Walking through the chambers of the Kentucky State Capitol, Angie Hatton has discovered her passion for helping others from the place she calls home, eastern Kentucky.
She is now the Democratic State Representative for the 94th District and the House Minority Whip in Frankfort.
Hatton was raised in Whitesburg, Kentucky and became the first member of her family to graduate college. Hatton said her decision to attend Eastern Kentucky University was simple: the campus was beautiful and friendly. “EKU was the closest major university to my home in eastern Kentucky, a lot of my friends were going there,” Hatton said.
Hatton graduated from EKU in 1994 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in anthropology. Hatton’s parents had never sent a child to college before. With little to no knowledge of the process, the proximity of EKU and Whitesburg made her parents feel more comfortable sending her to college.
During her time at EKU, Hatton became very involved on campus. She was a member of Kappa Alpha Theta, the EKU dance team, and was the managing editor for the Eastern Progress. Her favorite story that she wrote for the Progress was about how accessible EKU was after new accessibility guidelines had been released.
“To test out Eastern’s accessibility for handicapped students, I borrowed a wheelchair from the infirmary and spent the day going to all of my classes. Trying to get from my dorm to my classes was impossible,” Hatton said.
After graduating from EKU, Hatton worked at local newspapers in Frankfort such as the Kentucky Gazette, which only covers politics, and The State Journal.
In 1999, Hatton graduated from the University of Kentucky law school. During her time at UK, Hatton won many trial advocacy awards and was a member of the national trial team. After graduation, she worked for a Lexington law firm, Landrum & Shouse.
In 2016, Hatton was working in the juvenile court when State Representative Leslie Combs withdrew her candidacy for re-election before the filing deadline. Hatton called around hoping to find someone interested in running for the position on such short notice.
“I did not think about running until that day,” Hatton said. “At the time, coal jobs were disappearing… Lots of coal mines had been shutting down and my county was shrinking.”
People who lived in Letcher County were leaving to find work, and the opioid problem was becoming more of a crisis. Hatton said that she wanted to find someone to run for the position that cared about the same people that she does.
The 2016 election was Hatton’s first time running for office. The candidates included three democrats and four republicans. Hatton defeated candidate Joe Thornbury during the 94th District Democratic primary. After the primary, she beat Frank Justice II in the Kentucky House of Representatives general election with 50.73% of the votes.
The same night that Hatton won the state representative position, the Democratic party lost the majority in the House of Representatives. The Democratic party now only has 25 members and the Republican party has 75 members. As the minority whip, Hatton is one of three leaders in the Democratic party.
“Life in the minority is pretty tough,” Hatton said. “It’s very difficult to get any of our bills heard, to get any of our amendments on bills, and to see the state move in a direction that you don’t agree with.”
Hatton also thinks that it is important to be a voice for the people in Kentucky’s Appalachian region.
The Commonwealth of Kentucky has citizen legislation, which means legislators are working part time. The legislators meet in Frankfort for 60 days in even years, and 30 days in odd years, starting in January.
Many legislators are either retired or have another job on the side. Hatton practices law when the legislatures is not in session. At her practice, Hatton mainly deals with divorce and custody cases.
On top of being an attorney and a state representative, Hatton is also a mom. Her son is a sophomore at Morehead State University, and her daughter is a senior in high school. Hatton plans to show her daughter around her alma mater.
“EKU was a wonderful place to discover myself. I can’t think of anything better than having chosen Eastern,” Hatton said.