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Longtime Louisville Congressman John Yarmuth won’t run for reelection

Kentucky’s lone Democrat in Congress, John Yarmuth, won’t run for reelection next year after 16 years in office, creating a likely contentious primary battle for the Louisville-area district.

Yarmuth is the chair of the powerful House Budget Committee. The 73-year-old said Tuesday he wants to have “more control of my time in the years I have left.”

“The desire to have more control of my time in the years I have left has become a high priority. Candidly, I have found new and incomparable joy in spending time with my young grandson. And I would like to spend more of my golden years in Louisville,” Yarmuth said in a video posted to Twitter.

Yarmuth was first elected in 2006 after defeating incumbent Republican Rep. Anne Northup. He will step down in January 2023, at the end of his eighth term.

State Rep. Attica Scott, a Democrat from Louisville, announced her candidacy for the seat earlier this year.

In a statement, she congratulated Yarmuth on his years of service.

"He and I share a lot of the same priorities and a commitment to making Louisville a better place. Public service is a calling for us all, and very few people have the opportunity to serve in office, let alone as House Budget Chair," she said.

Minutes after Yarmuth’s announcement, state Sen. Morgan McGarvey, also a Democrat from Louisville, announced he would also run for the seat.

“John Yarmuth has been an absolute rock star for our district and for Kentucky. He’s chairman of the House Budget Committee, he is a guy who does the right thing for the right reasons. I’m sorry to see him go,” McGarvey said in an interview.

As chair of the House Budget Committee since 2019, when Democrats took control of Congress, Yarmuth has played a major role in federal coronavirus relief legislation and President Joe Biden’s $3.5 trillion spending plan.

He was one of former President Donald Trump’s chief critics in Congress, questioning his mental capacity for the office, calling for him to be impeached and criticizing his budget proposals.

Yarmuth often brags about his “F” voting record rating with the National Rifle Association and has supported gun control policies like universal background checks and banning assault weapons.

Kentucky politicians react

Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear issued a statement via Twitter following Yarmuth’s announcement.

“@RepJohnYarmuth has been a champion for the people of Kentucky and we are grateful for his years of service and dedication to improving our commonwealth and our country. Britainy and I extend our best wishes to him and his family in this new, exciting chapter ahead,” Beshear said.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell congratulated Yarmuth on his retirement in a statement.

“We always shared a deep affinity for our hometown, Louisville, and a strong sense of loyalty to our constituents and neighbors. I wish John the best as he takes a step back to spend more time with his family,” McConnell said.

McConnell and Yarmuth were both Republican staffers for GOP U.S. Sen. Marlowe Cook in the late 1960s.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer joined other Kentucky politicians in offering well wishes to Yarmuth, describing him in a tweet as "a tireless partner and source of inspiration for the city."

Jessica Wethington, a spokesperson for Fischer, said he does not plan to run for Yarmuth's seat, a long-rumored possibility.

"Mayor Fischer has no intention of running for the seat; he is solely focused on his work as mayor to help the city recover from the pandemic, and become a more equitable, compassionate city of opportunity for all residents," she said in an emailed statement.

This story has been updated.

Correction: A previous version of this story gave the incorrect age for John Yarmuth.

Roberto Roldan contributed to this report.