House candidates stock their campaign accounts 32 days before Election Day

10/18/2014 09:00 AM

With Election Day weeks away, state House candidates have banked sizable sums in their campaign accounts as both parties jockey for control of Kentucky’s lower chamber.

Republicans have chipped away at Democrats’ hold of the House in recent election cycles, coming within five seats of the majority in 2012. This year, they’ll need to pick up nine seats on Nov. 4 for their party to hold the speaker’s gavel for the first time since 1921.

But Democrats, who control the chamber 54-46, are optimistic of their chances in about two weeks. House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, has boldly predicted his party may win enough elections for a 60-seat supermajority in the chamber.

Candidates of both parties have pounded the pavement going door-to-door in their districts, but fundraising will play a significant role in their election prospects as they reach voters through television and radio advertisements.

Below are fundraising numbers for select competitive races reported to the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance 32 days before the Nov. 4 elections. Another round of reports will cover 15 days before voters hit the polls and decide the future of Kentucky’s House. The races are ranked in order of competitiveness based on a Sept. 14 analysis by Pure Politics.

Open seats

The GOP’s prospects for majority and the Democrats’ chances for supermajority control of the House hinge on six open seats in play this fall. Half are brand new districts and half are replacing representatives who decided to pursue other interests, political or otherwise.

39th House District

The seat vacated by Democratic Rep. Bob Damron covers most of Jessamine County and precincts in southern Fayette County, and Damron’s fellow Democrat, former Nicholasville Mayor Russell Meyer, holds a significant fundraising advantage on his Republican opponent, real estate agent and landlord Jonah Mitchell. The district leans conservative, but the former mayor has more than twice as much campaign cash as Mitchell in the weeks leading up to the election, with much of his haul coming from about $83,000 raised in the May primary.

Democrat Russell Meyer: $106,504 raised; $23,078 spent; $83,425 cash on hand

Republican Jonah Mitchell: $58,292 raised; $19,706 spent; $38,585 cash on hand

49th House District

This election in Bullitt County features two former lawmakers who lost their re-election bids in 2012. After losing to Rep. Denny Butler, D-Louisville, by an 18-point margin two years ago, Republican Mike Nemes moved to Bullitt County. Redistricting helped Democrat Linda Belcher’s chances of returning to the House as the redrawn boundaries separated her from Rep. Russell Webber, R-Shepherdsville, who beat Belcher by 6 percent. Belcher has a 3-to-1 cash advantage on Nemes weeks before the election.

Linda Belcher, Democrat: $53,976 raised; $15,429 spent; $38,554 cash on hand

Mike Nemes, Republican: $22,472 raised; $9,790 spent; $12,681 cash on hand

53rd House District

The newly drawn district covering Spencer and Anderson counties and a sliver of Bullitt County also features a political comeback of sorts, as Lawrenceburg Democrat Kent Stevens, who served one term in the House from 2009-2011, looks to beat James Tipton, a Taylorsville Republican. Stevens, a retired school principal, is tied in cash with Tipton, a realtor. But Tipton has $18,469 in his primary election account that he hasn’t moved to the general election account.

James Tipton, Republican: $27,560 raised; $11,930 spent; $15,629 cash on hand

Kent Stevens, Democrat: $19,830 raised; $4,746 spent; $15,084 cash on hand

32nd House District

It’s not often a former Miss Kentucky and a Republican gubernatorial candidate vie to replace GOP Rep. Julie Raque Adams, who is running for state Senate, but those are the choices for voters in this eastern Louisville district. Democrat Ashley Miller, an Emerge Kentucky graduate and nurse practitioner for Planned Parenthood, and the GOP’s Phil Moffett, who ran for governor in 2011 with tea party support, said they would focus on issues facing the district’s voters, but outside groups have flung a fair share of mud in the election. Miller holds a sizable cash advantage in the race.

Ashley Miller, Democrat: $81,044 raised; $21,350 spent; $59,693 cash on hand

Phil Moffett, Republican: $33,542 raised; $11,910 spent; $21,631 cash on hand

10th House District

The retirement of Rep. Dwight Butler, R-Harned, opens this seat covering Breckinridge and Hancock counties with a section of northern Hardin County. Democrat Dean Schamore, a Hardinsburg businessman and military veteran, and Republican Alan Claypool, a management consultant with tea party support, are hoping to replace Butler, who didn’t back Claypool in the May GOP primary. Schamore holds a slight fundraising edge.

Dean Schamore, Democrat: $64,274 raised; $31,809 spent; $32,465 cash on hand.

Alan Claypool, Republican: $38,483 raised; $7,629 spent; $30,854 cash on hand

36th House District

The newly drawn district covers eastern Jefferson County and a small section of Oldham County, with Republican Louisville Metro Councilman Jerry Miller outpacing his Democratic opponent, nurse anesthetist Debbie Barber, in fundraising.

Jerry Miller, Republican: $57,628 raised; $5,755 spent; $51,872 cash on hand

Debbie Barber, Democrat: $30,907 raised; $7,448 spent; $23,458 cash on hand

Democratic incumbents facing stiff challenges

Even with a clean sweep of open seats, Republicans will need to knock off three House Democrats to take a majority. And if Democrats want to retain their control, they’ll need to defend the members they’ve already elected.

