Democrats, GOP jump-starting 2016 House races with midterms barely behind them

11/28/2014 04:38 PM

The dust has settled on this year’s midterm elections, but Democrats and Republicans in the state House are already casting their eyes on the 2016 elections with the filing deadline more than a year away.

The GOP fell short of their goal to overtake Democrats for a majority in the chamber on Nov. 4, with the Democratic caucus retaining their 54-46 lead despite Republican U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell thumping Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes by 15 points and Republicans in the state Senate picking up two seats for a 26-12 majority.

Rep. David Osborne, a Prospect Republican and early frontrunner for the minority caucus’ chairmanship, told Pure Politics this week a committee has been formed to identify potential GOP candidates and set a fundraising schedule for the next election cycle.

He declined to identify members of the committee, but he said Republicans will begin fundraising before the end of the year. Osborne said the House GOP expects to exceed its haul from this election cycle, which totaled more than $1 million with the caucus campaign committee and a trust through the Republican Party of Kentucky combined.

This is the earliest Osborne can recall his caucus being “this active” in developing the next slate of GOP contenders.

“We’ve already had several potential candidates who have us shortly after the election about their interest in running, Osborne said, noting Republicans are looking for individuals involved in their communities who are “passionate,” “intelligent” and “that truly want to make a difference.”

But House Democrats won’t be caught flatfooted after celebrating their electoral victory earlier this month. House Speaker Greg Stumbo, through his spokesman Brian Wilkerson, called the GOP’s push for legislative candidates an attempt by House Minority Floor Leader Jeff Hoover “to save face.”

The majority caucus has a fundraiser planned for early December, and Democratic candidates have already committed to running against Reps. Bob DeWeese of Louisville, Kevin Bratcher of Louisville, David Floyd of Bardstown, Jill York of Grayson, Lynn Bechler of Marion, Kenny Imes of Murray and Richard Heath of Mayfield, said Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg.

Other targets — who “better have their track shoes on,” Stumbo said — are Reps. Bam Carney of Campbellsville, Ryan Quarles of Georgetown and Kim King of Harrodsburg as well as newly elected lawmakers Phil Moffett of Louisville and David Hale of Wellington.

“With Obama gone, I will pick up seven seats,” Stumbo said.

Hoover, R-Jamestown, dismissed Stumbo’s forecast for 2016, mentioning the speaker’s previous proclamations that Democrats would net six to eight seats in this year’s midterms.

“His prediction did not come true so he believes that Kentuckians will buy into his predictions for 2016,” Hoover said in a statement. “In my opinion, that is the action of a man who is trying to save face.”

Hoover, too, said the House GOP plans to be “proactive” in its pursuit of candidates for 2016. The caucus has “already begun hearing from people across the commonwealth interested in offering themselves as candidates for state representative.”

House Republicans saw 2014 as an ideal year to tip the scales in their favor for the first time since 1921, particularly with an unpopular president in the final two years of his administration.

But Democrats avoided a GOP wave that submerged their brethren elsewhere. House Majority Floor Leader Rocky Adkins, D-Sandy Hook, pointed out the day after this month’s midterms that Democrats in the West Virginia state House lost 11 seats and their majority in the chamber on Nov. 4. The midterms also yielded GOP majorities in legislative chambers in Nevada, Colorado, Minnesota, New Mexico, Maine and New Hampshire, according to a report by The Washington Post.

Rep. Adam Koenig, R-Erlanger, said House Republicans were “disappointed” in this year’s election results, leading for a push to jump-start recruitment for 2016 candidates.

“It has not gone well in the past,” he said. “… There’s an effort among some to make sure that we do something different this time, and I think that’s a good idea.”

Rep. Jonathan Shell, R-Lancaster, saw proof in this year’s elections, particularly McConnell’s double-digit victory en route to becoming the next majority leader in the U.S. Senate, that Kentucky is trending conservative. He said he’s “encouraged” for his caucus’ prospects in 2016.

“I don’t think the Democrats can be happy with where they’re at,” Shell said. “They held onto their majority, but it’s not like they gained seats or made us look bad. It was basically a draw on Election Night.”

“We are a Republican state now,” he continued. “Not to say that the registration’s that way, but there are a lot of conservative Democrats, Reagan Democrats, that are going to continue to vote with us as Republicans, and we’re going to court them over the next two years the same way that we have in the past and try and make a better outcome for us to take the majority in 2016.”

Kevin Wheatley

Kevin Wheatley is a reporter for Pure Politics. He joined cn|2 in September 2014 after five years at The State Journal in Frankfort, where he covered Kentucky government and politics. You can reach him at kevin.wheatley@charter.com or 502-792-1135 and follow him on Twitter at @KWheatley_cn2.

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