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A crowded field of Democrats wants to unseat Republican Sen. Rand Paul this fall, even though Kentucky hasn’t sent a Democrat to the U.S. Senate since 1992.

During an hour-long debate hosted by Simmons College and WHAS-11 Tuesday evening, the six candidates weighed in on how Democrats could turn the political momentum around in Kentucky and declared why they were the best man to beat Paul in the general election.

Lexington Mayor Jim Gray, owner of Gray Construction, said Democrats need to rally around broad economic policies that create jobs.

“The Democratic Party has been at the front edge of raising the economic boat, always,” Gray said, highlighting New Deal-era polices like the Works Progress Administration and infrastructure projects like the interstate highway system.

Gray said Kentuckians would come out to vote for him over Paul because people are tired of “politics as usual.”

“Citizens are tired of the gridlock in Washington, and there is a lot of economic anxiety. All of that translates into a high turnout in the fall,” he said.

Donald Trump Is Coming Back To Louisville

Apr 13, 2016
Jacob Ryan, WFPL

The frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination and controversy magnet Donald Trump is due back in Louisville next month.

He’s scheduled to join Kentucky Sens. Rand Paul and Mitch McConnell, Gov. Matt Bevin and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence at the annual meeting of the National Rifle Association.

The meeting is set for May 19 through May 22 at the Kentucky Exposition Center. Trump is scheduled to speak on Friday, May 20, according to a tweet from the NRA.

Trump’s previous visit to Louisville earlier this year for a campaign rally sparked protests and led to several alleged assaults. Three people who attended the rally have since filed a lawsuit against the business mogul, alleging he incited and encouraged violence.

Sellus Wilder campaign

When they’re running for statewide office, Kentucky Democrats and Republicans usually have something in common: They embrace the state’s coal culture and attack federal regulations of the signature industry.

But Sellus Wilder, a Democrat running a longshot campaign for U.S. Senate this year, wants his party to stop pandering.

“We never have honest conversations on the state of the coal industry,” Wilder said. “Environmental regulation has contributed to the decline of the coal industry, but it’s hardly the most important factor.”

Wilder is running in the crowded seven-person field for the Democratic Senate nomination. The winner will face Sen. Rand Paul in November.

The man to beat in the primary is Lexington Mayor Jim Gray, who, according to his campaign, raised $1.75 million in the first quarter of this year — $1 million of which he loaned to the cause.

Ty Wright / Bloomberg via Getty Images

Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton swept Florida, Illinois, North Carolina and Ohio; Donald Trump, on the Republican side, took home Florida, Illinois and North Carolina.

John Kasich won in his home state of Ohio, keeping alive the dream of a contested Republican convention for those in the GOP who are desperate to stop the rise of Trump.

Bernie Sanders had hoped to upset Clinton in Illinois and Ohio, riding the same wave of white blue-collar voters who took him to the top in Michigan, but couldn't repeat the feat.

Marco Rubio, meanwhile, dropped out after a dismal showing in his home state of Florida.

But there were five states up for grabs on Tuesday — what about Missouri? As of 9:30 a.m., it's still too close to call: the Democratic race has Sanders and Clinton essentially tied, while Trump and Ted Cruz are in a dead heat for the Republicans.

Gerald Herbert / AP

Even though Tuesday may not have more delegates or states in play as Super Tuesday, March 1, it's still a big day, with more than 1,000 delegates at stake. More importantly, the results could end up deciding who the Republican and Democratic presidential candidates will be.

Five states are casting votes on March 15, along with one U.S. territory on the GOP side. For the Republicans, it could be their last chance to stop Donald Trump's march toward the nomination, as the first winner-take-all states begin to vote. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio is trying to topple Trump in Rubio's home state, but a loss would likely prove fatal for his campaign. Ohio Gov. John Kasich is trying to fend Trump off on his home turf, with seemingly more success. Meanwhile, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz hopes he can grow his delegates and continue to make the argument he's the only candidate who could catch Trump.

