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Leeper, Newberry to face Hines

BY CORIANNE EGAN cegan@paducahsun.com

State Sen. Bob Leeper and McCracken County Judge-Executive Van Newberry filed candidacy papers for Newberry's office on Tuesday.

Newberry and Leeper announced their intention to run on deadline day for Independent candidates to file. They will face off in November against retired Circuit Judge Jeff Hines, who filed in January on the Democratic ticket.

The filings don't necessarily mean either man will run in November's election. Formal filings for Kentucky's Independent candidates are due Aug. 12, accompanied by a petition of nomination with 100 verified signatures.

Leeper, who was elected to the Second District seat in 1991, announced he would step down as senator in October. The constant travel and stress left him not confident he could serve as a state senator as effectively as he would like to, Leeper said. The judge-executive job would satisfy his yearning to stay in public service and keep him closer to home.

"I would get to sleep in my own bed, spend time with my wife and build a life back here," Leeper said. "I have a passion to serve a group of people I think the world of, a group that I have been representing every day for 24 years in Frankfort. I would like the opportunity to serve a community through what has the potential to be a challenging next couple of years."

Because Leeper is the chairman of the Senate's budget committee, he has not been in the area the past few weeks. He said he will spend the next month talking to community members and determining his level of support.

"I have been getting calls throughout the session and asked a lot of people to give me some time to think about it," Leeper said. "I wanted to stay focused on my job in Frankfort. But after I recover from this session, I am going to talk to people and see if those who supported me in the past will support me in the future. Filing (Tuesday) afforded me that opportunity."

Newberry was elected in 2007 as a Democrat, but changed parties over the winter to be a registered Independent. He filed with the clerk's office just after 3:30 p.m. Tuesday.

"I don't think anyone does this lightly," Newberry said. "It's a pretty important thing. A lot can happen between now (and August), but I feel very serious about running."

Newberry said he has a good chance in November's election, and will be running on what he called a "great record." Newberry highlighted the county's successful efforts to bring jobs, and that McCracken County was the only one in western Kentucky to lower taxes. He also noted that the Fiscal Court has given more money to the jail and sheriff's department, which he said has helped lower the county's crime rate. 

Newberry and Deputy Judge-Executive Doug Harnice were indicted in January on charges of tampering with public records after investigators discovered hundreds of unauthorized changes to the county's zoning maps last year.

The two are expected to be involved in the case through the election season.

There is no primary for Independents, so Newberry and Leeper would be on the November ballot.

Contact Corianne Egan, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8652 or follow @CoriEgan on Twitter.

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