Looking to November: 10 state House races that are getting expensive already

05/14/2014 09:31 AM

Many of the state House candidates who already know their opponent in the November general election aren’t waiting around to start laying the groundwork for their campaigns.

Many are off to quick fundraising starts. In some of those districts, the challengers have out-raised entrenched incumbents. Donors in other districts have been hit up for nearly $100,000 between the two candidates already. Those races are previews of what’s to come later this year as Democrats try to defend their 54-46 majority in the state House and Republicans try to take control of the lower chamber for the first time since 1921.

Fundraising isn’t a tell-all about the competitiveness of races, but especially early on it does indicate candidates’ organization abilities and commitment to the race.

Forty general election match-ups out of the 100 state House seats are set for the Nov. 4 election. Another 38 fortunate lawmakers are unopposed. And 22 districts have primary contests on May 20 to determine the nominee for at least one of the parties.

Some of those districts that have primaries in one party or both are sure to be competitive in November (the open 49th District in Bullitt County that currently has a Democratic primary or the open 32nd District in Louisville that has a Republican primary, for instance).

But below are fundraising numbers for candidates in 10 key races out of the 40 contested seats in which the general election match-ups are already set.

OPEN SEAT CONTESTS

39th District (OPEN) in eastern Jessamine County and a piece of southern Fayette —

No House candidate has raised more since September than Russ Meyer, the Nicholasville mayor and Democrat who is seeking to help his party keep the seat that longtime Rep. Bob Damron is vacating to run for Jessamine County judge-executive. Meyer has proven he can fundraise having brought in about $100,000 between the primary and general elections in his runs for mayor in 2006 and 2010. He is running against Republican candidate Jonah Mitchell, a realtor and auctioneer whose respectable fundraising total is nearly tripled by Meyer. The one knock against Meyer is that he has burned through $18,000 already.

……………………Russ Meyer (D) ……….Jonah Mitchell (R )
RAISED…………..$79,418…………………$28,583
ON HAND…………$61,176………………..$23,674

36th District (OPEN) in eastern Jefferson County

This district is the Republicans’ to lose. It is a GOP-performing district in the mostly newer, well-off suburbs east of Louisville that was a newly-created district during last year’s redrawing of the legislative maps. Republican Jerry Miller, a Louisville councilman, has pulled in nearly $42,000. But Democrat Debbie Barber, a registered nurse anesthetist, is nearly keeping pace. She has raised nearly $32,000 through early May, according to finance reports. Barber is one of a half-dozen graduates of the Emerge Kentucky program that trains Democratic women candidates to show strong early fundraising figures.

……………………Jerry Miller (R ) ……….Debbie Barber (D)
RAISED…………..$41,904…………………$31,806
ON HAND…………$36,612………………..$24,949

GOP CHALLENGERS KEEPING UP WITH INCUMBENT DEMOCRATS

35th House District in Louisville

Rep. Jim Wayne, D-Louisville, has held a relatively safe Democratic seat since 1991 when he defeated the father of his current opponent. Carl Nett, a former CIA contractor, has built a bigger campaign war chest than any other Republican challenger for a general election contest so far. He has collected nearly $50,000 but $33,000 has come from his personal bank account.

……………………Carl Nett (R ) ……….Rep. Jim Wayne (D)
RAISED…………..$48,587…………………$11,498
ON HAND…………$41,858………………..$4,861

23rd House District in Barren County and a small part of Warren County

Democratic Rep. Johnny Bell of Glasgow has survived tough re-election fights before. And so far publisher Jeff Jobe, a Republican who once ran unsuccessfully for state Senate, has kept up with Bell in fundraising.

……………….. Jeff Jobe (R )……….Rep. Johnny Bell (D)
RAISED…………..$19,950……………………$17,991
ON HAND…………$19,781…………………..$16,181

6th House District in Marshall and Lyon counties with a sliver of McCracken

This will be the toughest re-election fight for Rep. Will Coursey, D-Symsonia. Coursey has been embroiled in a legal fight with a legislative staffer who claimed she was transferred against her will after a run-in with Coursey. He has denied her allegations and filed a countersuit. In addition, Keith Travis, an executive at Murray Calloway County Hospital, is the toughest opponent Coursey has drawn yet since joining the House in 2008. While Coursey leads in overall cash on hand, the two have been about even in fundraising since Jan. 1.

