2012 Update: Sen. McGaha says he's 50-50 about running; 2 House Democrats draw challengers

11/28/2011 07:54 AM

State Sen. Vernie McGaha of Russell Springs said he hasn’t decided whether to seek a fifth term in 2012.

“At this point, it’s 50-50,” he said.

McGaha told Pure Politics in a phone interview last week that he plans to make his decision before lawmakers return to Frankfort for the 2012 session on Jan. 3.

The 15th District McGaha represents currently includes Russell, Pulaski, Adair and Casey counties. But that could change as lawmakers redraw all the district lines as a result of the 2010 Census.

Still, McGaha said he will “decide regardless of that.”

McGaha said the increased demands of fundraising — even for a state legislative seat — is a factor. For instance, he raised $28,000 for his first run in 1996 and he had three opponents in the Republican primary and a Democratic opponent in the general election. By 2000, he raised $103,000 and his opponent raised more than $200,000.

Several competitive state Senate districts in recent years have seen candidates raise more than $250,000 and candidates for special state Senate elections have raised about $1 million.

Democratic House primaries

At least two incumbent House Democrats have drawn potentially tough challenges in next year’s primary.

  • 37th House District — The Democratic primary could be a rematch of the 2010 General Election. Wade Hurt was a Republican at the time and won the seat after a judge ruled Democrat Jeffrey Donohue ineligible for having signatures on his filing papers of someone who didn’t live in the 37th District.

Hurt then switched parties over the summer and is now a Democrat.

Donohue said he made a “rookie mistake” and filed last week for another shot at the seat.

A Ford worker who spent the last 12 years of his 35-year career as a union negotiator, Donohue said he didn’t expect the race to be about Hurt — or Hurt’s switching of parties. But his slogan certainly hints at that.

“I was a Democrat yesterday. I was a Democrat today. And I’ll be a Democrat tomorrow,” Donohue said in a phone interview.

  • 98th House District — Democratic Rep. Tanya Pullin of South Shore has drawn a challenge from a young political up-and-comer.

Tyler Murphy, a 23-year-old Democrat, filed officially on Wednesday for the 98th District. Murphy will turn 24 in March, so he will be old enough by the November 2012 election to serve as a state representative, according to Section 32 of the constitution.

Murphy, a 2010 Transylvania University graduate and a teacher at Russell High School, served as a delegate to the 2008 Democratic National Convention.

He is the youngest Kentuckian to file for state legislature since Jeff Buis filed in 1992 for the 52nd District and won.

Murphy has raised $8,500 and has nearly $3,000 left in his campaign account.

Pullin has a balance of more than $31,000 in her campaign account. It is mostly leftover from her past runs.

(Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated Tyler Murphy’s age. He doesn’t turn 24 until March 9.)

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