Matt Jones

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Popular Kentucky sports talk host Matt Jones announced on his show Friday that he won't run for the U.S. Senate.

"I have decided not to be a candidate for the office," he said. "It's a very difficult decision."

Jones said he has thought about the run for two years and "it's still a close call" but "it's the best decision for me personally at this time."

He did not rule out the possibility of running for office in the future, though he said would just file to run and "you won't know until the day it happens."

"I am not going to give up the idea of doing public service," he said. 

The host of Kentucky Sports Radio had formed an exploratory committee in August to help decide on a possible candidacy.

"I have a voice in the state where I can talk to people that very few Democrats can talk to," he said in August. "And they will listen to me."

The announcement comes just more than a week after the state Republican Party filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission against Jones, claiming he had ha committed "serious violations" by improperly receiving corporate funding for a potential Senate run.

The complaint alleged Jones was using his show "as a campaign commercial" to discuss his possible 2020 run for the seat held by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, essentially giving him free advertising paid for by the show's sponsor, iHeartMedia.

In addition, Jones was accused of speaking with voters while touring the state promoting a book he is writing about McConnell, while using funding from Simon & Schuster, according to the complaint. 

Jones, a Democrat, was accused of violating FEC regulations that prohibit campaigns from accepting corporate donations. The complaint asked for an investigation into Jones, an affiliated committee and its treasurer, as well as iHeartMedia and Simon & Schuster.

After the complaint, Jones posted on his website that iHeartMedia decided to pull him from his radio show and that he won't be on "in the near future."

He said Friday that he did not make his decision based on the complaint and, in fact, if anything it pushed him closer to run.

And he said the reaction from the complaint was overwhelming, and gained national attention as #FreeMattJones trended on twitter. Jones said he almost "ran out of anger" after that.  

But Jones ultimately did not want to put his friends and family through what would be a contentious battle.

"It's been very stressful," he said. "I hate that I let people down, but, for me personally, this just isn't the time."

Jones had already been released from his job as host of "Hey, Kentucky" at WLEX in Lexington. The station said the decision was over Jones' possible run for U.S. Senate and the release of his upcoming book titled "Mitch, Please," which Jones has said will be a look at the policies of McConnell.

Former Marine combat aviator Amy McGrath and political newcomer Mike Broihier will appear on the ballot in May's Democratic primary, with the winner taking on McConnell in November.

Jones said he is going to take some time off from his radio show. He said he is "mentally exhausted" and needs to finish his book on McConnell. He said he will work a few more days and then be back the day after Christmas.

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Jason Riley is a criminal justice reporter for WDRB.com. He joined WDRB News in 2013 after 14 years with The Courier-Journal. He graduated from Western Kentucky University. Jason can be reached at 502-585-0823 and jriley@wdrb.com.