McConnell Challenger Drops Out Following Ethics Complaint

Kentucky radio host Matt Jones still won't endorse Dem Amy McGrath

Radio host Matt Jones / Getty Images

Kentucky Democrat Matt Jones has ended his bid to unseat Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell following an ethics complaint, but the sports radio host still refuses to endorse his party's leading candidate, Amy McGrath.

Jones, who launched his bid to unseat Kentucky's senior senator in September, was accused of violating Federal Election Commission regulations prohibiting campaigns from taking corporate donations. A complaint filed by the Kentucky GOP argued that Jones accepted corporate contributions from iHeartMedia, which syndicates his radio show, and Simon & Schuster, publisher of his upcoming book Mitch, Please!

iHeartMedia pulled Jones from the air shortly after the complaint was filed. The Kentucky Democrat returned to the airwaves Friday to announce the end of his campaign, saying "for me personally, this isn't the time."

Jones emphasized that he "think[s] Mitch McConnell needs to be defeated." He declined, however, to endorse McGrath, saying he continues to "hope that other candidates get in the race."

Jones's decision to drop out comes after he dismissed the Kentucky Republican Party's complaint as "absolute nonsense," arguing that he was not yet a candidate. Though he named his committee "Matt Jones for Kentucky Exploratory Committee," the name had no bearing on its legal distinction. The Democrat's federal election filings, however, included a signed statement of his candidacy, and his principal campaign committee spent enough money to meet the legal definition of an active candidate for office. Jones previously admitted that a statewide book tour criticizing McConnell would be "a good thing for [his] candidacy across the state."

Jones will now dissolve the committee after leaving the race.

With Jones out of the race, the Democratic primary field includes McGrath, military veteran Mike Broihier, and health care professional Steve Cox. Freshman state legislator Charles Booker and Kentucky house minority leader Rocky Adkins are also weighing bids to challenge McConnell.