Strong GOP showing in Central Kentucky takes House Democrats by surprise

11/03/2010 03:42 AM

2011 Kentucky state House: 58 Democrats to 42 Republicans

Democratic House leaders tried to put a positive spin on Tuesday’s elections by essentially saying, “it could have been worse.”

Coming into the election, Democrats had amassed a 30-seat advantage over Republicans. But the spread is now down to 16 after the GOP picked up 7 Democratic-held seats, thanks in no small part to strong Republican showing in Central Kentucky.

House Democratic Caucus Chairman Bob Damron said it was an accomplishment to still have a 58-42 majority after an election year that has been unkind to incumbents and particularly Democrats.

“We did win a bunch of races we were worried about,” Damron said, referring to re-election wins by Reps. Johnny Bell in Glasgow,Linda Belcher in Shepherdsville and Jim Glenn in Owensboro, to name a few. Belcher and Glenn, however, both were ahead by razor-thin margins.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo issued a statement saying he was “proud” the Democrats have close to the 60-seat threshold that they’ve been either above or just below for decades.

“It was a tsunami not of our making, but we were able to ride the wave rather than be swept away by it,” Stumbo said. “When the dust settles, you’ll find that where other state legislatures trended Republican, the Kentucky House held strong. I’m very proud of that.”

But just last week, state House Democratic floor leader Rocky Adkins of Sandy Hook confidently said on Pure Politics that Democrats would keep at least 60 seats.

Democrats took a huge hit in Central Kentucky, which seemed to take them by surprise. They lost three members in that region, including two veteran lawmakers:

  • Rep. Don Pasley of Winchester lost his bid for a sixth term by 6 points to Donna Mayfield, a Republican and administrative assistant in the Clark County Sheriff’s office.
  • Rep. Charlie Hoffman of Georgetown was seeking an eighth term but lost to Ryan Quarles, a 27-year-old recent law school graduate and former member of the Council on Postsecondary Education.
  • And also losing in Central Kentucky was freshman Rep. Kent Stevens of Lawrenceburg, who was defeated by Kim King of Mercer County.

Republicans fared very well in Central Kentucky and it’s 16 counties that make up the 6th congressional district. That’s where GOP challenger Andy Barr has taken Democratic U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler of Versailles down to the wire in Chandler’s bid for a fourth full term in Washington.

And U.S. Senate candidate Rand Paul defeated Democrat Jack Conway, 128,275 to 112,599, in the 6th congressional district.

“Rand Paul ran extremely well here. Republicans were very involved in getting out the vote — that speaks volumes,” said Damron, who represents the conservative Jessamine County and part of Fayette County. “In my district, Paul and Barr both won by margins of 9,000 to about 5,500, and I still prevailed by 1,350-1,400 votes.”

In addition to the trio from Central Kentucky, House Democrats lost two seats in Louisville: one held by retiring Rep. Ron Weston and the one represented by Rep. Tim Firkins.

In the 37th District once represented by Weston, Democratic candidate Jeff Donohue was disqualified after a judge ruled that his candidate filing papers had an improper signature of someone who lives outside the district. That cleared the way for Republican Wade Hurt to win the seat.

And in the 38th District, Republican Mike Nemes narrowly defeated Firkins, who curtailed his campaigning down the stretch because of a death in his family.

Also in the House:

  • Republican Ben Waide won the 10th District seat that was vacated by retiring Democratic Rep. Eddie Ballard.
  • And Rep. Dottie Sims, a Democrat from Horse Cave, lost to Republican Michael Meredith, who at 25 will be the youngest state lawmaker.

Democrat Rita Smart won in the 81st District to replace Rep. Harry Moberly, D-Richmond. And Republican Julie Raque Adams of Louisville will succeed Republican Rep. Scott Brinkman, who chose not to run again.

House Republican floor leader Jeff Hoover of Jamestown issued a statement Tuesday touting the GOP victories.

“We appreciate the confidence of Kentucky voters in choosing to elect more Republicans to the Kentucky House,” Hoover said. “The results are proof that people trust the House Republican caucus to make government more accountable to taxpayers by reducing wasteful spending and bringing transparency to Frankfort.”

- Ryan Alessi


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