Louisville Rep. Marzian drops re-election bid after GOP redistricting

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Longtime state Rep. and Louisville Democrat Mary Lou Marzian announced Monday that she is dropping her 2022 re-election bid after a 28-year career in the Kentucky legislature.

Other female Democrats who represent Jefferson County alongside Marzian in the state House of Representatives joined her on Monday as she publicly announced news of her intention to officially step down from the race.

Marzian was forced into a primary battle against one of those colleagues, Rep. Josie Raymond, when Republican lawmakers this year approved new redistricting plans that put the two women in the same district. Instead, Marzian bows out.

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State Representative and Democrat of Louisville Mary Lou Marzian responds to questions from the media after signing a candidate withdrawal notice during a news conference Monday, March 28, 2022. Marzian is bowing out after being forced to stand fight against his colleague, Rep.  Josie Raymond, when Republican lawmakers approved new redistricting plans this year that put the two women in the same district.

For her supporters, there is a silver lining that could keep her in the legislature: If the Kentucky Democratic Party’s lawsuit over state legislative redistricting plans succeeds and the new map of the House is dropped, she said she would like to stay.

“I’m not going to play their sadistic, misogynistic game of pitting Democratic women against each other,” she said of the GOP House Redistricting Committee in a press release. “I was a voice Republicans wanted to get rid of because they were afraid of truth in power.”

Marzian further criticized the GOP’s “insidious” redistricting plans during Monday’s press conference, saying it “deliberately forced incumbent women into the same districts….”

“Because of this ultra-far right (attack) on all women in the House and all women in this Commonwealth, I am withdrawing my name from the 2022 election,” she said. “Shame on all of you Republicans for dishonoring the Legislature. Shame on you for castigating the voice of Louisville in Frankfort, and shame on you for hurting Kentucky, the women and children of Kentucky.”

Rep. Mary Lou Marzian, D-Louisville, speaks to rally teachers inside the Kentucky Capitol during the third day of teaching "fainting spells" which closed schools across the state in response to House Bill 205, a controversial private school tax bill.  March 7, 2019.

Another pair of female Democrats, Representatives McKenzie Cantrell and Lisa Willner, were also dragged into the same district in this year’s redistricting process, which Republican lawmakers vetted for the first time. However, Cantrell said goodbye to the House and instead appeared at the Kentucky Court of Appeals.

The GOP-designed home map also put two pairs of Republican lawmakers in the same district. When the plan was first revealed in December, House Speaker David Osborne, R-Prospect, said he believed they had drawn “a thoughtful map that meets all legal and constitutional requirements.”

Marzian highlighted the vital representation of female lawmakers at a news conference in Louisville on Monday, where she officially signed the papers to withdraw her candidacy for the May 17 primary.

“Why are women so important in the process? We bring new perspectives to the table. Family issues, women’s issues, children,” she said. “For example, when I was first elected, I was on the education committee, and they were considering legislation in the budget for scholarships for boys for STEM (science, technology, , engineering and mathematics.) As the only woman on the education committee, I had to ask: ‘Why not girls?’ The girls were included after that.”

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Since being first elected in 1994, Marzian has built a strong reputation as an advocate for reproductive rights, public education and other issues.

She is known for tabling pointed proposals intended to make a statement in a Legislature where Republicans have strong control over approved legislation.

For example, in 2016, she introduced a much-talked-about bill that would require Kentucky men to get signed permission from their wives before they can get erectile dysfunction drugs like Viagra. (That, of course, was a response to the anti-abortion measures lawmakers were advancing that year.)

State Representative and Democrat of Louisville Mary Lou Marzian, right, signs a candidate withdrawal notice during a press conference Monday, March 28, 2022. To her right is attorney and notary Mikki Adams.  Marzian is bowing out after being forced into a primary battle against fellow Rep. Josie Raymond when Republican lawmakers this year approved new redistricting plans that place the two women in the same district.

As a retired nurse, Marzian has also long advocated for legislation to help others in this career, including legislation she sponsored in 1996 that allowed advanced practice nurses in Kentucky to prescribe medications. not controlled.

Although she will not run for office, Marzian said she will not leave.

She plans to support the re-election campaigns of her colleagues who ran alongside her on Monday, and she wants to create a political action committee focused on recruiting progressive women to run for office.

“I’m not going to be quiet. I’ve never been very quiet,” she said with a laugh.

Raymond, who Marzian would have had to run against had she not decided to stand down, said Monday was “an emotional day for all of us”.

“The idea of ​​representing people who have been represented by Mary Lou Marzian for 28, 29 years is daunting,” she said. “But Mary Lou has mentored us very well…and we’re ready to take up the torch.”

Eligible voters will still see Marzian’s name on the May primary ballot, but any votes cast for her will not count.

Other Louisville Democratic women are also saying goodbye to House Ky.

Marzian and Cantrell aren’t the only departures from the Jefferson County Democratic House slate.

House Minority Leader Joni Jenkins — the first woman in Kentucky history to lead a state legislative caucus — announced in January that she would end her 28-year career in Frankfort this year instead of To stand for elections.

Jenkins pointed to the GOP’s redistricting plans to explain her decision, since the new map turned her district into one with a nearly 50% black population, and she “didn’t want to be a barrier to a person of color joining the Kentucky House of Representatives.

In addition to Jenkins’ removal, Representative Attica Scott decided to pursue incumbent Representative John Yarmuth’s 3rd congressional district seat instead of seeking re-election to the Legislature.

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Scott, along with Stevenson, raised concerns Monday about how GOP lawmakers’ redistricting plans are affecting west Louisville, including redrawing legislative district lines to move District 41 from Scott’s House out of this predominantly black part of town.

Scott described it as a “political red line” and told the Courier Journal on Monday that she thought Marzian made a great point that morning about how the Republican redistricting was targeting strong Democratic women.

This retaliation is not just about these women legislators as individuals, she said, adding, “But it’s also about the people we serve.”

There has not yet been a final decision on the Kentucky Democratic Party redistricting lawsuit. The May 17 primary election is based on the new cards since a judge recently ruled not to temporarily block them from taking effect while the case continues.

The Courier Journal requested a comment from the Kentucky House GOP leadership early Monday afternoon, but did not immediately receive a response.

This story can be updated.

Morgan Watkins is the Courier Journal’s chief political reporter. Contact her at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter: @morganwatkins26.

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