Pike Magistrate Chris Harris to file for seat held by Rep. Keith Hall

01/09/2014 10:23 AM

Chris Harris, a Democrat who has served as a Pike County magistrate for 12 years, told Pure Politics that he will file papers Friday to run in the 93rd House District held by Rep. Keith Hall, who has seemed like a magnet for controversy in recent years.

Hall has not yet filed to run for an eighth term in the House. Despite being dogged by an ethics committee sanction and questions about his expenses and business dealings, Hall has run unopposed in recent elections.

Harris said Thursday he expects to have plenty of time to get into issues before the May 20 Democratic primary. But he said he made the decision to run for the office because after serving as a magistrate for 12 years, he wanted to serve Eastern Kentuckians in a new capacity.

“We have to be able to maintain the trust of the people,” he said in a phone interview. “I don’t feel our current representative has done that.”

The Legislative Ethics Commission slapped Hall with a $2,000 fine in 2011 for helping direct tax funds to a sewer project on which one of his companies had a contract. Last summer, the Herald-Leader’s John Cheves reported that Hall, who also operates a coal company, had complained to state environmental cabinet officials that he was being hit up for kickbacks to a state mine inspector and had given “a small fortune.”

And in April 2013, the Courier-Journal’s Tom Loftus reported that Hall racked up $3,200 more than expenses than any other lawmaker over an eight month period in 2012 — $22,804 in meal and travel costs over that time.

The district Hall represents also was redrawn during the redistricting process in August’s special session. The district now stretches to cover all of Martin County in addition to eastern Pike County.

Harris said an earlier draft of the House map would have kept him out of the 93rd District.

“But now I’m squarely in the middle of the district,” he said.

Harris, an attorney, had just been elected to the board of directors of the Kentucky Association of Counties when the Herald-Leader reported in 2009 that executives and board members with the group spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on meals, travel and entertainment, including a former board president who charged an escort service to KACo’s credit card. Harris was among the most forceful voices on the group’s board in favor of reforms.

Harris also has clashed with Hall and some of his supporters in the past, which led to Kentucky’s first super PAC after the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling to run an ad against him in his 2010 re-election for magistrate. It tried to tie him to the spending problems of KACo even though Harris wasn’t on the board when the problematic expenses were made.


Subscribe to email updates.

Subscribe and get the latest political intelligence delivered to your inbox.