How Steve West won the 27th Senate District and became the 27th member of the GOP caucus

03/07/2015 02:55 PM

In the heavily Democratic 27th Senate District Republican Steve West, a cattle farmer and real estate attorney, describes his victory in the 60-day special election as “almost a perfect storm.”

Attributing his success to a combination of a state leaning more to the right, a concerted and coordinated effort, and some “lucky breaks” he was able to pull ahead on Election Day.

“The statewide trend in going Republican,” West said. “We had a real good effort from my campaign, the Republican Party and all of the caucus at the state level. And great support from the federal contingent.”

The federal delegation boosted West with help from U.S. Reps. Thomas Massie of Garrison and Andy Barr of Lexington, and U.S. Sens. Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul added in with robocalls and email fundraising help, said Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown.

On paper West trailed Democratic candidate Kelly Caudill in fundraising by $60,000, according to Kentucky Registry of Election Finance reports. However, thanks to the Republican Party of Kentucky and the Senate Republican Caucus Campaign Committee, West actually outraised his challenger.

West said he was still depositing checks after the election. RPK Chairman Steve Robertson estimated that all in West would top out at $150,000 spent from his account and on his behalf.

“The (Kentucky Senate Republican Caucus Campaign Committee) came to his aid as he proved he had what it took to win,” Thayer said.

Robertson said the party also took the time to plan ahead realizing the potential for former Sen. Walter “Doc” Blevins to win the judge-executive’s race in Rowan County, thus giving the party a planned monetary cushion to run this race.

As winter weather complicated the 60-day race, West said he “got lucky” dropping his TV ad just as the snowfall in the district forced voters indoors.

Residents of the 27th Senate District, comprised of Harrison, Bourbon, Nicholas, Robertson, Mason, Fleming, Lewis and Rowan counties, have been without representation the entire legislative session — and that too likely played a role.

West replaces Blevins, a Morehead Democrat who had served in the Kentucky General Assembly since 1982. Blevins won election as Rowan County judge-executive in November, prompting the special election.

Blevins chose to retain his Senate seat until he was sworn into his newly elected post, because leaving earlier would affect his pension and insurance coverage.

Thayer told Pure Politics the move to hold the seat until days before the session helped GOP efforts too.

“On his way out the door Doc Blevins made it harder on Democrats to hold the seat,” Thayer said, adding that Democrats thought they had the election in the bag.

In his campaigning, West said he found traction in a majority message — reminding voters of the GOP supermajority in the Senate and how he could get legislation passed.

“People are wanting a different direction,” West said. “They want someone in the majority.”

The campaign team for West led by Andy Hightower and aided by RPK and the SRCCC tapped into the data collection efforts of McConnell and the party. The voter vaults helped to target the likely GOP voters in the district and bring out enough to win the election — no small task given the numbers: 50,566 Democrats and 26,471 registered Republicans in the district.

Here’s how the counties broke down with West scoring a coup in Fleming County where Democratic registration doubles Republican registration stats.

As the secretary of state’s office works to officially confirm the election, West said he is preparing to join the Senate for the final two days of session. West said he expects to be sworn in on March 23, just one day before lawmakers adjourn the 2015 session sine die.

About Nick Storm

Nick Storm is the Anchor and Managing Editor of Pure Politics, the only nightly program dedicated to Kentucky politics. Nick covers all of the political heavyweights and his investigative work brings to light issues that might otherwise go unnoticed, like the connection between the high profile Steubenville, Ohio rape and a Kentucky hacker whose push for further investigation could put him in federal prison. Nick is also working on a feature length bio documentary Outlaw Poet: A documentary on Ron Whitehead. Follow Nick on Twitter @NickStorm_cn2. Nick can be reached at 502-792-1107 or nicholas.storm@twcnews.com.

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