On the Democratic side, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders hopes his surprise win last week in Michigan means he can make inroads with other Rust Belt voters in Ohio, Illinois and elsewhere. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would like to blunt Sanders's new-found momentum and notch wins in the Midwest.

Coming close no longer cuts it on Tuesday, at least for Republicans. The biggest prizes of the night, Florida and Ohio, are winner-take-all contests. For Republicans in the rest of the states and Democrats in all their contests, delegates will still be awarded proportionally.

Kentucky House Approves Early Voting Bill

Mar 15, 2016
Creative Commons

A bill aimed at boosting voter turnout in Kentucky by allowing early voting without an excuse has been passed by the state House despite some lawmakers’ concerns about strapping county clerks with extra costs.

The measure cleared the House on a 57-37 vote Monday. It now goes to the Senate, where it could face an uphill fight. Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes is a leading supporter of the bill.

The legislation would allow early voting by any Kentucky registered voter at least 12 working days leading up to the Sunday before Election Day. The early voting period would include two Saturdays.

Grimes has said the majority of counties now offer absentee voting on Saturday.

The bill’s opponents said expanded early voting would be a burden for county clerks with small staffs.

Wilfredo Lee / AP

After one more debate among the Republican contenders for president, the postgame conversation was once again dominated by Donald Trump's behavior.

But for once, it was about his good behavior. He did not shout or fulminate, nor did he pout or belittle his opponents or joust with the moderators.

In fact, after an even dozen of these events, all four remaining candidates kept a remarkably even keel at the University of Miami. Their previous two meetings had been rife with personal attacks that, at times, became almost juvenile, but on this night all four seemed intent on elevating the tone and tending to business.

The themes of the night were almost entirely policy oriented, with a few forays into political process and tiffs over who was doing better or more likely to win in November if nominated.

Joe Raedle / Getty Images

Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton had another tense debate Wednesday night in Miami, less than a week before crucial primary contests on March 15.

The latest face-off between the two came as the Vermont senator was riding high from an unexpected victory Tuesday in Michigan. The two clashed over immigration reform, U.S.-Cuba relations and Wall Street policy, and debated their electoral strategy going forward.

Next Tuesday, voters from Florida, Ohio, Missouri, North Carolina and Illinois will cast their ballots.

Here were some of the top moments from the Univision/Washington Post debate broadcast on CNN:

LRC Public Information

After four special elections for vacant state House of Representatives seats on Tuesday, the chamber is still controlled by Democrats.

Despite months of Democratic hand wringing, the party easily won elections in the districts around Hopkinsville, Georgetown and South Shore.

Republicans won the special election in Danville.

Democrat Jeff Taylor, a retired Tennessee Valley Authority official chair, won the 8th District, which includes Hopkinsville.

Republican Daniel Elliott, an attorney and vice chairman of Boyle County’s Republican Party, won the 54th District, which includes Danville.

Democrat Chuck Tackett, a former Scott County magistrate, won the 62nd District, which includes Georgetown.

Scott Olson / Getty Images

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton currently lead the delegate counts for the presidential nomination. But because of the difference in how both parties award their delegates, Clinton's is the more commanding lead.

Tuesday's Democratic contest in Michigan, the biggest prize of the day, is key for Bernie Sanders to show he can turn things around. His campaign has argued that Clinton has ballooned her lead because of black voters in the South.

Now, many of those Southern contests are over (though there is another Tuesday in Mississippi).

But the question remains: Can the Vermont independent senator appeal to Northern black voters? They make up roughly a quarter of Michigan's Democratic electorate. He believes his economic message can resonate with them and working-class whites hurt by trade. Polls, though, have shown the former secretary of state with double-digit leads going into Tuesday.

Michael Vadon/Wikimedia Commons

Businessman Donald Trump narrowly won Kentucky’s Republican Presidential Contest on Saturday, beating Texas Sen. Ted Cruz by 4 percent statewide.

