State Senate update: Open 34th district attracts big-name help for both candidates

08/30/2010 08:08 AM

In the 34th state Senate District, top brass in both parties are turning out to help Republican Jared Carpenter and Democrat Lee Murphy in the race to replace retiring Senate Democratic Leader Ed Worley of Richmond.

Republicans see the 34th District, which covers Madison, Lincoln and Rockcsastle counties, as one of their best chances to pick up a Democratic-held seat and pad their majority. Republicans control the Senate 20-17 with one independent who usually sides with the majority.

Senate President David Williams said the voter registration numbers in the district make it the most favorable district to Republicans that the GOP doesn’t already represent. It has 39,410 Democrats and 35,062 Republicans.

So Carpenter is receiving help from some of the biggest names in the Kentucky Republican Party.

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell recently held a fundraiser for him and 5th District U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers of Somerset will help fundraise in September, Carpenter told cn|2 Politics.

“McConnell says this is a great seat and thinks I can win,” Carpenter said. “I’m fortunate to have them help.”

Carpenter is also getting help from other state Senate Republicans, including Sen. Damon Thayer of Georgetown.

Jared Carpenter, Republican candidate for 34th state Senate District

“If I need them to come, they’ll come,” Carpenter said.

A 33-year-old banker, Carpenter has strong roots in the district. He grew up in Madison County and played basketball for Eastern Kentucky University. He now works for First Southern National Bank, which was founded by prominent Lincoln County Republican Jess Correll.

Carpenter estimates that he’ll need $150,000 to win the general election and put the seat into Republican hands. Carpenter raised more than $66,000 this spring on his way to winning a three-candidate Republican primary.

But Democrats aren’t giving the seat up easily. Murphy has lined up former and current governors as well as some key Senate Democrats for various fundraisers over the next few weeks, Murphy told cn|2 Politics.

“Ed Worley has helped me a lot,” Murphy said. “He’s made a lot of phone calls, he’s opening a lot of doors for me. Julian Carroll has done a lot of speaking for me.”

Murphy also plans to have Gov. Steve Beshear to help with fundraising, in addition to Worley and Carroll, the former governor who now represents Franklin and Woodford counties in the Senate.

Murphy also said Lt. Gov. Dan Mongiardo has offered to help him raise money. Mongiardo has kept a low political profile since losing a Democratic

Lee Murphy, Democratic candidate for 34th state Senate district

primary for U.S. Senate to Jack Conway.

Mongiardo has committed to headlining at least one fundraiser for Murphy, coming through on an offer Mongiardo made to Murphy on primary night, Murphy said.

“Dan texted me right after my primary win and said anyway he can help me he would,” Murphy told cn|2 Politics.

Murphy declined to say how much money he thinks it will take for Democrats to keep the seat.  He raised slightly less than $20,000, which was just enough to edge two other Democrats in the May 18 primary.

Murphy, 48, is a business owner whose interest in politics dates back to when he interned for then-Gov. Martha Layne Collins in the mid-1980s.

On the trail, both candidates plan to tout their abilities and ideas on job creation. And both said they understand how much this race could matter for the make-up of next year’s state Senate.

“I’m starting to get the sense of how big this race is,” Carpenter said. “But I hope people look beyond the Democrat and Republican labels and get the right person in.”

- Kenny Colston

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