01/27/2010 1:00AM

Hiles to run for Kentucky office


Rick Hiles, the president of the Kentucky Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association and a licensed Thoroughbred trainer, has filed to run as a Democrat for a seat in the states' senate seat held by Republican Julie Denton of Louisville in an election later this year.

Hiles said Wednesday that he has been contemplating a run for political office in Kentucky for 10 years but was "waiting for the right opportunity and the right people to back me." Hiles said he has been registered as a Democrat his entire life.

Hiles is one of a number of candidates with connections to the racing industry to announce their intentions over the past several months to run for office. The racing candidates are emerging at a time when the industry is lobbying aggressively for the exclusive rights to operate slot machines and casino-style games in Kentucky, an effort that has been blocked by state Republicans.

Last October, Terry Meyocks, the acting chief executive of the Jockeys' Guild and a former New York Racing Association executive, announced that he would run as a Democrat in 2010 for a senate seat representing southern Fayette County. But on Wednesday Meyocks said he had changed his mind and will not run. The seat is now held by a Republican. In addition, Andrew Roberts, an equine veterinarian who is a member of the Kentucky Equine Drug Research Council, an adjunct of the Kentucky Racing Commission, announced on Tuesday that he intends to run for a senate seat representing western Fayette that is currently held by a Republican, Alice Forgy Kerr.

Republicans currently hold a 20-17 majority in the senate, and another member, an independent, usually caucuses with the group.

Late last year, a racing industry lobbying group, the Kentucky Equine Education Project, spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to support a Democratic candidate for an open senate seat, but the candidate was routed in the special election by a Republican. The group has said that it will continue to support financially candidates who support slots at tracks.

Hiles said that he had not talked to the lobbying group before making a decision to run. He would not name the people he said were backing him. Though he said he supports slots at tracks, he said his priorities when running for office would be closing the budget deficit and maintaining funding for education and programs for senior citizens.