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TMCNet:  Ex-cinema director to challenge Whitfield

[January 29, 2008]

Ex-cinema director to challenge Whitfield

(Paducah Sun, The (KY) (KRT) Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge) Jan. 29--Heather Ryan, fired last week as executive director of the Maiden Alley Cinema after a confrontation with U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, is running for the 1st District congressional seat held by U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield.


Hickman County Judge-Executive Greg Pruitt said he also may seek the Democratic nomination.

"It is a big decision and I'm meeting with my family tonight to discuss it," Pruitt said Monday night. "The decision may not be made until 4 o'clock tomorrow in Frankfort" which is the deadline for filing for the May 20 primary.

Pruitt said he plans to be in Frankfort today on other business and will have his candidacy papers ready in case he decides to run.

"I enjoy what I'm doing as county judge, but I've had people talking to me and encouraging me to run for Congress since mid-November. It is a bid decision."

Ryan filed her candidacy papers on Monday. She said she was encourage to run by Democrats who feel she was unjustly fired. She said the support includes promises of financial help.

"When I contemplated my next move after being fired, I decided to take the bull by the horns and challenge the Republican authority of corruption," said Ryan, a self-described Democratic activist.

On Jan. 15, Ryan and her 12-year-old daughter waited outside the Maiden Alley Cinema where McConnell was meeting with supporters and filming a television commercial.

When he came out, she and her daughter shouted questions to McConnell about his support of the Iraq war. He left without responding.

Ryan then sent e-mail messages to friends about the confrontation in which she used expletives to describe McConnell. Her messages were posted on pro-Democrat Web sites.

On Jan. 21, she was fired as the cinema's executive director. The board that runs the cinema declined to publicly give a reason, but Ryan blamed it on her run-in with McConnell.

McConnell's Senate office in Washington denied the senator was involved in her firing.

Whitfield issued the following statement on Monday:

"I look forward to an open and honest debate about which candidate has the experience and the values to represent the 1st Congressional District. Since coming to Washington, I have been a strong and constant voice representing my constituents, and I'm proud of what I've been able to accomplish on behalf of the residents of my district."

Whitfield has held the seat since 1995. He has about $1 million in his campaign fund.

For Ryan, her candidacy is a new role in politics.

Ryan moved to Kentucky from Washington, D.C., in 2006 to serve as campaign manager for Eric Streit, who lost in the Democratic primary for the U.S. House seat to former Rep. Tom Barlow. Streit received only 16 percent of the vote. Whitfield defeated former Rep. Tom Barlow in the general electioin with 60 percent of the vote.

"I think voters are now ready for a change after eight years of Republican leadership and the need for more jobs in the district," she said.

Ryan served in the Navy during the Gulf War and, prior to moving to Paducah, was the marketing manager for a nonprofit women's rights organization in Washington.

Bill Bartleman can be contacted at 575-8651.

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