Ky. House Races 2012: Democrats bracing to play defense in western Kentucky seats

06/11/2012 04:28 PM

Seven state House seats in far western Kentucky are shaping up as key battlegrounds for the November election, and Democrats are playing defense in six of them.

“We’ve got good candidates. We think we’ve got a good message. Obviously, they have qualified opponents. We think we’re going to do well there. We’ve got to work hard. We’ve got our work cut out for us,” said state Rep. Tommy Thompson, the House Democratic whip and the lone Democratic leader from west Kentucky.

Of the most competitive districts, four of them are open seats. Three will be to replace Democrats: Rep. Fred Nesler of Mayfield, who resigned the 2nd District seat to take a job at the agriculture department, Rep. Mike Cherry of Princeton who is retiring from the 4th District and Rep. Melvin Henley, a former Republican-turned-Democrat who is retiring from the 5th District.

The fourth open seat is being vacated by Republican Rep. Brent Housman of Paducah. Housman declined to seek a third term.

Thompson talked about those races and the Democrats’ strategies in this interview:

Republicans also expect to make the 7th District race a target as lawyer Tim Kline challenges Democratic Rep. John Arnold of Sturgis, who has represented the district in Union County and parts of Henderson and Daviess counties since 1995. Democratic Rep. Jim Glenn of Owensboro faces what appears to be a tough race against independent candidate Bill Barron, who runs self-storage companies in western Kentucky.

While Barron is an independent, he has pledged to caucus with the Republicans, said GOP Floor Leader Jeff Hoover of Jamestown.

A seventh race in western Kentucky pits two-term Democratic state Rep. Martha Jane King of Lewisburg against Republican Chris Hightower, a former aide in U.S. Sen. Rand Paul’s 2010 campaign and a favorite of the liberty movement.

Democrats currently hold 58 seats compared to the Republicans’ 41. The 2nd District seat vacated by Nesler remains open.

Former Democratic secretary of state turned Frankfort lobbyist Bob Babbage said Republicans taking control of the House with a pick-up of 10 seats is a “tall order.”

But he said the expectations for November is that Republicans are more likely than Democrats to pick up seats, especially with 32 of the Democratic-controlled seats being challenged. Here’s that clip of the interview with Babbage:

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