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Kentucky GOP Senate Leader Thayer won’t seek re-election in ’24

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(The Center Square) – Kentucky Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer announced Wednesday he would not seek re-election next year after more than two decades in office.

“The end of my current term next year will mark 22 years in the Senate and 12 as Majority Floor Leader. After conversations with my adult children, close friends and colleagues, I have concluded this is the right decision,” the Georgetown Republican said in a statement.

Thayer, whose district stretches from parts of Lexington to Northern Kentucky, has been one of the Senate’s more powerful and influential members for years. While the Republicans have maintained the majority in the Senate since 2000, the party saw significant gains in recent years. After the 2022 elections, the caucus held 31 of the 38 seats, up from 23 after the 2012 races.

An ardent conservative, he championed several key GOP legislative priorities, including measures to establish Kentucky as a right-to-work state and reduce the state’s personal income tax rate. According to a release from the Senate Majority Caucus, the tax bills Thayer supported will let residents save more than $1.8 billion by the time his term ends next December.

“I value and came to rely on the energy he poured into Senate floor activity day after day,” Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, said. “Damon shepherded sound policy through the process, creating a business-friendly environment that’s materialized in the job growth we are seeing today. The commonwealth is better because of Damon Thayer and the Senate will miss him greatly.”

A Michigan native, Thayer moved to Kentucky to work at Turfway Park and later served in executive roles for the National Thoroughbred Racing Association and the Breeders’ Cup. He has remained a staunch supporter of the state’s racing industry, which has expanded in recent years due to the growth of historical horse racing machines, slot-like gambling devices that tracks have used to bolster purses for live racing.

In this year’s session, he led efforts in the Senate to ban so-called “gray games,” gambling devices that had expanded significantly across the commonwealth in recent years. He also championed the legalization of sports betting, which passed at the end of the General Assembly’s term in March.

Thayer becomes the latest Republican senator to announce his plans to leave the chamber after the 2024 session. Others include Sens. Whitney Westerfield, R-Fruit Hill, and John Schickel, R-Union. He also wasn’t the only Scott County lawmaker to announce his decision to forego re-election on Wednesday. State Rep. Phillip Pratt, R-Georgetown, also announced he would not seek another term.

Kentucky will hold its 2024 primary elections May 21. However, candidates must file paperwork to run by 4 p.m. ET on Jan. 5.

The 2024 General Assembly begins Jan. 2.

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