State House races: Democrats hold 54-46 majority

11/04/2014 06:20 PM

11:45 p.m. FINAL TALLY — Kentucky Democrats retained their 54-46 majority after Republican Rep. Lynn Bechler handily won reelection in the end.

The closest race came down to 14 votes, as Republican Rep. Toby Herald of Beattyville narrowly lost to Democrat Cluster Howard in the 91st House District.

10:45 p.m. ALMOST FINAL TALLY — The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Democrats appear to have held a 54-46 majority after splitting open seat contests with Republicans and knocking off incumbent Rep. Toby Herald by a slight 14-vote margin.

Republicans picked up three of the six open seats and defeated two Democratic incumbents, Reps. Richard Henderson of Mt. Sterling and Jimmie Lee of Elizabethtown.

Democrats had 52 incumbents up for reelection and Republicans 42, with six contested open seats.

One race to keep an eye on is in the 4th House District, where Republican Rep. Lynn Bechler is in a race against Jarrod Jackson, winning by less than 1 percent with half of the district’s counties reporting.

10:30 p.m. — The Republican push to wrest control of the state House from Democratic control has subsided, as Democrats appear to have held three seats key to a Republican takeover and picked up another open seat in the 10th House District.

But Democrats have lost a pair of incumbents, with Rep. Jimmie Lee of Elizabethtown losing to Republican Jim DuPlessis by a slim 1-point margin and Rep. Richard Henderson of Mt. Sterling losing to Republican David Hale by 6 percent.

That gives Democrats more than 51 seats, even with the incumbent losses.

Democratic Reps. Jim Glenn of Owensboro, Gerald Watkins of Paducah and Will Coursey of Symsonia leading their reelection efforts with few precincts remaining.

House Majority Floor Leader Rocky Adkins, speaking earlier Tuesday, said he was confident in his party’s chances of holding majority control of the chamber. Democrats currently have a 54-46 lead on Republicans.

“They’ve worked tremendously hard during this whole cycle going into the general election, and I feel good about it,” said Adkins, D-Sandy Hook. “Our candidates themselves have worked very hard, they’ve raised the money they’ve had to. We as a House Democratic caucus have worked very hard coordinating and working with them, putting money into their campaigns.”

8:45 p.m. — Democrat Russ Meyer of Nicholasville has won the open 39th House District seat, beating Republican Jonah Mitch by 12 points.

Republican Rep. Kim King has cruised to a 30-point victory over Democrat Jacqueline Coleman.

8:30 p.m. — Republican Rep. Kevin Bratcher of Louisville told Pure Politics that his Democratic challenger, Dave Stengel, conceded the race before 8 p.m.

Bratcher knew he was a target for Democrats, but Stengel’s plan to make the race about his status as a “low-key” legislator didn’t gain traction with the electorate. Bratcher said the race proves he can work behind the scenes and get things done without being divisive.

8:00 p.m. roundup — Republican Alan Claypool is up on Democrat Dean Schamore 1,559 votes to 1,263 in the 10th House District open seat.

Republican Jim DuPlessis holds a slim 161-vote lead on Democratic Rep. Jimmie Lee of Elizabethtown.

Republican Rep. Kevin Bratcher of Louisville is up 4,196 votes to 3,712 to Democrat Dave Stengel. The Courier-Journal’s Tom Loftus reports Stengel has conceded defeat in the race.

Republican Phil Moffett of Louisville has gained a 180-vote lead on Democrat Ashley Miller.

Republican Jonah Mitchell leaders Democrat Russ Meyer by 118 votes in the open 39th House District.

Democratic Rep. Darryl Owens of Louisville trails Republican Corley Everett by three votes.

Rep. Bob DeWeese, R-Louisville, has a nearly 1,000-vote lead on Democrat Gretchen Hunt.

Republican Rep. Kim King of Harrodsburg is up on Democrat Jacqueline Coleman by 3,029 votes.

Democratic Rep. James Kay of Versailles leads Republican Ryan Schwartz by 520 votes.

Republican David Hale pulls ahead of Democratic Rep. Richard Henderson of Mt. Sterling by 1,060 votes.

Republican Rep. Toby Herald is beating Democrat Cluster Howard by 806 votes.

7:45 p.m. — Former Democratic Rep. Linda Belcher will rejoin her colleagues in the state House, beating former Rep. Mike Nemes in the 49th House District open seat by 6 percent.

Belcher, of Shepherdsville, earned 6,675 votes compared to 5,938 for Nemes, who recently moved to the district after losing in 2012 to Democratic Rep. Denny Butler of Louisville.

7:30 p.m. — House Republican Leader Jeff Hoover told the crowd that the House races are “moving in the right direction … and hopefully will come down here a little bit later and announce there’s a new majority in the Kentucky House of Representatives.”

Just before taking the stage, Hoover, R-Jamestown, told Pure Politics that he had initial vote totals from the 25th District in Hardin County, where he said Republican Jim DuPlessis is leading Democratic Rep. Jimmie Lee of Elizabethtown in several precincts and absentee ballots. And he said Republican David Hale was leading Democratic Rep. Richard Henderson in Powell, Montgomery and Menifee counties.

Hoover said just because McConnell appears poised for a wide margin of victory doesn’t automatically mean a national wave will carry Republicans in state House races because in past elections, “those races have proven to be more local.” But he said initial signs are promising if incumbents such as Lee are in jeopardy of being upset.

6:47 p.m. — Republican challenger David Hale of Wellington is beating state Rep. Richard Henderson, D-Mt. Sterling, in the 74th House District’s absentee voting by 81 votes, according to Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown.

6:41 p.m. — State Rep. Ryan Quarles, R-Georgetown, is leading Democrat Chuck Tackett in Owen County absentee returns 134-99, Thayer said.

6:18 p.m. — House Republicans have long tried to wrest control of the chamber from Democratic hands for the first time since 1921, and they’ll need to pickup nine seats to do so with 52 Democrats and 42 Republicans on the ballot alongside six open seats.

But Democrats are optimistic that they’ll gain a seat or two for their 54-46 majority. They point to the quality crop of candidates they recruited this election cycle, including a handful of Emerge Kentucky graduates.

Republicans will not only need to fare well in the open seats and knock off a few incumbents to gain the majority, but also defend their incumbents in competitive races. A few among the GOP ranks appear to be in tight contests this cycle.

Republican Party of Kentucky Chairman Steve Robertson called the race between Democratic Rep. Richard Henderson of Mt. Sterling and David Hale of Wellington in the 74th House District a potential bellwether election, and he’s keeping tabs on the race between Republican Rep. Ryan Quarles of Georgetown and Democrat Chuck Tackett in the 62nd House District.

“They’ve really gone hard after a handful of our incumbents, so we’ve got to look and see how much, if any, loss we may have,” Robertson said. “… We’re convinced there are a lot of close races out there, and it could be a long night as we sort out the vote totals and see which side we fall on, but both sides have been very aggressive. I’ve got to give Speaker Stumbo and my counterpart Dan Logsdon some credit.

“They came to play. We also came to play, so we’re just going to see how it works out later tonight.”

Reporting by Ryan Alessi at the Republican Party of Kentucky Election Night event in Louisville

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Pure Politics airs Monday through Friday at 7 p.m. ET and again at 11:30 p.m. ET in all of cn|2's Kentucky markets. The program features political analysis and news, as well as interviews with officials, candidates, policy makers and political observers.

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