Top 10 Kentucky state House Races to watch -- July edition

07/06/2014 04:19 PM

State House candidates are gearing up their fundraising efforts and — if they’re aggressive — they’re continuing their door-to-door campaigns.

Republicans must run a near-perfect fall campaign to take control of the House from Democrats. As House Republican leader Jeff Hoover noted in his recent interview with Nick Storm , Republicans are defending 42 seats and need to win nine more from a combination of open districts and Democratic-held seats.

Following up on the initial list of top 10 House races from just after the primary, here’s the latest installment of the Pure Politics state House race rankings. (Previous rankings are in parenthesis.)

1. (1) The 49th District, open seat:
Mike Nemes, Republican, vs. Linda Belcher, Democrat — both from Shepherdsville

This battle of former representatives remains the marquee matchup of the fall. And it’s essential to Republicans’ efforts to take control of the House. If they can’t win this newly created open district, which is shaped like a padlock, in the increasingly conservative and libertarian Bullitt County, then the GOP won’t win enough seats to take the House. Nemes is a hard worker, but so far is slower on the fundraising. He trails Belcher in fundraising. She has raised nearly $30,000 compared to $15,000 for Nemes.

2. (3) The 13th District, Democratic-held seat:
Rep. Jim Glenn, D-Owensboro vs. Alan Braden, Republican from Owensboro

Republicans think they are close to unseating Glenn with Braden, a financial analyst and former Owensboro city commissioner. Many Republicans are convinced Glenn would have lost two years to except his challenger, Bill Barron, was a registered independent who didn’t benefit from straight-ticket Republican voters. As a result, Glenn won by
251 votes after winning by just 206 votes in 2010. Glenn has a slight edge in money heading into the general election with nearly $28,000 compared to about $22,000 for Braden, according to the 30-day post-primary reports.

3. (4) The 55th House District, Republican-held seat:
Rep. Kim King, R-Harrodsburg, vs. Jacqueline Coleman, Democrat from Nicholasville

Democrats have the one Democrat who could possibly win this generally conservative district – if a Democrat can win at all. Coleman, a teacher in Jessamine County, grew up in Mercer County, the daughter of former state Rep. Jack Coleman. And she has made early inroads into Washington County, which is the closest to a Democratic county as the district gets. King, though, shows up everywhere and will be tough to out-work. King, first elected in 2010, trails Coleman, an Emerge Kentucky graduate, in funding heading into the general election, $36,000 to $22,000, according to the 30-day post-primary election. And since that reporting deadlinee, Gov. Steve Beshear already has hosted a fundraiser for Coleman.

4. (7) The 3rd House District, Democratic-held seat:
Rep. Gerald Watkins, D-Paducah, vs. Randy Bridges, Republican from Paducah

With the Republicans’ success in western Kentucky in recent years, freshman Democratic lawmaker Watkins is a prime GOP target. The Republicans’ hopes rest on Bridges, a local realtor. Watkins, a former Paducah commissioner, is philosophically conservative, particularly on social issues. Both candidates have about $13,000 in the bank.

5. (NR) The 78th House District, Democratic-held seat:
Rep. Tom McKee, D-Cynthiana, vs.
Another potentially vulnerable Democratic incumbent is Rep. Tom McKee of Cynthiana. McKee, who was first elected in 1996, saw his district redrawn during the 2013 special session to lose Robertson County and the rural Campbell County precincts he had represented. The district keeps Harrison and Pendleton County and stretches into eastern Scott County to pick up some Georgetown precincts. McKee feels good about the new voters in Scott County, where his son is a popular high school football coach. But he has a tough opponent in Falmouth Mayor Mark Hart, who also is a firefighter and paramedic. Pendleton County could be a wildcard, considering its Republicans have been leaning more toward the tea party as evidenced by Matt Bevin’s win in the county over U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell in the spring’s GOP U.S. Senate primary. For an incumbent, McKee doesn’t have much money on hand, reporting less than $9,500. Hart has $10,350.

