Who had the most influence on Kentucky politics in 2013? Find out ...

12/31/2013 10:15 AM

As 2013 unfurled, two themes about Kentucky politics became evident: the U.S. Senate race would be a barn-burner and leaders in Frankfort could work together after all.

And two people had more influence on those two themes than anyone else.

By announcing July 1 that she would run for the U.S. Senate, Democratic Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes ensured that Kentucky would be a major battleground in 2014 as national and state Democrats seek to unseat the Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell.

After years of putting up flawed Democratic contenders against McConnell, Democrats believe they have their strongest contender yet at a time when McConnell’s job approval numbers signal McConnell might be the most vulnerable.

Yes, McConnell also has drawn a primary challenge from Matt Bevin. But that contest has yet to develop the sizzle that the Grimes-versus-McConnell match-up has. And Grimes’s announcement to run — at a time when every other high-profile Kentucky Democrat passed on the Senate race — was, itself, an interesting story. Here’s a profile of how Grimes shook up the campaign calculus in Kentucky heading into 2014:

Meanwhile, in Frankfort, legislators over and over again declared it was a “new day.”

That “new” part was brought by Republican Senate President Robert Stivers, who took the president’s gavel in January after succeeding David Williams.

Stivers then moved to strengthen the Republican Senate caucus by seeking more input from committee chairmen and the caucus members, themselves. And he established a working relationship with Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear as the two negotiated over major issues.

As a result they approved a long overdue reform to ensure that the state paid its full contribution into the Kentucky Retirement System.

And lawmakers finally approved new redistricting maps. Here’s the effect Stivers had on Frankfort in 2013:

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