Update 3:45 p.m. | Rep. Edward Whitfield, R-Ky., under a cloud of an ethics investigation, announced Tuesday he will not seek a 12th term in Congress.
“Representing the people of the 1st District for 21 years has been an honor,” Whitfield said in a statement. “I will cherish forever the countless opportunities to work with them to nurture and strengthen the 35 counties comprising Kentucky’s First District.” With Whitfield on his way out, Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer – who lost the governor’s primary earlier this year to Matt Bevin by 83 votes, but pulled wide margins in the district – could launch a campaign for the seat, four Republicans with knowledge of the district said Tuesday.
Other Republicans looking at the seat, which is rated Safe Republican by the Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report /Roll Call, include state Sen. Max Wise, former Lt. Gov. Robbie Rudolph, Kentucky businessman Todd P'Pool and former Bush administration official Scott Jennings. Two others with close ties to Whitfield – his district director, Michael Pape, and former chief of staff Cory Hicks – are also looking at the race, Kentucky Republican sources said.
In March, the House Ethics Committee launched a formal investigation into reports that Whitfield coordinated with his lobbyist wife, Constance Harriman Whitfield, to advance her work on behalf of the Humane Society Legislative Fund or the Humane Society of the United States.
His Tuesday announcement gives the investigative subcommittee about 13 months to act. Because the committee only has jurisdiction over current members, its probe would end when he leaves.
Whitfield was elected to the 1st District seat in 1994.
-- Hannah Hess contributed to this report.