(The Center Square) – Kentucky state Rep. John “Bam” Carney, a former Republican floor leader in the state House of Representatives, died Saturday after a lengthy illness. He was 51.
Carney spent about 18 months in hospitals after being diagnosed with pancreatitis and developing complications from it. According to family Facebook posts, he returned to his native Campbellsville on June 12, but he was admitted to a Lexington hospital just days later after being diagnosed with pneumonia.
“For more than a year and a half, Bam fought valiantly to overcome his health issues, all while remaining steadfastly dedicated to the people of his district,” House Speaker David Osborne, R-Prospect, said in a statement.
In November 2018, he was elected to serve as the majority floor leader. In January 2020, Republicans named state Rep. Steven Rudy, R-Paducah, to serve as the temporary majority leader as Carney battled his illness.
Rudy was elected floor leader last November. In a state House majority podcast after that vote, Rudy described Carney as a best friend and a brother.
Carney was first elected to the state House in 2008. He ran unopposed for the next four terms before facing write-in candidate Richard Steele in 2018. Last year, Carney beat Steele, the Democratic nominee, securing 78.5% of the vote.
A special election will take place to determine a successor who will finish the term and represent Taylor and Adair counties in south central Kentucky.
In a statement on his personal social media sites, Kentucky U.S. Rep. James Comer, R-Tompkinsville, said Carney was a loyal friend and a strong leader.
“Kentucky lost a statesman today with the passing of my great friend Bam Carney,” said Comer, who served with Carney in the General Assembly a decade ago. “Bam was a one-of-a-kind guy.”
Away from Frankfort, Carney worked as an educator as well as a basketball and football coach for the Taylor County, Campbellsville Independent and Washington County school systems.
In 2017, Carney was appointed chairman of the House Education Committee. Among the bills he sponsored in that session was a bill that to allow charter schools in the state. While the bill passed and Kentucky became the 44th state to allow charter schools, there is currently no funding mechanism in place for charters to open.
Carney is survived by his sons, Chase and Ethan, his mother, June Carney, and four siblings. Visitation will take place Tuesday and Wednesday before Thursday’s funeral, with all services taking place at the Taylor County High School gymnasium.
He is the second member of the General Assembly to pass away in recent weeks. State Sen. Tom Buford, R-Nicholasville, died on July 6.