Kentucky Politics

A prominent activist and former lobbyist for Kentucky’s chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union is running for the state legislature.

The Louisville Democratic Party selected Keturah Herron to run in the special election for House District 42, which was vacated after the recent retirement of longtime Democratic Rep. Reginald Meeks. Herron also filed to run for the seat in next year’s general election.

Herron was a policy strategist for the ACLU of Kentucky and played a prominent role in advancing Louisville’s ban on no-knock search warrants following the police killing of Breonna Taylor in 2020. She recently resigned from that position to run for office.

Herron said her experience during the 2020 protests compelled her to run.

“Being in community, being with young people and folks saying, ‘Sis, we need you’ or ‘Ms. Keturah, you should run for office.’ When the people start calling you and telling you to run, you have to pay attention to that,” Herron said.

The special election is on Feb. 22 and early voting will take place from Feb. 17 to 19.

House District 42 is entirely in Jefferson County, extending from Rubbertown in the west to Crescent Hill in the east. Residents can find out which state House and Senate district they live in on the legislature’s website.

But the boundaries of the district could change when state lawmakers redraw Kentucky’s political maps as part of the redistricting process as soon as next month.

Republicans are fully in charge of redistricting in Kentucky for the first time in state history and legislative leaders say they plan to pass the maps into law in the first weeks of the lawmaking session, which begins on Jan. 4.

Herron said she doesn’t anticipate a major change in the district’s boundaries.

“Historically it’s always been a Democratic district, so I don’t think there’s going to be large changes,” Herron said.

Herron said she wants to continue pushing for criminal justice reform issues she advocated for as an ACLU lobbyist, as well as raising the minimum living wage, increasing minimum wage and combatting child abuse.

“As a lobbyist I’ve been able to work with Democrats and I’ve been able to work with Republicans to get things done,” Herron said.

Herron identifies as queer and, if elected, would be the first openly LGBTQ member of the Kentucky House.

“Being a Black queer woman, a masculine-presenting woman, I think that is significant,” Herron said. “I think it’s significant for the people, I think it’s significant for the kids and for other young people, other queer people who have not felt seen or heard.”

The only other openly LGBTQ legislator in state history was former Sen. Ernesto Scorsone, who came out in 2003 and currently serves as a circuit judge in Fayette County.

Chris Hartman, executive director of the Kentucky Fairness Campaign, said Herron’s candidacy is historic.

“She will make history just by being elected to the legislature, but she will make plenty of history through her actions in the legislature as well,” Hartman said.

Candidates for special elections in Kentucky are selected by local political parties. The Jefferson County Republican Party hasn’t announced a candidate for the district and didn’t respond to requests for comment on Wednesday.

Ryland Barton is the Capitol bureau chief for Kentucky Public Radio.