6. (2) The 32nd District, open seat:
Phil Moffett, Republican, vs. Ashley Miller, Democrat — both from Louisville

Moffett is getting fundraising help Monday from U.S. Sen. Rand Paul. It’s a signal that the GOP is taking nothing for granted in trying to keep the seat that has been in GOP hands for several decades. Moffett spent most of the $40,000 he raised in the primary against Shellie May and starts the general election with about $3,500. Miller had the benefit of running unopposed in May and has more than $30,000 in the bank. Miller is a strong contender and, like Coleman in the 55th District, is an Emerge Kentucky graduate. Republicans, though, plan to make a big deal out of Miller’s work with Planned Parenthood, especially to motivate conservatives and Catholics in the district.

7. (6) The 6th House District, Democratic-held seat:
Rep. Will Coursey, D-Symsonia, vs. Keith Travis, Republican from Benton

Democrats feel more confident about Coursey than Watkins when it comes to far western Kentucky incumbents. Coursey, though, has gotten some negative press in the wake of dueling lawsuits that stem from a legislative staffer’s allegations that she was reassigned after complaining about comments Coursey made. He has denied making inappropriate comments, but the case has produced its share of awkwardness for Coursey. With $40,000 in the bank, Coursey has double the money as GOP challenger Keith Travis of Benton. Travis is a hospital executive in Murray.

8. (5) The 50th House District, Republican-held seat:
Rep. David Floyd, R-Bardstown, vs. Audrey Haydon, Democrat from Bardstown

With little fundraising so far in the race, Floyd erased the money deficit in the last month with a $35,000 personal loan to his campaign. Haydon has raised more than $47,000 and has $44,600 on hand. A lawyer from Bardstown and an Emerge Kentucky candidate, she will give Floyd a race. But he has developed a knack for surviving better-funded candidates in the Nelson County district in the past.

9. (10) The 91st House District, Republican-held seat:
Rep. Toby Herald, R-Beattyville, vs. Cluster Howard, Democrat from Jackson

This might not be the most exciting race in the fall. But it should be among the most unpredictable. Herald was a surprise winner in 2012 when he unseated Democratic Rep. Teddy Edmonds. The district, though, has changed and spread out from eastern Madison County through Estill, Lee, Owsley and Breathitt counties. Despite having all those voters to reach, neither candidate has been aggressively fundraising in order to reach them. Herald has about $4,500 on hand, which is 10 times the amount for Howard, a former coal company worker who is now ombudsman at Hazard Community and Technical College.

10. (NR) The 10th House District, open
Alan Claypool, Republican, vs. Dean Schamore, Democrat

Democrats have high hopes that they can win this district, which had been held by Republican Rep. Dwight Butler of Harned, who is retiring. The district has shrunk to cover Hancock and Breckinridge counties and part of Hardin County. Hancock has been reliably Democratic. In fact, it was one of the few counties in Kentucky Barack Obama won. Democratic candidate Dean Schamore is a small businessman and a military veteran who is likely to paint Republican Alan Claypool as too extreme for the district. Claypool, who wasn’t Butler’s pick for the GOP nomination this spring, describes himself as “liberty-minded” and has cultivated more tea party support. An Owensboro native, he runs a business consulting company. He ended the primary with $4,000 in the bank. Schamore ended with $26,000.

Just out of the top 10:

  • The 35th House District*
    Rep. Jim Wayne, D-Louisville, vs. Carl Nett, Republican from Louisville
    Wayne has been safely entrenched in the Nett is banking on taking Wayne surprise similar to the way that Wayne unseated Nett’s father in 1990. Nett has built up a campaign fund of more than $55,000 and starts the general election with $38,000. Wayne, meanwhile, has less than $12,000.
  • The 53rd House District:*
    Kent Stevens, Democrat, vs. James Tipton, Republican from Taylorsville
    Expect the race for the district in Anderson and Spencer counties and a piece of Bullitt to be on the cusp of the Top 10 most of the fall.
  • The 7th House District:*
    Rep. Suzanne Miles, R-Owensboro vs. John Warren, Democrat
    Miles has blistered Warren in fundraising and is in control of her own destiny.

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