Conway's spending through JACK PAC reveals best hopes and biggest concerns for House Democrats

07/09/2014 10:54 AM

Just as he began his campaign for governor earlier this summer, Attorney General Jack Conway’s leadership political action committee, JACK PAC, began spreading campaign cash to select Democratic state House members and candidates.

Conway and his running mate, House Democratic Caucus Chairman Sannie Overly, have said they didn’t want their campaign in next year’s governor’s race to detract from House Democrats’ efforts this fall to keep control of the chamber, where they hold a 54-46 seat advantage.

And it’s in Conway and Overly’s best political interest to see that happen. As Auditor Adam Edelen told Pure Politics earlier this year, it becomes more difficult for a Democrat to win next year’s governor’s race if Republicans control both chambers of the General Assembly. Plus, it’s good politics to help out potential friends in the legislature down the road. Leadership PACs, which many politicians set up as their political good will organizations, are ideal vehicles for doing that.

JACK PAC, which was formed in December of 2012 , gave $16,500 to incumbent state House Democrats and a few Democratic challengers in the month following the May 20 primary, according to a Pure Politics review of documents filed with the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance.

The PAC donated to Democratic candidates with three donation tiers: $1,000, $500 and $250. But nearly as interesting are the names of some of those who didn’t get a penny from JACK PAC in this round of contributions.

Rep. Will Coursey, D-Symsonia, did not get a donation from the PAC as he battles against Keith Travis, a Republican from Benton. Coursey has double the contributions in the bank with $40,000 compared to about $20,000 for Travis.

But Coursey also faces bad press as he is in the middle of dueling lawsuits stemming from a legislative staffer’s allegations that she was reassigned after complaining about comments Coursey made.

Conway said he wasn’t actively trying to avoid being associated with Coursey or any other legislators to whom his PAC did not give. But the Kentucky State Democratic Executive Committee decided to invest $5,000 in Coursey’s re-election bid.

It was “just an evaluation of who needed it most at that time. It will undertake a similar evaluation in the fall,” Conway told Pure Politics on Tuesday.

Incumbents in the $1,000 tier

Four Democratic incumbents in potentially difficult re-election bids got $1,000 each: Rep. Johnny Bell, D-Glasgow; Rep. Jim Glenn, D-Owensboro; Rep. Jeff Greer, D-Brandenburg; and Rep. Tom McKee of Cynthiana.

23rd House District, Democratic-held seat:
Bell is facing off against publisher Jeff Jobe, a Republican who ran unsuccessfully for state Senate in 2008. Jobe has kept pace with Bell in fundraising. Bell is $3,200 behind in campaign donations to Jobe in the latest report with less than $20,000 on hand to Jobe’s $21,000.

13th District, Democratic-held seat:
Democrats are doing everything they can to hold on to the Owensboro seat in a Western Kentucky, where voters keep inching to the right in recent elections. And Glenn has made it interesting each time. He has won his last two races with less than 500 votes — combined. Glenn faces Republican Alan Braden. Glenn holds a slim fundraising advantage just after the primary with nearly $28,000 compared to about $22,000 for Braden, according to the 30-day post-primary reports.

27th District, Democratic-held seat:

Rep. Jeff Greer is facing off against Republican Rachelle Frazier, a special needs teacher. Greer has more than $21,000 in cash on hand with Frazier raising nearly $3,500 in the race so far. Greer who has held the seat since first winning in 2006. But he has been one of the top targets by Republicans for the last three elections. And Greer squeaked by with just 296 votes in 2012 and 128 votes in 2010.

78th District, Democratic-held seat:

McKee faces Republican Mark Hart, who has a political following as the Mayor of Falmouth and former city council member. McKee has nearly $10,000 cash-on-hand, but Hart is keeping even with $10,300 in contributions.

Grand challengers

Democrats challenging Republicans or competing for open seats who benefited with $1,000 donations from JACK PAC include: Dave Stengel, Russ Meyer and Chuck Tackett.

