Ky. House Races: The best-case scenarios for both parties on Tuesday

11/05/2012 08:55 PM

Republicans will pick up seats in the Kentucky state House on Tuesday night.

And by cutting down on Democrats 58-41 seat control, they are even likely to set a new recent high water mark for seats. Their highest point had been 44 seats in 2006 after then-Rep. James Carr of Hopkinsville, switched parties to join the GOP ranks. Over the last century, Republicans have held more than 44 seats once: when they controlled the House for the 1920 General Assembly with 55 seats.

But how well Republicans do Tuesday night will depend on their ability to defend three vulnerable freshman Republicans: Reps. Mike Nemes of Louisville, Ryan Quarles of Georgetown and Donna Mayfield of Winchester.

Pure Politics has an assessment of 25 House races. Here’s a pre-election assessment of the expectations:

Best case scenario for Republicans: pick up 7-10 seats
Taking 10 seats would give Republicans control for the first time in 92 years. A gain of seven still puts them within sniffing distance of the majority, although rumors of potential Democrats willing to switch parties to give the GOP a majority are greatly exaggerated — especially with redistricting on the horizon between Nov. 7 and the 2014 election. Whichever party emerges with the most seats on Wednesday morning controls the map-making.

What it would take:

  • A net gain of three seats by winning three out of four open seats in western Kentucky (one was held by a Republican, three were Democratic seats), plus the open 61st District seat to replace Rep. Royce Adams of Dry Ridge.
  • Gaining two seats by defeating western Kentucky Democratic Reps. Jim Glenn of Owensboro and John Arnold of Sturgis.
  • Successfully defending incumbents in tough races, including Nemes, Quarles, Mayfield and Rep. David Floyd of Bardstown, who has been a Democratic target, as well as the open 88th District seat in Fayette County that has been in Republican hands.
  • Defeating at least one from a pair of Democratic incumbents who survived close races in 2010: Reps. Linda Belcher of Shepherdsville and Jeff Greer of Brandenburg.
  • Unseating at least one veteran, entrenched incumbent Democrat, such as Rep. Ruth Ann Palumbo of Lexington (in the House since 1991), Rep. Steve Riggs of Louisville (1991) and Rep. Susan Westrom of Lexington (1999). OR Republicans see the presidential race help them in areas they would normally have a hard time winning in a normal year: such as in the 91st District where Rep. Teddy Edmonds of Beattyville represents a Democratic district in which President Obama is unpopular or in the 24th District where Rep. Terry Mills of Lebanon represents a normally Republican district but his GOP opponent has failed to work.

Best case scenario for Democrats: lose 1-3 seats
Keeping Republicans from reaching 45 seats would be a huge moral victory for the party in a difficult electoral environment, thanks largely to the presidential race. No matter what though, it will come with a steep price. Democrats have far outspent Republicans in House races across the state, and the GOP has employed creative strategies to maximize ad dollars.
What it would take:

  • At least splitting the four open seats in western Kentucky. A 2-2 split would still be a net loss of one for the Democrats.
  • Defeating Nemes in Louisville’s 38th District.
  • Either keeping the open 61st District Adams is vacating in Grant County or defeating Quarles in adjacent Scott County.
  • Defending most of their vulnerable incumbents: Arnold, Glenn, Belcher, Greer, Westrom and Palumbo – OR – balancing losses out by defeating GOP incumbents like Mayfield and Floyd.

Most likely scenario: Republicans pick up 4-6 seats
What it would take:

  • To do it, Republicans must at least split the four open seats in western Kentucky or take three of them AND win the 61st seat vacated by Adams. (Net GOP gain of 2-3)
  • The GOP must lose no more than two incumbents, while defeating between two and six Democratic incumbents.

About Ryan Alessi

Ryan Alessi joined cn|2 in May 2010 as senior managing editor and host of Pure Politics. He is now pursuing an advanced degree in non-fiction writing from Murray State University and is a regular contributor to Pure Politics. Ryan has covered politics for more than 14 years, including seven years as a reporter for the Lexington Herald-Leader. Ryan can be reached at purepolitics@twcable.com or @mycn2 on Twitter.

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