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By Scott Wartman
The Kentucky Enquirer
U.S. Rep. Geoff Davis, a Republican who represents Kentucky’s 4th Congressional District, cited a family health issue when he resigned on Tuesday July 31, five months before the end of his term.
Davis submitted his resignation Tuesday to Gov. Steve Beshear and Speaker of the House John Boehner and said it’s effective at the close of business that day.
Gov. Steve Beshear’s office Tuesday night said they are reviewing the process on how to deal with the vacancy and couldn’t comment further with Beshear away on an economic development trip in Germany.
Davis announced in December he would not be seeking re-election for a fifth term in Congress so he could spend more time with his family.
Republican Thomas Massie and Democrat Bill Adkins are on the November ballot to succeed Davis. The U.S. Constitution requires a special election to fill a vacant seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Because the special election must be at least five weeks from now, Beshear might opt to put the special election on the November ballot, said Trey Grayson, who is a former Kentucky Secretary of State and now heads Harvard’s Institute of Politics. The political parties would likely nominate Massie and Adkins, who would then appear on the ballot twice. That would allow the winner of the general election and the special election to take office in November, Grayson said.
“Presumably, the winner will take office earlier,” Grayson said. “The special election results get certified quicker than regular election results. The person would have more seniority. Given that they already have an election that day for the Fourth District, that probably makes the most sense, rather than have another election.”
On Tuesday, Davis made a statement that said a family health issue will prevent him from continuing in Congress until the end of his term this year.
“Recently, a family health issue has developed that will demand significantly more of my time to assist,” Davis said. “As a result, I cannot continue to effectively fulfill my obligations to both my office and my family. Family must and will come first.”
Davis’ statement doesn’t specify the nature of the health issue. Davis first talked in June to 4th District GOP chairman Kevin Sell about resigning before the end of the year, Sell said. Sell said Davis at the time assured him that his family and he will be fine. He said he doesn’t know the details of the health issue to which Davis refers.
“It has been a very personal decision for him, between him and his wife, Pat, and his children,” Sell said. “Given the reasons for some people to leave office, I would much rather it be a noble decision focused on the family rather than like some other members of Congress who’ve gotten indicted. The man wants to spend time with his kids and grandkids and extended family.”
Many who knew Davis reacted with surprise at his early resignation. State Rep. Alecia Webb-Edgington, R-Fort Wright, said she was unaware of any health issue and said she’s concerned for the family.
Webb-Edgington previously served as the Fourth District GOP chairwoman and considers Davis a mentor.
“I’m shocked and taken aback about this,” Webb-Edgington said. “My thoughts and prayers are with him and his family. Geoff Davis is a soldier and doesn’t quit. There’s something significant about this.”
Politicians not running for re-elections often resign early, Grayson said.
“That’s a tough situation,” Grayson said. “It’s hard work being in Congress away from his family, especially given it’s his last year. I guess everybody’s prayers are with him. It came out of the blue for everybody. I haven’t heard any inside knowledge.”
Within hours of learning Davis’ resignation, the political community praised Davis’ service. Davis, an Army veteran who later ran a consulting business, first won election to Kentucky’s Fourth Congressional District in 2004.
Many remembered how Davis could run an effective grassroots campaign and pull together a wide variety of people.
“All across the country, people are working in campaigns and congressional offices all because they got their start working for Geoff Davis,” Grayson said.
U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., praised Davis in a statement.
“Congressman Geoff Davis has been an outstanding representative for the people of” Kentucky’s Fourth District and has served his constituents with distinction since 2005,” McConnell said. “He has accomplished much and has worked tirelessly on behalf of the people of Kentucky during his tenure. I wish him and his family well as he embarks on his new endeavor.”