Special election hangover for House Democrats brings consternation over shrinking majority

12/11/2013 06:46 PM

State House Republicans emerged Wednesday with another member added to their ranks and an added swagger as they continue their slow creep to within sniffing distance of tying up or taking control of the state House.

Meanwhile, Democrats rushed to downplay the significance of their candidate’s narrow loss in Tuesday night’s special election in the 7th state House District in Union County and Henderson and Daviess counties.

Republican Suzanne Miles of Owensboro finished 112 votes ahead of Democratic candidate Kim Humphrey of Morganfield, according to unofficial results. Democrats have asked for a recanvass to double-check the vote totals.

Party switching parlor game

With Miles’ win giving Republicans 46 members and cutting the Demcoratic majority to its modern-day low-water mark of 54, that has given rise to the Frankfort parlor game of speculating whether any Democratic incumbents might switch parties now the way Senators Dan Seum and Bob Leeper did in 1999 to give Republicans control of the state Senate.

Democratic House Speaker Greg Stumbo said no:

It’s still a long shot for four or more Democrats to switch parties before the 2014 elections. House Democrats have tried to close ranks and guard against defections by doling out committee chairmanships to Democrats in conservative or swing districts.

And with 2014 being a budget session, switching parties and risking the ire of their former Democratic colleagues could result in fewer projects and programs for their districts.

Republican Party Chairman Steve Robertson declined to comment on the prospect of recruiting any incumbent Democrats to switch.

But he said Miles’ win has “re-energized our folks who are considering running” in other House districts next year.

So that shifts both parties’ focus back to candidate recruitment for the 2014 election with the filing deadline looming on Jan. 28 at 4 p.m.

And Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear, who campaigned for Humphrey in the 7th District, said he believes that district will be competitive again next fall, potentially in a rematch. After all, Miles’ predecessor, Democrat John Arnold, only won re-election in 2012 by five votes. And yesterday’s race was decided by 112.

GOP Looking ahead

Rep. Robert Benvenuti, R-Lexington, told Pure Politics in a studio interview Wednesday that Miles’ win should be a bellwether for 2014.

“She’s in a heavily registered Democratic area, and she talked about Republican principles and she won. You can’t have it any better than that in my opinion,” Benvenuti said. He then outlined what his message will be heading into next year’s election as well as what he thinks the Republicans’ priorities will be should the GOP eventually take control of the House. Watch that 5:00 interview segment:

Some lessons for 2014

Republicans used the 7th House District race to test out their newest technology to track voter turnout — and, thus, the effectiveness of get-out-the-vote efforts — in real time.

Each party is allowed to send vote challengers to the polls to oversee the voting. And they can carry electronic devices. So Republican volunteers serving as challengers electronically cross-checked voters who showed up in Daviess County with their voter rolls to see who was coming out, Robertson said.

That type of technology can alert field organizers to trends, such as where to send volunteers to remind reliable party supporters to go vote.

Meanwhile, party officials offered competing views about the effectiveness of nationalizing the races.

Stumbo said if Republicans try to link Democratic House candidates with President Barack Obama, Democrats can counter in-kind:

But Sen. Sara Beth Gregory, R-Monticello, won a special election a year ago to move from the House to the Senate, told political reporter Nick Storm that Democratic policies from Washington and the Obama administration offer plenty of fertile ground for Republicans to plow.

_- With reporting from Frankfort by Nick Storm and from Northern Kentucky by Don Weber. _

About Ryan Alessi

Ryan Alessi joined cn|2 in May 2010 as senior managing editor and host of Pure Politics. He has covered politics for more than 10 years, including 7 years as a reporter for the Lexington Herald-Leader. Follow Ryan on Twitter @cn2Alessi. Ryan can be reached at 502-792-1135 or ryan.alessi@twcnews.com.


  • Chris Hightower wrote on December 11, 2013 09:31 PM :

    Who in their right mind would attack a Republican candidate for farm subsidies in Democrat/farmer heavy western Kentucky? Good job Kentucky Family Values PAC!

  • Evan Taylor wrote on December 12, 2013 09:16 AM :

    I also think that, while Humphrey was a good candidate in general and raised money, the Democratic party chose a candidate not mindful of the changing Demographics of the new 7th District. Daviess County has the most votes now in the 7th, and yet someone virtually unknown in the majority county was chosen to run. Miles was as well known in her home county as Humprey in hers, but District demographics drove this as much as politics in my view.

  • viewer wrote on December 12, 2013 09:54 AM :

    The dem’s have brought this on themselves. We all want the government to work and to help out our citizens. But the power structure in the dem party has allowed corruption to take over their party and the state as a whole. No leaders in the party stood up and demand Stumbo , Adkins, or Hall to step down from power. Now the public will do what the party never had the guts to do. GOP and Dems deserve a fair and honest government. No one can say what we have had in Frankfort is either…. Power to the People !!! The viewer

  • Cumberland Gap wrote on December 12, 2013 10:36 AM :

    They were not attacked for getting farm subsidies. They were attacked for being deceitful about applying for and getting millions of dollars of government money after saying government spending is out of control and would be the end of America as we know it. No doubt the Rand Paul strategy is effective if not enough voters know about the deceit and hypocrisy of campaigning one way and living-doing the opposite.

  • Ed Marksberry wrote on December 12, 2013 02:07 PM :

    Mr. Taylor is right and I also observed that the Miles Team did a better Grassroots job in my area.
    They had a ton of signs out early and I only saw two or three Humphrey signs in the entire city.
    The Miles Team visited our home at least 3 times whereas the Humphrey team showed up the day before the election.
    It was pretty even on the mailers and tv commercials.

    In my opinion, this election because of the weather and expected low voter turnout was won by the team that researched and targeted the likely voter better.

    I admit as others have suggested, it would have been interesting if the Democratic Party had nominated me as their candidate.

  • Michael Adams wrote on December 12, 2013 05:13 PM :

    The Dems should be scared. They are soon going to have to decide whether to support former State Senator Kathy Stein’s call to investigate Stumbo’s handling of the recent sexual harassment claims. As The Viewer noted, if the Dems continue to support and enable the likes of Stumbo, Adkins, and Hall, they can expect to lose the Kentucky House. And if they support Obama-boy Beshear’s Obamacare exchange, they are also going to have to explain their support for Obamacare to an electorate where Obama didn’t even win 38% of the vote unless you round up. The icing on the cake is that many of the contributors who give money based on who they think will be in power after the given election are going to start redirecting money from the Dems to the Republicans. 2014 looks like it is going to be a great year!

  • Schu Montgomery wrote on December 16, 2013 02:48 PM :

    Bottom Line – Stumbo has blood on his hands from blocking the majority in this state in applying reasonable informed consent requirements on the deadly abortion procedure that rips fully-formed babies apart and destroys women’s lives! THe Pro-life majority will out….Every other state around us passes pro-life legislation. We should,too! In the 70’s and 80’s Kentucky was in the top five in the country for protecting mothers and babies. Thanks to Stumbo and his hentchmen we are stalled – but not for LONG!

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