13th House District

Rep. Jim Glenn, D-Owensboro, has narrowly won his past two reelections edging his opponents by 251 votes in 2012 and 206 in 2010, putting him firmly in the Republican crosshairs this cycle. Republican Alan Braden, a financial analyst and former Owensboro city commissioner, has topped Glenn in fundraising so far after raking in more than $105,000. But Glenn hasn’t slouched on soliciting donors after collecting nearly $85,000, making this one of the most expensive legislative races in 2014.

Alan Braden, Republican: $105,199 raised; $30,136 spent; $75,062 cash on hand

Rep. Jim Glenn, Democrat: $84,738 raised; $13,623 spent; $71,115 cash on hand

6th House District

Rep. Will Coursey, D-Symsonia, may have the largest fundraising advantage over his opponent, Republican hospital executive Keith Travis, despite his involvement in dueling lawsuits involving sexual harassment. Coursey has been sued for retaliation by his former legislative secretary, who said she was transferred after she accused Coursey of sexually harassing other Legislative Research Commission employees. Coursey has since countersued, and his campaign has hit the television airwaves in the weeks before Election Day.

Rep. Will Coursey, Democrat: $104,266 raised; $793 spent; $103,472 cash on hand

Keith Travis, Republican: $30,955 raised; $26,440 spent; $4,614 cash on hand

3rd House District

Rep. Gerald Watkins, D-Paducah, is a first-time incumbent in a GOP-leaning district, which could spell trouble despite winning in 2012 by nearly 3,000 votes. His opponent, Republican real estate broker Randy Bridges, has raised more for his campaign, but Watkins, one of the more conservative members of the Democratic caucus, holds a sizable cash edge.

Randy Bridges, Republican: $55,354 raised; $31,246 spent; $24,108 cash on hand

Rep. Gerald Watkins, Democrat: $48,135 raised; $6,233 spent; $41,902 cash on hand.

78th House District

Rep. Tom McKee, D-Cynthiana, finds himself in a precarious position as a Democrat in a conservative district. He’s facing Falmouth Mayor Mark Hart, but he’s raised about $10,000 more than the GOP challenger. Even with the fundraising edge, Hart holds a slight cash advantage against the House Agriculture Committee chairman.

Mark Hart, Republican: $30,865 raised; $7,165 spent; $23,699 cash on hand

Rep. Tom McKee, Democrat: $40,773 raised; $24,770 spent; $16,003 cash on hand

GOP incumbents facing tough fights

As Republicans target Democrat-held seats, they must keep their current members intact. Stumbo has crowed about the crop of candidates his party has recruited in this election cycle, giving him optimism to knock off a few GOP incumbents on the road to a supermajority.

55th House District

Rep. Kim King, R-Harrodsburg, is fending off Emerge Kentucky graduate Jacqueline Coleman, an educator and founder of Lead Kentucky. King represents a conservative district, and Coleman’s has managed to keep raise more than King, who holds a cash advantage, in the election.

Jacqueline Coleman, Democrat: $77,049 raised; $23,247 spent; $53,801 cash on hand

Rep. Kim King, Republican: $72,481 raised; $5,563 spent; $66,917 cash on hand

62nd House District

Rep. Ryan Quarles, R-Georgetown, finds himself in a race against a Democrat handpicked by Gov. Steve Beshear, Scott County Magistrate Chuck Tackett. Although Tackett represents a tough road to a third term for Quarles, the incumbent has aggressively filled his coffers and leads his Democratic challenger by more than $32,000 in cash.

Rep. Ryan Quarles, Republican: $100,492 raised; $14,558 spent; $85,934 cash on hand

Chuck Tackett, Democrat: $60,081 raised; $6,935 spent; $53,146 cash on hand

91st House District

Rep. Toby Herald, R-Beattyville, is in his first re-election battle against Cluster Howard, dean of student life at Hazard Community and Technical College. While the district leans GOP, Howard has doubled the fundraising effort of his opponent weeks before the election. Herald’s general election account shows a negative balance, but he has yet to transfer $6,554 from his primary campaign account. Both candidates’ won’t have much campaign cash at their disposal though.

Cluster Howard, Democrat: $22,213 raised; $8,468 spent; $13,744 cash on hand

Rep. Toby Herald, Republican: $4,750 raised; $5,357 spent; -$607 cash on hand

50th House District

Rep. David Floyd, R-Bardstown, is seeking a sixth term in the state House, but he faces a strong challenge by another Emerge Kentucky candidate in attorney Audrey Haydon. The Democrat has hit the television airwaves in recent weeks and holds more cash on hand than Floyd.

Audrey Haydon, Democrat: $80,209 raised; $41,187 spent; $39,022 cash on hand

Rep. David Floyd, Republican: $28,216 raised; $1,200 spent; $27,016 cash on hand

48th House District

The only member of House leadership on this list, Democratic political observer Sherman Brown told Pure Politics in an in-studio interview that Democrat Gretchen Hunt, a Louisville attorney and Emerge Kentucky graduate, has tightened the race with House Minority Caucus Chair Bob DeWeese. Hunt has been aggressively campaigning in the district and also gained a fundraising advantage on the incumbent, who has served in the House since 1993.

Gretchen Hunt, Democrat: $86,678 raised; $19,561 spent; $67,116 on hand

Rep. Bob DeWeese, Republican: $67,475 raised; $15,642 spent; $51,832 on hand


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