In a rarity, 3 incumbent state senators lose; Republicans emerge stronger

11/03/2010 04:07 AM

2011 state Senate: 22 Republicans with 1 independent to 15 Democrats

Republicans not only held control of the state Senate, they picked up two seats to give them a super majority (when including independent Sen. Bob Leeper, who often votes with the GOP).

The 22 senators matches the Republicans’ high water mark of senators from the 2005 General Assembly.

And instead of picking up two seats to tie up the state Senate — as Democratic leaders and Gov. Steve Beshear had hoped — the party went backwards two seats by losing an open seat held by their former floor leader and two incumbents.

In all, three incumbent Senators (two Democrats and one Republican) lost re-election bids Tuesday night — the first time any sitting state Senator has lost in a general election since 1996 when Republican Jack Westwood ousted Democrat Joe Meyer.

Republican Senate President David Williams said Republicans set out to make sure they didn’t lose their foothold in state government, where Democrats control the governor’s office and state House. Here are his remarks, which he made to cn|2’s Kenny Colston at U.S. Senate candidate Rand Paul’s victory party Tuesday night:

(Williams and Republican Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer are running as a ticket for governor and lieutenant governor, respectively in 2011.)

On Tuesday night, Republican Joe Bowen, who owns a tire dealership and served one term in the state House, unseated state Sen. David Boswell of Owensboro, who had served a total of six terms in the Senate with a stint as state Agriculture Commissioner in between.

Bowen out-raised Boswell. A cn|2 Poll from mid-September had shown Boswell with a comfortable lead of 21 points. But Bowen went on to win by about 3 points after running a sharp, aggressive campaign.

Mike Wilson, a Republican who runs a Christian radio station in Bowling Green, defeated Democratic state Sen. Mike Reynolds, who only won the seat in a 2009 special election after the former senator, Brett Guthrie, was elected to Congress in November 2008. (Guthrie beat Boswell in that congressional race).

Wilson hammered Reynolds down the stretch on remarks Reynolds made to Western Kentucky University students in which Reynolds called his constituents “rednecks.”

And Dennis Parrett, a Democratic businessman from Elizabethtown, denied Republican Sen. Elizabeth Tori a fifth term in the 10th state Senate District. Parrett delivered one of the few bright spots for Democrats in Kentucky on Tuesday.

He was no doubt helped by an ad he ran in the final week in which a campaign tracker caught up with Tori at a legislative luncheon answering a question about legislative benefits. Tori is shown saying at one point, “Holy Jesus, I’m going to get paid.”

Her campaign manager told cn|2 Politics she was referring to her reaction when she found out that she would draw a salary as a part-time legislator after she was first elected in 1994.

See the ad here:

In addition to the incumbents falling, Republicans picked up the 34th District in Rockcastle, Madison and Lincoln counties where Jared Carpenter bested Democrat Lee Murphy. Carpenter will replace Democratic Sen. Ed Worley of Richmond, who decided not to seek another term.

Republicans held on to their own open seat in Bullitt, Spencer and Shelby counties where Paul Hornback will succeed GOP Sen. Gary Tapp of Shelbyville.

Elsewhere, Leeper, the state’s only independent lawmaker, won a sixth term over Democrat Rex Smith, a contractor who pumped six figures of his own fortune into the race.

In Lexington, Republican Alice Forgy Kerr turned back a strong challenge by Democrat Don Blevins, the former Fayette County Clerk. Kerr edged Blevins despite his tough ads he aired down the stretch hitting Kerr on the issue of legislators’ pensions.

Republican Sens. Dan Seum and Julie Denton of Louisville, as well as Katie Stine of Fort Thomas, Ernie Harris of Crestwood and Brandon Smith of Hazard all won another four-year term.

And Democratic Sens. Robin Webb of Grayson, R.J. Palmer of Winchester and Jerry Rhoads — the Senate Democratic whip from Madisonville — all won re-election.

- Ryan Alessi with additional reporting from Bowling Green by Kenny Colston and Chris Bratton


Subscribe to email updates.

Subscribe and get the latest political intelligence delivered to your inbox.