29th District, Republican-held seat:
The Democratic Party is targeting Republican Rep. Kevin Bratcher in the southern Jefferson County district. The Democratic Party and Conway’s PAC are pumping money into the campaign coffers of Democrat Dave Stengel. Stengel is the former commonwealth attorney from Jefferson County who also served from 1992 to 1994 in the state House. JACK PAC tossed $1,000 to the campaign and Conway wrote a personal check to Stengel for another $500. The House Democratic Caucus Campaign Committee is also donating heavily with $5,000 and $1,350 donations. The State Democratic Party also donated $1,350 to Stengel.

The candidates are neck and neck in fundraising with more than $32,000 each, according to the 30-day post-primary reports.

39th District, open seat:
Russ Meyer, the Nicholasville Mayor, is vying to keep Democratic control of the Jessamine County district which has been held by conservative Democrat Rep. Bob Damron, who is vacating the seat to run for Jessamine County judge-executive.

Meyer is running against Republican candidate Jonah Mitchell, a realtor and auctioneer who has just less than $23,000 in the bank. With the bump from JACK PAC, Meyer has more than $63,000 in cash-on-hand to start the general election, according to reports filed with the registry of election finance.The district became more Democratic through redistricting, but Republicans have had their eye of the district for some time.

62nd District, Republican-held seat:

Rep. Ryan Quarles, R-Georgetown, has been a target of Democrats since he first unseated former Rep. Charlie Hoffman in 2010. Democrats hope their luck will change after redrawing the district in 2013 to leave out more of rural Scott County and include more precincts in northern Fayette County. Democrats are counting on Chuck Tackett, a Scott County magistrate, but Quarles has proven to be an effective fundraiser with nearly $58,000 in the bank. Tackett trails with around $35,000.

$500 Donations – Incumbents

Rep. Hubert Collins of Wittensville; Rep. Jeff Donohue of Louisville; Rep. Richard Henderson of Mt. Sterling; Rep. Dennis Horlander of Louisville; Rep. Mary Lou Marzian of Louisville; Rep. Daryl Owens of Louisville; Rep. Ruth Ann Palumbo of Lexington; Rep. Steve Riggs of Louisville; Rep. Gerald Watkins of Paducah and Rep. Jim Wayne of Louisville.

$500 Donations – Challengers

7th House District: John Warren, is challenging freshman Republican Rep. Suzanne Miles of Owensobro who won the seat during a 2013 special election after Rep. John Arnold vacated the seat in disgrace. Miles has been pummeling Warren in fundraising with nearly $50,000 compared to Warren’s nearly $18,000.

19th House District: Democrat John Wayne Smith of Smiths Grove has filed to challenge Rep. Michael Meredith, R-Brownsville, in the newly formed 19th House District. Smith has a little less than $20,000 in the bank to compete against Meredith who has nearly $40,000 in the bank.

32nd House District: This open seat is one both parties have set their sights on. U.S. Sen. Rand Paul has even made a trip to help Republican Phil Moffett refill his campaign coffers after spending nearly $40,000 in the primary. Democrat Ashley Miller, a nurse from Louisville, has $30,000 in the bank, according to reports filed with the registry of election finance. And Moffett has $3,500 after the primary. But Moffett has run statewide before and brings strong donors to the campaign.

55th House District: Democrat Jacqueline Coleman, a Jessamine County teacher and the daughter of former state Rep. Jack Coleman, is making a play for the conservative district against incumbent Rep. Kim King, a Republican of Harrodsburg. King, first elected in 2010, trails Coleman, an Emerge Kentucky graduate, in funding heading into the general election, $36,000 to $22,000, according to the 30-day post-primary election. And since that reporting deadline, Gov. Steve Beshear already has hosted a fundraiser for Coleman. The state Democratic Executive Committee is also investing heavily in Coleman with a $5,000 contribution.

$250 Donations – Incumbents

Rep. Tom Burch of Louisville; Rep. Jimmie Lee of Elizabethtown; Rep. Jody Richards of Bowling Green.

$250 Donations – Challengers

Democrat Audrey Haydon of Bardstown is taking on Republican Rep. David Floyd, R-Bardstown, and Floyd has floated his campaign $35,000 in the past month. Haydon, a lawyer and Emerge graduate, has raised more than $47,000 and has $44,600 on hand.


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