February 3, 2014

State legislative races set


FRANKFORT — Kentucky Republicans think they’ve waited long enough — it has been 90 years since they controlled the state House of Representatives — and they want to “flip the House in 2014.”

That’s where the attention will be in state races this year. Democrats have virtually no shot at reversing Republican control of the state Senate, though it is mathematically possible.

Democrats currently hold a 54-46 edge in the state House and re-districting this year eliminated two districts previously held by Republicans.

Republicans are challenging incumbent House Democrats in 30 districts while Democrats are challenging 20 Republican incumbents, so it won’t be a cakewalk if Republicans seize control.

“It’s a tough challenge. I understand that,” said House Minority Leader Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, “But I certainly think it’s within our sights. We’re in a better position this year than at any time anyone can remember.”

Republicans pin part of their hopes on the unpopularity of Democratic President Barack Obama, but Obama isn’t on this year’s ballot. But Republicans think they’ll do well with Republican U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell heading the ticket as he runs for re-election.

Hoover’s counterpart, Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, sees it differently. He thinks the popularity of Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear will boost his candidates and thinks McConnell will be a hindrance to Hoover’s.

“Well, (Beshear) is awfully popular in the state and people like him,” Stumbo said. “I would expect (Democratic) candidates would want to be seen with him. And McConnell is going to be a real drag for a lot of their candidates.”

In all there will be 24 primary elections in 23 districts — 13 Republican and 11 Democratic.

Democrats will challenge incumbent Republicans Richard Heath, Lynn Bechler and Kenny Imes out west, but Republicans will pose challenges to Democratic incumbents Gerald Watkins, Will Coursey and David Watkins as well. Republican Suzanne Miles of Owensboro, who won a December special election in the 7th District, will also see a Democratic challenger, John Warren. Both are from Owensboro.

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