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Will Jones Stick With Radio?

United States Rep. Matt Jones, D-Ky.

(We’ll pause to let that continue to sink in.)

Early last week, the host and founder of Kentucky Sports Radio acknowledged being approached by Democratic campaign operatives about running against Republican incumbent Andy Barr for Kentucky’s Sixth Congressional District seat next year. He said he would decide whether to challenge Barr before the Kentucky basketball team begins the 2015-16 season.

Speculation about a UK broadcaster venturing into politics is nothing new. In 1988, Ralph Hacker considered challenging a freshman senator named Mitch McConnell in the 1990 Republican primary. “I would be a better representative of the state,” he said at the time.

Hacker, the color analyst on UK football and basketball broadcasts, ultimately decided not to make the run. He flew to Washington, D.C., to tell McConnell personally before announcing the decision.

After retiring from UK’s broadcast team, Hacker twice considered running for the congressional seat now held by Barr. Both times he again chose not to run for public office, yielding to Alice Forgy Kerr in 2004 and Barr in 2012.

“It stokes your ego, that’s what it amounts to,” Hacker said last week of political operatives asking a public figure like Jones to run for office.

Hacker seemed a good person to ask about a hypothetical Jones candidacy. First question: Why would the Democrats approach Jones?

Neither major party wants to leave any race uncontested, Hacker said. So the operatives look for someone with name recognition or lots of money. Ideally, both. Jones overflows with name recognition. His profile continued to grow earlier this summer when he served as emcee on Kentucky’s most visible grassroots political stage, the Fancy Farm picnic.

A Jones candidacy would lead operatives to think, “Here are millions we wouldn’t have to spend to get him known because he’s already well-known,” Hacker said. “And I think that does count for something.”

From first-hand observation, I can attest to how wildly popular Jones is with UK fans. He accompanied Kentucky on its 2010 trip to play in the Maui Invitational. Fans reacted to him as if he were a Kardashian. One grandmotherly woman proudly told me that she woke up each morning wanting to check on how Jones was doing before seeing if her husband was OK.

In the 2012 “trophy tour” stop in Ashland, Jones bounded off the UK bus and drew as much buzz from the crowd as John Calipari. Each shook hands and posed for pictures.

Dale Emmons, a political consultant based in Richmond, is a fan.

“Certainly, Matt is an engaging personality,” he said. “As a UK basketball fan, I’m a huge fan of Matt Jones. Because he is unapologetically all things Blue.”

To read the rest of the story visit KentuckySports.com where it was originally published