The caucus was originally designed so Rand Paul could run for the White House and Senate re-election at the same time; of course, after a disappointing national run, Paul dropped out of the presidential race last month.

On Monday, Capitol reporter Ryland Barton talked with Warren County’s GOP Chair Scott Lasley, who helped organize the caucus.

Lasley said despite some concerns from voters about access to polling locations and electioneering, the caucus was “definitely more positive than negative at the end of the day.”

Listen to the interview in the player above.

J. Tyler Franklin, WFPL

The outcome of four special elections in Kentucky today could change the political control of the state House of Representatives, the last legislative chamber in the South run by Democrats.

If Republicans win all four elections, they would tie the political makeup of the chamber, where Democrats hold 50 seats and Republicans 46. Democrats have held a majority in the House since 1921.

A Republican sweep would put the party within one vote of controlling both chambers and the governor’s mansion for the first time in state history.

“This would be a fundamental change in the way that Kentucky government operates,” said Al Cross, a Courier-Journal columnist and director of the University of Kentucky’s Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues.

The elections take place in two districts (near Hopkinsville and South Shore) vacated by lawmakers who Gov. Matt Bevin appointed to new positions. Also at stake are two districts (around Danville and Georgetown) where representatives stepped down after being elected to statewide offices.

The winners of the special elections will start immediately and serve out the last 17 days of the legislative session.

Abbey Oldham, WKU Public Radio

U.S. Senator Rand Paul predicts Saturday’s Republican presidential caucus will help his party in Tuesday’s special state House elections.

Four vacant House seats will be decided. A clean sweep by Republicans would create an even 50-50 split in the chamber.

Democrats have controlled the Kentucky House since 1921.

Sen. Paul says Saturday’s caucus gave GOP House candidates an easy way to meet a lot of Republican voters, something the Bowling Green lawmaker believes will pay dividends Tuesday.

"Those candidates stood there and greeted thousands of Republicans. Think how hard it is to go door-to-door and meet Republicans. But what if 2,000 show up and you can sit there and shake their hands, and remind them to turn out three days later?”

Kevin Willis, WKU Public Radio

Saturday was the first time Kentucky held a presidential caucus in more than 30 years.

The contest, which New York businessman Donald Trump narrowly won, was designed so Rand Paul could run for Senate and the White House at the same time. But according to state Republican officials, it was also intended to get Kentuckians more excited about the nominating process.

Did it work?

Jefferson County resident Lacy Little caucused at Louisville’s Zachary Taylor Elementary. He was furious about the new format.

“I shouldn’t have to wait in these lines and stuff,” Little said. “I should be able to go to my same poll, my voting post that I do every year, that I’ve done for 30-some years in this neighborhood.”

Reports of long lines and traffic jams across the state helped hype up the caucus on Saturday, but in reality, voter turnout for the election was average at about 18 percent.

The head of the Kentucky Republican Party is calling Saturday’s presidential caucus a “real success," but turnout was only slightly higher at the caucus compared to the last GOP presidential primary. 

Eighteen percent of registered Republicans voted in the presidential caucus, compared to 16 percent in the 2012 primary.   While there were fears the caucus could go un-noticed, Kentucky GOP Executive Director Mike Biagi said he’s proud of the turnout. 

"A hundred counties saw an increase in the number of voters who participated in the caucus compared to the 2012 presidential primary," Biagi told WKU Public Radio.  "In fact, 42 counties increased their participation over 100 percent since 2012."

Biagi says the higher turnout reflects the growth in the state GOP. 

More than 229,000 of the state’s 1.2 million registered Republicans took part in the caucus that made Donald Trump Kentucky’s GOP presidential nominee. 

While many counties reported long lines at their caucus sites, Biagi said the biggest challenge was the number of Democrats and Independents who showed up to vote and were turned away.

Whether or not Kentucky holds another caucus in the 2020 race will be up to party leaders.