Carl Rollins' Resignation Sparks Early Campaign Battle
Kentucky state Rep. Carl Rollins is resigning his House seat effective at the end of today, becoming the state first lawmaker to announce his retirement this cycle. Rollins is resigning to become the executive director and the Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority and the CEO of the Kentucky Higher Education Student Loan Corporation.
Rollins' represents the 56th Legislative District, which covers part of Fayette and Franklin counties and all of Woodford County.
The resignation will trigger a special election for the seat, which Governor Steve Beshear has set for Tuesday, June 25.
The nominees to replace Rollins will likely reside in Woodford County to avoid being redistricted out of the seat in 2014, since lawmakers must redraw the lines by the end of the next legislative session.
Speculation on the Democratic nominee to replace Rollins has centered around two legislative aides who reside in Woodford County—Brian Traugott and James Kay.
Traugott is a current councilman in Versailles and is a longtime Democratic legislative aide, currently for House Speaker Greg Stumbo. He told KPR that he is not currently seeking the nomination.
"Not at this time," Traugott says. "I have an interest in serving, but I made a commitment to serve on the city council."
Traugott says he has heard that Kay, the Woodford County Democratic Party chairman and a legislative aide as well, does have interest in replacing Rollins.
Kay did not return a phone call seeking comment, but Rollins says Kay is the only name he's heard to replace him on the Democratic side.
Dan Logsdon, chairman of the Kentucky Democratic Party, declined to name any interest he's heard about, but did say he believes his party will hold onto the seat.
"I'm certain we'll find a strong candidate and we'll hold onto that seat," Logsdon says.
Logsdon was also complimentary of Kay, saying if he is the nominee he would be formidable.
At least one Republican who had eyed Rollins seat during the 2012 campaign, Lyon Crew, will not be the Republican nominee in the special election, tea party activist David Adams says.
Doug Jones, who gave Rollins a tight race in 2012, has not yet returned an e-mail requesting comment.
Steve Robertson, the chairman of the Republican Party of Kentucky, says the RPK is working with local party chairs to find a nominee.
"We're working closely with locals to see who has an interest," he says. "Both (Lyons and Jones are) good people but this is a local decision."
Rollins has been one of the key education advocates in the state House having chaired the House Education Committee. Rollins is considered one of the main roadblocks to charter school legislation in Kentucky, although he did pass a bill creating Districts of Innovation, which Rollins called "charter-like."
A new chair of the House education committee was not immediately named, although many prominent members who chair lower committees or don't chair any committees. are on the education committee.
Rollins says he believe Democratic State Reps. Derrick Graham and Wilson Stone are the so-called front-runners to replace him as chair.
In a statement, Speaker Stumbo praised Rollins' work and said he and other Democratic leaders will start working on finding a new education chair.
“Carl has been a great colleague whose leadership has been instrumental in moving Kentucky’s educational system forward. He leaves behind a long list of accomplishments that have made a true difference in the lives of our students, and I wish him well as he takes on this new endeavor. As for his successor as chairman of the House Education Committee, the other House leaders and I will be accepting letters from those members who are interested, and we will be speaking to them before making a decision.”