Yarmuth will seek re-election to Congress for sixth term, hopes for immigration reform, infrastructure funds

06/22/2015 11:00 AM

UPDATED: Congressman John Yarmuth announced Monday that he will seek a sixth term to the U.S. House, hoping to keep speculation on his political future from distracting voters and Democrats in this year’s governor’s race.

The decision is also a practical one for the Louisville Democrat, who said both incumbents and challengers alike must start early to mount credible campaigns in the day and age of super political action committees and so-called dark money groups that can unload torrents of cash in their attempts to sway the electorate.

In discussing his decision to seek re-election in the 3rd Congressional District and his hopes for another term if victorious, Yarmuth ticked off a number of important issues he hopes to resolve in the next two years, such as possibly using repatriation as a funding source for U.S. transportation projects, passing a comprehensive immigration reform package and limiting the role of money in politics.

“I decided to run again because as the lone progressive voice on federal issues in Kentucky, particularly within the federal delegation, I think I have a responsibility to battle for the values that I think this community shares and I certainly champion, and those are things that help the average working family get additional opportunity and get ahead,” Yarmuth, who was first elected in 2006, said in an interview with Pure Politics at his campaign headquarters in Louisville on Monday.

Four years ago, Yarmuth said his congressional seat became a subject of will-he-or-won’t-he rumors in the Kentucky political rumor mill.

He wants to avoid a similar distraction this year, saying he will likely be quick in future decisions if he wins re-election.

“When I decide not to seek re-election, I will probably announce early as well so that people have ample opportunity to gear up for what will certainly be a competitive campaign at that point,” he said, noting he can’t formally file for re-election until after the Nov. 3 election.

Yarmuth, who spent $833,527 in his nearly 28-point win in 2014 with $432,395 banked, said he’s also getting an early start in fundraising for his 2016 campaign.

Although he has sizable sum in his campaign account, double-digit wins behind him and no opposition in sight, Yarmuth says he’s unsure whether his race will attract attention from outside spending groups.

He alluded to Liberty For All, a super PAC formed by a then-21-year-old Texas millionaire, and its $500,000 spent in 2012 supporting U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Garrison, in his successful first bid for Congress.

“Even if you’re in a situation like mine where I’ve come off two fairly convincing victories in a row, you never know who is out there who’s going to come in and spend a couple million dollars trying to defeat you, so you do have to be prepared,” he said.

“And as much as I hate the fact that there is so much money in politics and spend my time in Washington trying to combat that, you still have to play by the rules that are in effect. Raising money has become, unfortunately, one of the major responsibilities of politicians. It shouldn’t be that way, but you have to be prepared.”

Looking ahead

While campaign finance reform might top Yarmuth’s wish list, he said Congress must act on immigration during his next term if he wins re-election.

He worked as part of the House’s bipartisan “Group of Eight” on its proposal for comprehensive immigration reform, and one of the authors, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., plans to use pieces of the proposal for bills on border security and citizenship for immigrants, according to the Washington Post.

Yarmuth called the current immigration system “broken” and said Kentucky could not have viable agriculture or thoroughbred industries without immigrant labor, making the issue “critical to this commonwealth.”

“We actually did some very good work,” Yarmuth said of the “Group of Eight.” “We had a plan that we were convinced could pass both houses but never has gotten to the floor, but immigration reform is mandatory.”

“We need good workers throughout our economy that are not available in the United States, and we need to also bring the best minds in the world to this country,” he continued. “We’re not doing that right now, and we need to do everything we can to keep families together. Right now our immigration system is tearing families apart.”

Border security and employer verification systems will also be key in moving a comprehensive package through Congress, he said.

Resolving the country’s infrastructure funding woes is also on his legislative wishlist.

Yarmuth said he supports allowing companies to repatriate their overseas earnings at lower tax rates to help finance transportation projects.

“There’s a real fight now in Congress over whether we should make a major commitment to infrastructure spending,” Yarmuth said. “It’s a job creator and it’s something that’s really not optional. We have to do it.”

Kevin Wheatley

Kevin Wheatley is a reporter for Pure Politics. He joined cn|2 in September 2014 after five years at The State Journal in Frankfort, where he covered Kentucky government and politics. You can reach him at kevin.wheatley@charter.com or 502-792-1135 and follow him on Twitter at @KWheatley_cn2.


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