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State Rep. Leslie Combs Decides Not To Seek Re-Election (Updated W/Reaction)

Legislative Research Commission

Another veteran Kentucky House Democrat has decided not to seek re-election this year.  Rep. Leslie Combs of Pikeville announced on her Facebook page Tuesday that she will not be on the ballot when Democrats try to maintain their historic control of the House.

Combs did not immediately return calls seeking comment, but the secretary of state's office confirmed she had withdrawn her name from the ballot.

Tuesday is the filing deadline for candidates wanting to run in Kentucky's spring primary.

Combs' decision comes a day after Democratic Rep. Johnny Bell announced he won't seek another term. Bell is a member of House Democratic leadership.

Democrats are clinging to a 50-46 advantage in the House, not including four vacant seats. Special elections to fill those seats are scheduled for March 8.

Fall Fallout

The decision could further imperil the Democrats' slim lead in the House, but Combs is sounding confident in her party's ability to hold on to the seat in her absence.

"I'm very excited about the opportunities for maintaining a majority Democrat in the House and I'll be working all year long to make sure we do just exactly that," Combs told WUKY.

With all 100 House seats up for grabs this year, Speaker Greg Stumbo acknowledged the party's resources will be spread thinner with today's news and Democrats must be "wiser" when allocating funds, especially in races where Republicans enjoy larger war chests.

"We're going to have fights in a lot of these districts, but I don't feel like we're at a disadvantage," he said. "We've got good quality candidates. A lot of people have come forth today, so I think it will be a competitive fall."

A representative for the 94th House District since 2007, Combs says she's been mulling over exiting the legislature to explore other political and professional opportunities for some time. The Transportation Budget Subcommittee chair briefly earned headlines in 2014 for accidentally discharging a firearm in the Capitol Annex. 

Combs is also pledging to stay active in promoting the revitalization of Eastern Kentucky's struggling economy through the SOAR initiative.

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