The Richmond Register

November 5, 2012

Democrats fighting to keep edge in state House

By Ronnie Ellis
CNHI News Service

MIDWAY — Republicans and Democrats were out in force Monday, traveling across the state, trying to haul in a few last votes to provide a winning margin Tuesday.

House Minority Leader Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, was traveling in far western Kentucky on Monday, the region where four critical open House seats may hold the key to any chance for a Republican takeover of the state House of Representatives.

Republicans want to sweep those races: the 2nd where Republican Richard Heath faces Democrat Kelly Whitaker; the 3rd where Democrat Gerald Watkins faces Republican Josh Crockett; the 4th where Democrat Raymond Giannini is opposed by Republican Lynn Belcher; and the 5th in where Republican Kenny Imes opposes Hal Kemp.

Republicans need a net gain of 10 seats to take control of the House, but their prospects have been diminished a bit because some of their own incumbents are locked in tight races. Still, Hoover was optimistic.

“We’ve crisscrossed the state today and our candidates have the momentum,” Hoover said. “At worst, we’ll have given the Democrats a good scare; at best, they’ll be cleaning out their desks.”

Kentucky Democratic Party Chairman Dan Logsdon scoffed.

“I think we’re going to keep our majority in the House,” Logsdon said. “With the number of open seats, we’re likely to lose a few but I think we also are going to gain some.”

Logsdon was talking about Democratic prospects of winning seats now held by Republicans Ryan Quarles in Scott County where Democrat Charlie Hoffman is seeking to unseat the man who beat him two years ago; Donna Mayfield in Clark and part of Madison County where Democrat JoEllen Reed is thought to have a chance; and in Nelson County where Democrat Joseph Heaton has raised a strong challenge to incumbent Republican David Floyd.

There’s less at stake in the state Senate where Republicans hold an insurmountable — at least in this election cycle — majority. Democrats are fighting to hold onto a seat in southwestern Jefferson County where Republican Chris Thienemann is challenging incumbent Democrat Perry Clark.

But they have hopes in the 1st District out west where former Democratic Congressman Carroll Hubbard is trying to defeat Trigg County Judge/Executive Stan Humphries in an open seat previously held by Republicans.

Republican Party Chairman Steve Robertson has called those hopes “laughable,” noting the high negatives of Hubbard who was convicted and imprisoned after a U.S. House banking scandal. He was later pardoned.

Senate Minority Leader R.J. Palmer, D-Winchester, said Hubbard has run “as well as he can,” and thinks the race hinges on how well Hubbard can do in Calloway County. Palmer thinks Hubbard will run well in the other counties.

Palmer’s greatest hope, however, for a pickup is in the 21st District where Democrat Amie Hacker has run an aggressive race against Republican Albert Robinson, a former state senator with a controversial history of supporting measures viewed beneficial to him or his retirement.

“A lot of people may be surprised by that race,” Palmer said.

Dale Emmons who is working for Hacker predicted she will carry Laurel County, home to both candidates, but also recognizes the difficulty she’ll have with straight-party Republican voters who will are almost certain to reject Democratic incumbent President Barack Obama by large margins.

Meanwhile, both candidates in Kentucky’s most watched and most contested congressional race were bussing across the 6th District Monday.

Republican challenger Andy Barr said in Midway he was encouraged by the announcement University of Virginia political science professor and national election analyst Larry Sabato had moved the race into the “leans Republican” category.

Barr was a student of Sabato’s when Barr was an undergraduate at the University of Virginia. Asked about that and Sabato’s latest handicapping of the race, Barr smiled and said: “He’s a very shrewd political prognosticator.”

Barr may have been surprised to be greeted in Midway by a couple from Barrington, Ill., a Chicago suburb. Jim Zaremba said he hopes Barr wins because he supports Mitt Romney for president.

His wife, Wendy, wasn’t going along, however. She voted for Obama.

“We tend to cancel each other out,” she said, smiling. But neither can vote for Barr or Chandler.

Chandler was joined Monday by Gov. Steve Beshear, Crit Luallen, Joe B. Hall, and other Democrats in Lexington to begin their own district bus tour.

Lexington Mayor Jim Gray told about 60 supporters on hand to kick off the tour that “we all know Ben Chandler always does the right thing.” Gray said Chandler is a “moderate, a guy who always reaches across the aisle to do the right thing.”

Chandler said the race is very tight but “if our folks show up on Tuesday, we’ll win.” Both Barr and Chandler claim momentum is on their side.

In the 4th District, Republican Thomas Massie is heavily favored to defeat Grant County attorney and Democratic nominee Bill Adkins. Adkins has campaigned hard and fared well in their only debate on Kentucky Education Television.

But the district, which stretches from eastern Jefferson County to Greenup and Boyd counties in the east, while Democratic by registration, usually votes Republican in federal elections.

The state’s other four incumbent Congressmen — Democrat John Yarmuth (3rd District) and Republicans Ed Whitfield (1st), Brett Guthrie (2nd) and Hal Rogers (5th) — are also on the ballot but facing opponents running limited campaigns and each is expected to win easily.

Ronnie Ellis writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at rellis@cnhi.com. Follow CNHI News Service stories on Twitter at www.twitter.com/cnhifrankfort.