Former Kentucky House speaker won't run for reelection

Kentucky's former House speaker says he won't run for reelection in 2020, ending a long legislative career tarnished by his involvement in a secret sexual harassment settlement

FRANKFORT, Ky. -- Kentucky's former House speaker says he won't run for reelection in 2020, capping a long legislative career tarnished by his involvement in a secret sexual harassment settlement.

Republican state Rep. Jeff Hoover said in a statement that it will be the right time for him to give up his House seat and depart the legislature next year. Hoover was first elected in 1996 in his rural, southern Kentucky district and became one of the state's most influential political leaders until taken down by the harassment scandal.

"I have made mistakes but have learned and grown from them," Hoover said in a statement this week. "I am proud of the many accomplishments and improvements we have made to this area (his district) since I was first elected and the small part I played in them."

Hoover stepped down as House speaker after acknowledging he was among four Republican lawmakers who signed the secret settlement in 2017 with a woman who had worked for the House Republican Caucus. The lawmakers did not admit wrongdoing in the settlement. Hoover denied harassing the staff member but said he sent inappropriate text messages that he said were consensual.

At the time, Kentucky Republican Gov. Matt Bevin called on all four lawmakers to resign from the legislature.

Two of the lawmakers did not run for reelection in 2018. Hoover and Rep. Michael Meredith were both reelected in 2018.

Hoover's successor, current House Speaker David Osborne, said Hoover will be remembered for his commitment to his district and the entire state and for his understanding of the legislature's role in shaping public policy.

"His career has spanned more than two decades and has earned him the appreciation of members from both parties in both chambers," Osborne said in a statement. "We know he will continue to serve his constituents through his final session and wish him the best in his next chapter."

Hoover's downfall as speaker came amid the #MeToo movement that exposed the behavior of powerful men in business, government, entertainment and media — with many losing their jobs.

Republican lawmakers used their new power in 2017 to quickly pass some of their long-blocked priorities, including putting more restrictions on abortion and passing a so-called right-to-work bill, which bans membership in a union or payment of union dues as a condition for employment.

In his statement announcing he won't seek another term, Hoover thanked his family for their support and said that leaving the legislature will let him focus on his law practice and business interests. Hoover said he hopes to "be of service to others in different ways."

Hoover noted that his legacy will include being the longest-serving Republican legislative leader in Kentucky's history — nearly all of it as the top-ranking minority House member when Democrats were in charge. He thanked his House colleagues, both Republicans and Democrats.

"I count many of them, on both sides of the political aisle, as some of the best friends I have ever had," he said. "I wish each of them the very best as they continue to serve and work to find solutions to Kentucky's problems and improve the lives of all Kentuckians."