Majority Rules: Kentucky State Legislative Races to Watch
Election day is two weeks away, and with only one competitive Congressional race (6th District with Congressman Ben Chandler and Andy Barr) and no statewide races on the ballot, this year's politics will definitely be local. Republicans are trying to take control of the state House this year. They need 10 seats to do so. Meanwhile, Democrats are trying to pick up a few Senate seats to bolster their slim minority. Below are the races to watch, by region, in these legislative contests.
Control of the state House will likely be won in this region, the far western part of the state. Four House seats are open contests and so is a Senate seat.
House 2nd District (OPEN): Kelly Whitaker (D) v. Richard Heath (R) -- This is an open seat, previously held by a Democrat. It is a key target for Republicans, but Democrats are viciously defending it. Whitaker has received $10,000 each from the Kentucky Democratic Party and the House Democratic Caucus to win the seat.
House 3rd District (OPEN): Gerald Watkins (D) v. Jason Crockett (R) -- This seat is being vacated by a Republican and it's key to the GOP growing its influence in the region. Democrats want to pick it up to offset any potential losses in the area. Watkins has received $13,000 combined from the KDP and the Democratic caucus.
House 4th District (OPEN): Raymond Giannini (D) v. Lynn Bechler (R) -- Another key Democratic seat that the GOP is targeting heavily. Bechler has received $1,000 from U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell's political action committee, which is a tell-tale sign of GOP support.
House 5th District (OPEN): Hal Kemp (D) v. Kenny Imes (R) -- An open seat Democrats have held since the previous representative switched parties years ago. Republicans are itching to take the seat back. If the GOP has won the three previous races mentioned, plus this one, their goal of winning a majority looks solid.
Senate 1st District (OPEN): Carroll Hubbard (D) v. Stan Humphries (R) -- Hubbard is a former Congressman who has been itching to get back into elected office for a while. Both men are well-funded, but Democrats need this seat to help offset any potential losses elsewhere.
Bowling Green/Western Kentucky
If Republicans start winning these seats, control of the House is coming down to the wire.
House 7th District (Henderson, West Owensboro): State Rep. John Arnold (D) v. Tim Kline (R) -- Democrats are defending this seat well with a $10,000 caucus donation to Arnold. But Republicans see this as their gateway to the far west.
House 13th District (Owensboro): State Rep. Jim Glenn (D) v. Bill Barron (I) -- Here's a curveball, the challenger isn't a Republican. But Barron has quickly been adopted by House Republicans and has been siding with quite a few on them on policy issues. This race is important enough that Glenn has had fundraisers in Louisville, Lexington and a dessert in Owensboro with Governor Steve Beshear. He's also received $23,000 combined from the KDP and his caucus. Barron's financial reports is like reading a who's who of Republican donors.
House 16th District (West of Bowling Green): State Rep. Martha Jane King (D) v. Chris Hightower (R) -- Hightower is the archetypal Tea Party candidate: he was U.S. Senator Rand Paul's first campaign manager. King is a well-known Democrat who thought about making the jump to the state Senate before the state Supreme Court threw out the maps.
House 20th District (Bowling Green): State Rep. Jody Richards (D) v. Regina Webb (R) -- Former Speaker of the House Jody Richards may seem like a surprise here, but the House Democratic Caucus has given him $20,000. Richards has a huge campaign war chest that should help keep him in office. But Webb has the most exposure thanks to running for state Senate in 2010. And in state House races, sometimes money isn't everything.
Greater Louisville Area
Another battleground, much like West Kentucky. GOP is targeting hard here, but also has to defend recent pickups and members in surrounding counties to Louisville.
House 27th District: State Rep. Jeff Greer (D) v. Dalton Jantzen (R) -- In 2010, Jantzen took Greer to the wire. Now he's back to finish the job. Greer has been a help to the governor's education initiatives for the last several years, especially with the dropout bill. The battle for this Meade County seat should be close again.
House 28th District: State Rep. Charlie Miller (D) v. Corey Koeneller (R) -- Miller has been a target for Louisville Republicans for a long time. But they can never seem to knock him out of the office. But in order to take control of the state House, Koeneller has to win.
House 38th District: State Rep. Mike Nemes (R) v. Denny Butler (D) -- This is one of the biggest targets for Democrats. Nemes was a surprise victory for Republicans in 2010 and Butler is well known in this South Louisville district. His father once held this seat and his sister is a well-known Metro Council member. This could see a recount.
House 49th District: State Rep. Linda Belcher (D) v. Russell Webber (R) -- The GOP also likely sees this Bullitt County district as a pickup. Belcher has gained some attention for helping pass many tough-on-drugs bills the last few years. A Webber victory would help the GOP in its quest to surround Louisville with GOP members.
House 50th District: State Rep. David Floyd (R) v. Dick Heaton (D) -- Floyd represents parts of Bullitt, Spencer and Nelson counties and use to be in GOP leadership in the House. But Heaton is a surprise for the Democrats and the race appears to be getting a little nasty. Losing Floyd's seat would greatly hamper the GOP's ability to gain a majority.
Senate 37th District: State Sen. Perry Clark (D) v. Chris Thieneman (R) The second of three competitive State Senate races is the key GOP pickup in the Senate. Even before Clark was elected in a special election in 2006, Republicans have pined for this seat. Now, Clark is facing a massive disadvantage in fundraising to the Republican businessman. But the KDP is running TV ads criticizing Thieneman as well.
Two key races here in a GOP stronghold. If both turn red on Election Day, the stronghold becomes a Republican fortress.
House 61st District (OPEN): Wanda Hammons (D) v. Brian Linder (R) -- Democrats have long held this seat, but Republicans see their opening to take it. Both candidates are getting lots of help from their respective parties. This may be one of the easiest pick-ups for the GOP, considering how much they own Northern Kentucky. But if Hammons wins, things are going very bad for Republicans.
House 67th District: State Rep. Dennis Keene (D) v. Adam Haas (R) -- Keene is now one of two Democrats that represent Northern Kentucky in the state House. Republicans want to narrow that number to one. Democrats recently enlisted the governor's help for Keene for a public announcement on an important road project. Likely a victory for the Democrats, but they are sweating over it.
Central and Eastern Kentucky
Only a few targeted races in both of these regions combined. But those that are could be the difference when it comes to having a majority.
House 56th District: State Rep. Kim King (R) v. Kent Stevens (D) -- In 2010, King swept Stevens out of office. Now, Stevens wants his job back. Democrats view this as a key pickup to help end GOP chances of a majority.
House 73rd District: State Rep. Donna Mayfield (R) v. JoEllen Reed (D) -- Another pickup target by Democrats. Reed is getting as much help by her party as most incumbents are. But Mayfield is not getting the same from the GOP. Both Mayfield and King were in a group of Republican women who won in 2010. Democrats want to pair them together again on the way out in 2012.
Senate 21st District (OPEN): Albert Robinson (R) v. Amie Hacker (D) -- This is a reliable GOP district, but many are upset with the nomination of Robinson, a former state senator who was defeated for this seat by its previous occupant, Tom Jensen. Democrats are hoping that discontent over Robinson returning to the state Senate is enough to get Hacker to win an upset.