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GOP US Rep. Ed Whitfield of Kentucky won’t seek re-election

September 29, 2015

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Republican U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield announced on Tuesday that he will not seek a 12th term, ending a 20-year political career that helped alter the dynamic of Kentucky politics.

Whitfield made the announcement in a news release. The Hopkinsville Republican was first elected to Congress in 1994. His term ends in January 2017.

“Representing the people of the 1st District for 21 years has been an honor,” Whitfield said. “I will cherish forever the countless opportunities to work with them to nurture and strengthen the 35 counties comprising Kentucky’s First District.”

His resignation will create an open seat in the 1st Congressional District for the first time in decades.

For years, Democrats considered the far-flung western Kentucky counties their “Rock of Gibraltar” with its overwhelming number of reliable Democratic voters. Whitfield himself was first elected to the state House of Representatives as a Democrat in the 1970s.

By the early 1990s, Whitfield sensed the shifting political winds and switched to the Republican party to run for Congress. He defeated freshman Democratic Congressman Tom Barlow by 2,500 votes and was part of the “Republican revolution” that swept Republicans into power in both houses of Congress.

“Ed Whitfield was the first Republican elected to the First District, making him a trailblazer for the Republican Party in Western Kentucky,” Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a news release. “And it is thanks to his hard work and dedication that we can today celebrate the growth of a robust two-party system in the western region of the Bluegrass State.”

Whitfield said his proudest moments in Congress were working to create a national forest in the Land between the Lakes and securing funding for troops at Fort Campbell. And he helped secure medical benefits for employees and their families of the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant, which produced more than 1 million tons of uranium during the Cold War.

“The workers that were exposed, he was very instrumental in helping them win benefits,” said Cheryl Gana, chairwoman of the Paducah Republican party.

Whitfield enjoyed popularity in his district for most of his career, winning re-election last year with more than 70 percent of the vote. But in March the House Ethics Committee announced it was investigating Whitfield on allegations he allowed his wife to lobby his staff on behalf of legislation that would benefit her employer, The Humane Society of the United States.

Whitfield has denied the allegations and called them politically motivated. But they prompted rumors that he would resign to avoid a costly legal battle. Whitfield did not address the allegations in his news release. But he did thank his wife, Connie, “for her resilience and her many contributions.”

“While many Americans are frustrated with the institution of Congress, I still believe that politics is a worthy vocation and I know many men and women of character will always be willing to serve,” Whitfield said.

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