Open Seat Watch: Imes aiming for return to Capitol; Kemp hopes Beshear trumps Obama

11/04/2012 08:16 PM

MURRAY — No race this year better encapsulates the changing political dynamics in western Kentucky — once known as the Democrats’ rock of Gibralter — than the 5th state House contest.

Republican candidate Kenny Imes represented the district for four terms in the 1970s as a Democrat. He’s running against Hal Kemp, a business owner who ran unsuccessfully for this seat in 2006.

And they’re running to replace Democratic Rep. Melvin Henley, who is retiring. In fact, Henley was the one who beat Kemp back in ’06 when Henley was a Republican. He switched to be a Democrat in 2007. Confused yet?

Actually, both Imes and Kemp are coming off loses in their last races from 2006. Imes fell short of his bid to be Calloway County-judge executive.

But 2006 was a much better election season for Democrats, even on the local level, than 2012 in Kentucky. And in an October interview with Pure Politics, Imes said his past experience and current party affiliation are the right combination:

Kemp, in an interview last month, said voters should be wary of Imes for switching parties from a Democrat to a Republican, back to a Democrat and then to be a Republican again.

He said he doesn’t think voters in district, which covers Calloway and western Trigg counties, will cast their ballots in the race based on how they feel about the presidential candidates.

Both candidates have business backgrounds. Imes farmed and ran funeral homes in the area. Kemp founded a medical technology company, and after he sold that, he purchased the local Dairy Queen, which still uses the old soft-serve formula and is an old-school walk-up style joint that’s only open from March through October.

The two said the Kentucky Purchase region needs lawmakers to fight for road construction funds and state money for Murray State, which has seen its tuition go up four times in 12 years as state support has slipped.

Imes, who served as deputy secretary of the Natural Resources and Environment Cabinet under GOP Gov. Ernie Fletcher, said he has been disappointed with the lack of attention Frankfort has given western Kentucky over the past 30 years.


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