Veteran State Representative Jody Richards of Bowling Green is facing his first Tea Party challenger in the November election. Jenean Hampton is taking on the longest continuously serving state representative in Kentucky history.
"There was much prayer involved. This wasn't my plan," said Hampton in an interview with WKU Public Radio. "Sometimes you're screaming at the TV, you see things that need to be improved, and you're screaming that someone needs do something, well sometimes that someone is you."
Hampton serves as chair of the Bowling Green-Southern Kentucky Tea Party. The 55-year-old Republican is an Air Force veteran and businesswoman who wants to use her private sector experience to spur economic development in the commonwealth.
In her first run at public office, Hampton is taking on political heavyweight Jody Richards who was first elected to the legislature in 1975 and served as House Speaker from 1995 to 2009. Over that time, he's become the recipient of several plum committee assignments, including Appropriations and Revenue. Richards told WKU Public Radio that his influence in Frankfort could not be matched by a newcomer.
"No new person would have my committee lineup nor would they have the connections I do," he suggested. "I pride myself in working well with both sides of the aisle."
Several Democratic incumbents are being targeted in November by outside political action committees. Richards doesn’t think he’s one of them, but he’s taking nothing for granted.
"I'm told that I'm not one of those being targeted but who knows before it's all over," he added. "I don't know how they are going to allocate their money, but I will have plenty of money to run a credible campaign."
Richards spent about $110,000 on his re-election campaign two years ago and suspects this year’s race will be just as costly.
The 20th District seat is one of several Republicans would like to claim this fall as the GOP tries to take control of the House for the first time in 90 years. Democrats hold a 54-46 majority in that chamber.