The string of longtime Democratic representatives retiring from the state House continued on Monday, as Rep. Darryl Owens announced that he would not seek re-election to his District 43 seat stretching from northwest Louisville across downtown to Butchertown.
On Friday, Rep. Steve Riggs of Louisville’s District 32 also announced that he would not file to run for the seat that he has served in since he was first elected to the state House in 1990.
Before Owens announced his coming retirement from the Kentucky General Assembly on Monday, Democratic Rep. Jody Richards of Bowling Green also announced that he would not seek re-election. Richards has served in the state House for 42 years and was previously the Speaker of the House for 14 years — the longest-serving speaker in Frankfort’s history.
Owens, Riggs and Richards will each continue to serve in their positions throughout 2018, until the winner of the elections in their districts take office next January.
Now 80-years old, Owens was first elected to the state House in 2004, previously serving in elected positions as a district judge and county commissioner. He has been known throughout his seven terms as a champion for criminal justice reform, and in a news release announcing his retirement Owens cited the passage of his felony expungement bill — which allows non-violent felons to restore their voting rights — as one of his most gratifying achievements.
“The highest honor of my life has been to serve as a state representative and I am profoundly grateful to have been elected by my constituents for more than a decade,” stated Owens. “I have enjoyed every minute of this job but it’s time for a change and to make room for the next generation of leaders to take up the mantle.”
Owens’ district is heavily Democrat, where he usually won by nearly 50 percent when he even faced a challenger, while Riggs’ district — stretching from St. Matthews to Jeffersontown — is strongly Democratic but more competitive.
“I’ve found public service to be a noble undertaking because having an opportunity to make our community better is an important reward in itself,” stated Riggs in his news release Friday. “I appreciate the support and assistance for those who worked on the range of accomplishments we’ve achieved together throughout my legislative career.”
After holding onto the majority of the state House for over a century, the Democrats now find themselves a small minority in both chambers after being routed by Republicans in the 2016 elections.