……………….Rep. Will Coursey (D) ……….Keith Travis (R )
RAISED…………..$36,338…………………$24,709
ON HAND…………$30,690………………..$20,543

56th House District in Woodford County and parts of Franklin and Fayette

Democratic Rep. James Kay of Versailles got a lot of help from Democrats on his way to raising $220,000 when he won last June’s special election for this seat. He’ll have to do more on his own this time as he rebuilds that campaign account. This brewing race is one of youth. Kay is 31 and Republican Ryan Schwartz, an attorney, is only a year and two months older than Kay. Neither has raised enough to pay much more than one serious radio ad buy, but there’s still time.

……………….Rep. James Kay (D) ……….Ryan Schwartz (R )
RAISED…………..$16,679…………………$16,185
ON HAND…………$15,001………………..$12,123

DEMOCRATIC CHALLENGERS KEEPING UP WITH GOP INCUMBENTS

50th House District in Nelson County

This is one of several races in which an Emerge Kentucky candidate is taking on an incumbent Republican and so far out-raised the incumbent. Audrey Haydon, a lawyer from Bardstown, has more than four times the cash on hand as Rep. David Floyd of Bardstown. Floyd spent much of his cash from 2012 in a tough re-eleciton fight — but one that he ultimately won with breathing room. So far, he has been slow to restock that fund.

……………..Audrey Haydon (D) ……….Rep. David Floyd (R )
RAISED…………..$36,715…………………$6,272
ON HAND…………$34,311………………..$7,627

55th House District in Mercer and Washington counties and the Wilmore area of Jessamine County

This would be a difficult district for any Democrat to knock off an incumbent, especially one who is known for campaigning as hard as Republican Rep. Kim King does. But Democrats think they have the best possible candidate in the Republican-leaning district in Jacqueline Coleman. Coleman, a teacher in Jessamine County and another Emerge Kentucky graduate, grew up in Mercer County — the daughter of former Rep. Jack Coleman. The younger Coleman has more than doubled King’s fundraising and has one of the lowest burn rates of campaign cash of any candidate.

……………..Jacqueline Coleman (D) ……….Rep. Kim King (R )
RAISED…………..$27,470…………………$13,209
ON HAND…………$27,105………………..$12,896

48th House District in northeast Jefferson County

Similar to the 55th District, the 48th is one that is normally in the likely Republican column in recent general elections. Rep. Bob DeWeese, R-Louisville, is the House Republican Caucus chairman and has been in the House for more than two decades. But the retired surgeon is off to a slow fundraising start and has less than $4,000 in the bank. But Emerge Kentucky participants have clearly taken fundraising lessons to heart. Hunt, who is going through the program now, has raised more than $35,000 through mid-April.

……………..*Gretchen Hunt (D) ……….Rep. Bob DeWeese (R )
RAISED…………..$35,131…………………$11,199
ON HAND…………$32,760………………..$3,667

  • Numbers from 32-day report

62nd House District in southern Scott County and part of northwest Fayette

Rep. Ryan Quarles, R-Georgetown, has been a target of Democrats since he first unseated former Rep. Charlie Hoffman in 2010. When lawmakers redrew the district map, Democrats hoped the newly formed 62nd District would give Democrats a better chance. Instead of Hoffman, who failed in his 2012 attempt to win the seat back, Democrats are looking to Chuck Tackett, a Scott County magistrate. But Quarles has proven to be an effective fundraiser and has about twice the cash as Tackett so far.

……………….. Rep. Ryan Quarles (R )………Chuck Tackett (D)
RAISED…………..$48,500……………………$26,820
ON HAND…………$46,647…………………..$25,651

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