Read the absentee ballot tea leaves: They're down statewide but up in certain areas

05/17/2010 08:10 PM

Absentee ballots that were turned in through May 14 were down 16 percent statewide from where they were the Friday before the primary in 2006, the last year local offices were on the ballot, according to the Secretary of State’s office.

Les Fugate, communications director for the office, said Monday evening that the absentee voting rates especially were lower in Fayette County and most rural areas. But some key urban areas showed increased early voting: Jefferson (Louisville), Warren (Bowling Green), Daviess (Owensboro), McCracken (Paducah) and the three Northern Kentucky counties of Boone, Kenton and Campbell, Fugate said.

So who does that help?

Clearly that’s open to debate. But here’s how the camps for the four leading U.S. Senate candidates — Republicans Rand Paul and Trey Grayson and Democrats Daniel Mongiardo and Jack Conway — have mapped out their geographic path to victory.

DEMOCRATS:

There are more than 1.6 million registered Democrats. So with the Secretary of State’s office predicting a 30 percent turnout it would mean roughly 485,000 votes.

  • Mongiardo, the Democratic lieutenant governor, has a natural base of support in Eastern Kentucky because he hails from Hazard. He also is popular among Democrats in Western Kentucky. In fact, if the race is close — within 5,000 votes or so — after the eastern time zone votes are counted, Mongiardo supporters say they’re confident he’ll win on the strength of the West, especially the far west of the Purchase Area. A key for Mongiardo will be at least running even with Conway in Central Kentucky. His toughest area looks to be Louisville, where Conway is from. The theory among Mongiardo’s camp is that lower turnout in Jefferson County might help Mongiardo and he can’t get blown out by more than 20 or 25 percentage points, said Kim Geveden, campaign advisor and spokesman.
  • Conway, the state’s attorney general, said he expects to fare better than some might think in Eastern Kentucky, particularly in counties with heavy Democratic populations, such as Pike and Floyd counties.  Those two had more than 30,000 Democratic voters vote in the 2006 primaries. He said he’s banking on high turnout in Louisville and predicted victory in Fayette County. “We’re running twice as many TV ads in Fayette County as we are in Jefferson County,” he said. He also said he’ll do well in  parts of Western Kentucky, including Owensboro and Hopkinsville.


REPUBLICANS:

Kentucky has just over 1 million registered Republicans, so a 30 percent turnout in the GOP primary would mean about 300,000 votes.

  • Grayson, the Republican Secretary of State, has spent a large chunk of his campaigning time in the GOP strongholds in the 5th Congressional District, including Laurel, Knox, Leslie and Pulaski counties, where he’s also had help from U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Somerset. Those four counties accounted for more than 39,500 votes in 2006. Performing well in Jefferson County, where 20,000 voters cast GOP primary ballots four years ago, also is key, he said. The western part of the state in the Central Time Zone, has just a smattering of Republican areas.
  • Paul’s campaign manager David Adams said Paul has seen consistent strength across the state with particular strongholds in Paul’s hometown of Bowling Green, Central Kentucky and in Grayson’s home area of Northern Kentucky. Boone, Kenton and Campbell counties don’t have a great track record of high turnout (Republicans in those counties turned out at about half of the 28 percent level statewide four years ago).  But all three have hotly-contested GOP primaries for local office and the Tea Party movement, which Paul has tapped for support, is a force in those counties.


Tim Havrilek, a Hopkinsville-based campaign media consultant who runs the Underground Rooster blog, talked to county clerks throughout Western Kentucky and has their predictions on turnout in those counties.

- Ryan Alessi

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