Health Kentucky Politics

Former Democratic state Rep. Brent Yonts of Greenville died Friday morning after a battle with COVID-19.

Known for his colorful suits and blazers, Yonts was an attorney who represented House District 15, including Muhlenberg County and part of Hopkins County from 1997 to 2016.

Yonts had been in critical condition and in the ICU for two weeks and had recently been placed on a ventilator, according to a Facebook post from his daughter Ellen Yonts Suetholz.

“It has taken a toll on him and the hospital did everything possible to prevent this from happening but as he remains critical, it was the only option,” she wrote.

He was 72 years old and married to Janice Yonts, the mayor of Greenville.

Gov. Andy Beshear issued a statement calling Yonts a “leader who worked to better the lives of Kentuckians across the commonwealth.”

“Britainy and I extend our deepest sympathies to Jan and the entire Yonts family as we hold them close in prayer during this difficult time,” Beshear said.

Kentucky Democratic Party Chair Colmon Elridge said the party was devastated by the news of Yonts’ death.

“Representative Yonts was a dedicated public servant, who loved his family, community, west Kentucky, and our commonwealth,” Elridge wrote in a statement. “Brent will forever be remembered for his colorful sport jackets, his tireless support of Labor, his hard work on tough subjects – like criminal justice, pension reforms, mine safety and rural water access – and his desire to make Kentucky a better place.”

Former Rep. Jim Wayne, a Democrat who represented House District 35 in Louisville from 1991 to 2018, said Yonts was fully vaccinated and his death should be a message for people to get the shot and wear masks.

“We are a community of humans who take care for one another, not a mass of selfish individuals ranting about our ‘rights,’” Wayne said.

Yonts was the chair of the House State Government Committee before Republicans won control of the chamber in 2016.

He worked on attempts to stabilize the state’s pension systems and reform the state’s criminal justice system.

Yonts lost a race for reelection in 2016 to current GOP Rep. Melinda Gibbons Prunty. He unsuccessfully ran for the seat again in 2018.

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