Minority report: Senate Democrats hope Grimes could help bring western Ky. Democrats back to their column in '14

07/29/2013 02:37 PM

Senate Democrats, who have been relegated to a constitutional minority in that chamber, are hoping Alison Lundergan Grimes in 2014 can help win back conservative Democratic voters who have been increasingly pulling the lever for Republicans.

Sen. Dennis Parrett, a first-term Democratic senator from Elizabethtown, will be on the ballot next year when the U.S. Senate race will take center stage. Grimes, the secretary of state, is the early frontrunner for the Democratic nomination for the chance to take on U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, who has his own primary against Louisville businessman Matt Bevin.

“Having that race will probably bring out a higher turnout,” Parrett told Pure Politics in a recent interview.

But even if more voters turn out, Democrats — from the U.S. Senate nominee to state Senate candidates — must work to win back Democratic voters, especially in western Kentucky, who have increasingly supported Republicans. A wave of votes for western Kentucky, where registered Democrats are dominant, helped re-elect Republican Senator Jim Bunning in 2004. Bunning was trailing Democrat Daniel Mongiardo until returns from the west poured in.

“More Democrats vote in our elections, but we tend to vote Republican more and more. But they’ve proven that when there’s a quality candidate on the ballot, they will come out and vote,” Parett said, citing the 2011 governor’s race (5:00).

In the Senate, meanwhile, Parrett said he hopes that party can add to its ranks. Currently, Republicans outnumber Democrats 23-14 with one independent who caucuses with the Republicans. That means the Republican majority doesn’t need a single Democratic vote to pass a bill or constitutional amendment.

Half of the 38 Senate seats are up for re-election in 2014, and the number of open seats versus Democratic or Republican held seats will be determined by redistricting, which the lawmakers will take up in a special session Aug. 19.

Still, Parrett told Pure Politics Democrats can still get bills through — or attached to other bills as amendments.

“If we can continue working together and with a bipartisan tone in both chambers, we can still be a force,” he said (2:00).

As for Parrett’s future, he confirmed to Pure Politics that, if re-elected in 2014, he “would have some interest in (legislative) leadership at some time.”

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