said he was influenced more by his family and by the frustrations of serving in the minority in the state Senate.
“That’s a big thing, a big part of it,” said Blevins of being in the minority. “It’s tough being in the minority and our numbers keep going down.”
Blevins’ Senate seat isn’t on the ballot until 2016, so he can retain the seat while he runs for Rowan County judge-executive. He said he’s received a lot of encouragement and his wide name recognition after appearing on the ballot for so many years should give him an advantage in a crowded field.
But he said he might run for re-election to the Senate should he lose the local race, and he conceded he’ll miss his time in the legislature if he wins the local election.
“I’ll miss it. It’s been a big part of my life — I’ve spent half my adult life in the legislature,” Blevins said. “But it’s just an opportune time to change directions.”
Senate Minority Leader R.J. Palmer, D-Winchester, was aware Blevins was considering the local race and so was not surprised Thursday.
“We wish him well and wish him luck in that election,” Palmer said. He said Blevins’ decision doesn’t pose a great risk to his minority Democrats because of the nature of the new district.
“It’s an off-year election for Doc’s seat, so if he were to win (the Rowan County race, we’d have to have a special election and that district should be to our advantage.”
Palmer said he’s already heard from Democrats in the district who indicated an interest in running for Blevins’ seat because of rumors Blevins might make the judge’s race.
“Obviously, those who’ve expressed interest about it will now be even more interested,” he said. He declined to name those who had discussed the seat with him.
In the meantime, Blevins said he’ll continue to represent all the counties in his district.
“I’m still going to be a good Senator during my (remaining) time,” Blevins said. “I’m not going to focus on just one county. I want to be the best Senator I can be to the entire district for whatever time I’m still there.”
RONNIE ELLIS writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at email@example.com. Follow CNHI News Service stories on Twitter at www.twitter.com/cnhifrankfort.