Henderson County High School agriculture teacher J.T. Payne has filed to run for the 11th District state representative seat.
Payne, a Republican, said that after current Rep. Jonathan Dixon decided to not seek re-election, he believed it was an ideal time to file to run for the open seat. He said being both a lifelong Henderson County resident and teaching at the high school allows him to understand issues affecting Henderson residents.
In a release Payne sent out Thursday after filing candidacy paperwork in Frankfort, Payne said his candidacy will “fiercely support the industries that mean the most to our town: education, agriculture, law-enforcement, and healthcare.”
He did not reveal specific plans for any of the mentioned industries but instead said the most important issue with each involves workforce shortage. He said it’s important to find ways to attract high-quality candidates and to compensate them at a level they’ll want to stay in Henderson.
Payne, 25, said he’s been involved in politics for about 10 years. He interned in U.S. Rep. James Comer’s office, and he’s worked on several local campaigns, including those of Henderson County Judge-Executive Brad Schneider and current 11th District state Rep. Jonathan Dixon.
Payne was also the student body president at Murray State University during the 2018-2019 school year. He was also recognized as MSU’s spring 2019 outstanding graduate, according to the news release.
He has earned a bachelor’s degree in agriculture science and a master’s degree in education.
Payne is currently in his fifth year at Henderson County High School, where he teaches agriculture and serves as the advisor for the school’s Future Farmers of America club.
If elected, Payne said he’d want to continue in his career as an educator. That would require him to miss many school days, and in a Thursday evening interview with the Hendersonian, he said was not yet sure how that could work out. But he did say there are several instances of legislators in both the House and the Senate who were able to continue their career in education while serving in the legislature.
According to the Kentucky General Assembly website, in even-numbered years, legislative sessions may not last more than 60 legislative days, and cannot extend beyond April 15. In odd-numbered years, sessions may not last more than 30 legislative days, and cannot extend beyond March 30, said the website.
He’s also a member of the Henderson Farm Bureau Board, Henderson Chamber of Commerce, Henderson Republican Party Executive Committee and Murray State Hutson School of Agriculture Alumni Board. He is also a past participant in the Henderson Leadership Initiative, according to the release.