Saying she wants to bring integrity to City Hall, Republican state Sen. Julie Denton is forgoing re-election to run for Louisville Metro Council next year.
The surprise move means the longtime state lawmaker is leaving the GOP-controlled Senate, where she currently chairs the chamber’s Health and Welfare Committee, for a council dominated by Democrats.
“I’ve tried to play well with both sides of the aisle in both chambers while in Frankfort. I’ve never been a chairman who decided what bills are going to be heard based upon who the support of the bill was,” says Denton. “If somebody’s got good public policy I think we need to be moving that forward.”
Joined by a handful of council Republicans who are supporting Denton’s early bid, she is running on a platform to bring transparency and accountability to Metro Government.
Asked about the council’s public image in the aftermath of the Barbara Shanklin removal trial, Denton says it was an unfortunate moment in council history that has put a “dark cloud” over the chamber.
“I wasn’t there to hear the testimony and only read what was on the news. But based on the fact the majority found her guilty I found it surprising that she wasn’t removed,” she says.
Denton will be running for the seat currently held by Councilman Jerry Miller, who is leaving the council at the end of his term to make a bid for the state House next year.
At one point Denton was considered a top contender to take on Democratic Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer in 2014, and reaction to her intended council bid took many in the GOP ranks off guard.
In the state Senate, Republicans enjoy a health 23-14 majority with the one independent senator caucusing with the GOP. The opposite is true on Metro Council, where Democrats have held a 17-9 advantage for the past three years.
“I think anybody who’s willing to go out and put themselves on the line and represent people, I don’t think it’s a demotion,” says Denton. “Plus, in many ways this is a much harder job. This is a 52 weeks out of the year job. You’re casting votes every month, you’ve got accountability every month (and) you’ve got to be on your toes every month.”
One GOP source who works on statewide campaigns points out the significant pay raise Denton will receive if she is elected to the council, where members are paid approximately $44,100 each year.
According to state records, Denton’s legislative salary was just above $13,000 this year during the short 30-day assembly and around $22,000 during last year’s regular 60-day session.
The decision could also launch a horse race for Denton’s Senate seat, which covers much of the East End.
Miller said he is sticking with his intended House race, but early rumors put Republican state Rep. Julie Racque Adams and attorney Erwin Roberts as top candidates for the Senate seat.
Neither have returned WFPL’s calls requesting commenting.