Washington, D.C.-based GOP group targeting nine races to flip state House

10/26/2014 01:59 PM

Kentuckians in nine targeted state House districts are about to get a case of Potomac fever as hundreds of thousands of dollars in mailers and digital and television ads will soon begin flooding into nine targeted races against Democrats.

The Republican State Leadership Committee, a Washington, D.C.-based GOP group focused on electing down-ballot Republicans, has already been active in several state House races and now will be begin launching a series of attacks in close races.

“Our ads are educating voters on the stark contrasts between the old, broken, out-of-touch liberal policies found in Frankfort and the new, open, innovative platforms of conservative candidates running in Kentucky,” a press official for the group told Pure Politics.

The move comes as Democrats in the state House currently sit at their slimmest majority in years with only 54 members in the 100-seat chamber. However, the Democrats are known for holding on in recent election cycles, and they’ve controlled the lower chamber since 1921 — the only Democratic-controlled House in the Southern U.S.

The RSLC is focusing on two races in western Kentucky: the 3rd House District, where first-year incumbent Rep. Gerald Watkins, D-Paducah, is facing Republican Randy Bridges, and the 6th House District, where Rep. Will Coursey, D-Symsonia, is facing Republican Keith Travis, an executive at Murray-Calloway County Hospital.

In a new television ad against Coursey, the group references dueling lawsuits involving Coursey’s former legislative secretary, who accused him of retaliation after she confronted him about sexually suggestive remarks he made to a Legislative Research Commission intern and other staffers. Coursey has filed a countersuit claiming defamation.

“Will Coursey blamed the victim and left tax payers with a huge bill from the scandal,” a narrator says in the ad.

The ad cites a November 2013 article from the Courier-Journal as claim pointing to $115,000, which was requested by the LRC to defend the agency in sexual harassment lawsuits brought by three legislative staffers, including Coursey’s former secretary, in the John Arnold scandal.

The ad also references a budget vote to increase spending by $300,000,000 and $1 billion debt. The bill was the House Democrats’ version of the budget voted on in March.

“Will Coursey. Big Spender. Big taxer. Questionable ethics,” a narrator says in the ad.

Matt Wyatt from Matt Wyatt & Company, a Democratic political consultant who is not working on Coursey’s reelection bid, said he though the ads will have little effect.

“These ads show nothing new to voters. Everyone in the 6th District knows Rep. Will Coursey. He has worked hard and delivered for his district. This ad will backfire,” Wyatt said. “The real question is how effective any of these outside groups will be in this election. Outside groups are not accountable to the voters or to the candidate that they are trying to elect. I call these ads from out of state groups ‘drive-by ads.’

“The intention is to try to kill a candidate during the last weeks of a race and leave town. The voters in the 6th District, like the voters in the other districts where these ads are going up, will not be fooled.”

The group is also targeting the races of Democratic Nicholasville Mayor Russ Meyer, who is vying for the open 39th House District seat, and Rep. Terry Mills, who is seeking a third term in the 24th House District, with television ads.

In the already contentious election campaign in the 23rd District between five-term incumbent Rep. Johnny Bell, D-Glasgow, and Republican Jeff Jobe, the RSLC is taking the kitchen-sink approach with a variety of attacks in one spot.

The ad says Bell, an attorney, “represented a convicted murderer. Stood with drug traffickers — even a member of a Mexican cartel. Then Bell represented someone accused of sexually abusing an underage family member.”

“While Johnny Bell was fighting for criminals, he too failed to follow the law. In 2011 Bell was hit with a $250,000 federal tax lien, and three years later he still had not paid his fair share,” a narrator says in the ad. “Johnny Bell: He fights for them, not us.”

Bell was hit with the same tax lien claims in an advertisement from Jobe airing in the district.

The Glasgow Daily Times reported last week that Bell has said the man who prepared his taxes during the years in question, Greg Denham, “pleaded guilty in 2012 to 35 counts of aiding and assisting in the preparation of false U.S. income tax returns for other people.” Planning to sell some cattle and farm machinery, Bell told the newspaper he was working to pay off the lien.

Bell was unavailable for comment on Sunday.

There are also several candidates being hit with targeted mailers, which all carry the same charge: They’re “too liberal for Kentucky,” according to the group which operates more than 500 miles away.

The Democratic candidates who have been and will continue to see mailers in their districts include: Jimmie Lee of Elizabethtown; former Rep. Linda Belcher, who is seeking office in the newly crafted 49th House District; Kent Stevens, who is running for the open 53rd House District seat covering Anderson and Spencer counties and a portion of Bullitt County; and House Agriculture Committee Chair Rep. Tom McKee.


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