Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Vandegrift says he will run for state legislature next year

Vandegrift at 2018 campaign kickoff
By Warren Taylor
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

Midway Mayor Grayson Vandergrift says he will not seek a third term next year and will instead run for the state House seat won in November by Republican Daniel Fister of Versailles.

“I really feel like I am the right person to be state representative and start to fight for the issues that matter to the people of the 56th district,” Vandergrift, a Democrat, told the Messenger in a telephone interview Tuesday evening.

There is a trio of issues that Vandergrift said inspired him to run, and the chief among them is House Bill 312, which will make the legislature the final arbiter for legislative record requests and limit the ability of people living outside the state to make such requests.

“It is a total assault on transparency that the Republicans, the House and the current occupant of the office have pushed,” Vandergrift said. “That is an assault on the people’s right to see the legislature’s business. I’ve always been big on transparency, so I’m going to fight for transparency.”

Vandegrift’s second issue is public education.

“I’m going to fight for public education,” he said. “The reason the current legislature is pushing the bills that they are pushing is because they want to move toward charter schools. They want to defund public education. They want these schools to fail. … The best way to be fair to all children, get them all educated and get them all a fair start to life, is through public education.”

His third issue is the state pension system. “The public pension system is again being underserved by the current legislature, and we need to start figuring out better solutions to make sure this thing is funded so we can attract good young talent and not push young people away from the teaching profession,” Vandergrift said.

State Rep. Dan Fister
Fister didn't respond immediately to a request for comment. The legislature adjourned about 11:45 p.m. Tuesday, ending its 30-day session.

In his formal campaign announcement, Vandegrift says, “I have the vast experience it takes to build bridges among the parties and disparate organizations, and the proven, trusted ability to enhance the daily lives of the people of the 56th. My practice of good governance as mayor has led to lower taxes for our citizens while increasing revenue and improving services.” 

This is not the first time Vandergrift has announced he would run for the seat. He declared his intention to run in July 2019 but changed his mind a week later. Then Bob Gibson of Versailles entered the race and lost the Democratic primary to Lamar Allen of Lexington, whom Fister defeated, with 53 percent of the vote.

“Last time, something told me that the time wasn’t right. I think it was a feeling that the time wasn’t right for my family,” Vandegrift said, adding that things have changed for him and his wife, Katie. “My family thinks this is the right time to do it. My wife wants me to do it. She was supportive for 2020, but something there wasn’t right.”

Vandergrift said he had another reason for withdrawing: He didn’t feel right about not finishing his term as mayor. “I don’t like it when politicians use their job as a safety net,” he said. “I figured it was better to finish my term, finish what I started, and finish what the people elected me to do.”

He was elected a council member in 2012 and mayor in 2014 and 2018, respectively defeating then-Council Member Sharon Turner and then-School Board Member Ambrose Wilson IV.

Vandegrift said he declared for the General Assembly a year early to give potential mayoral candidates time to mull over their decisions. The filing deadline for mayor and City Council is in August 2022; the deadline for state offices is late January 2022. City elections are nonpartisan.

The 56th District includes all of Woodford County and parts of Fayette and Franklin counties, but could be redistricted based on the 2020 census. No other candidates have announced.

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