By Ronnie Ellis
CNHI News Service
FRANKFORT – The race to fill a state House vacancy in the 56th District special election got a little more crowded and a little more complicated Tuesday.
John-Mark Hack, 46, of Woodford County filed as an independent in the June 25 special election to fill a vacancy created when Rep. Carl Rollins, D-Midway, resigned to take a job with the Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority.
Hack, a former official in the administration of former Democratic Gov. Paul Patton, will face Republican Lyen Crews and Democrat James L. Kay II. The district takes in all of Woodford County and parts of Fayette and Franklin Counties. All three live in Woodford County.
It’s an important race because of the relatively narrow margin of control by Democrats going into the 2014 legislative elections, a year Republicans have set their sights on taking over the majority in the House for the first time since 1920. Currently, Democrats hold a 54 to 45 majority after Rollins’ resignation.
Kay, 30, is an attorney, chairman of the Woodford County Democratic Party and a former aide to Democratic House leadership. Crews, 51, is a financial administrator for Midway College. Hack is in the food business and helped establish the Governor’s Office for Agriculture Policy in Patton’s administration.
He said he’s been registered as an independent since December of 2007 and was previously registered at one time or another as a Democrat and as a Republican — “but that (Republican registration) was a long time ago.”
Hack said he expects the two major parties to spend up to $100,000 on the race but he won’t need that much.
“I don’t think we need to raise those levels of resources to get our message out to an electorate that’s already disaffected from their way of doing business,” Hack said. “So if we can raise $50,000 to $60,000, I think that’ll put us in a very competitive position.”
He said he’s in the race “to win” and doesn’t see himself as a spoiler. He said he’s running to lead a change in “the culture of arrogance and self-interest that prevails in Frankfort” and to “send a loud and unmistakable message that we are fed up with the corruption and backroom deal-making that’s left our commonwealth lagging behind and teetering on the edge of bankruptcy.”
As an independent, Hack said he will be “free of the influences of party machinery” and as an independent in “a narrowly divided chamber (his) is certainly not a powerless vote.”
Hack has been associated with a group which opposes “predatory gambling” and he said predatory, addictive forms of gambling won’t solve the state’s problems.
Ronnie Ellis writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at email@example.com. Follow CNHI News Service stories on Twitter at www.twitter.com/cnhifrankfort.