Kentucky Election Recap

2004 Toll Fellow Trey Grayson shared the following thoughts regarding last week's elections. Grayson is currently serving as Kentucky's secretary of state.

"The Kentucky Derby isn’t the only close horse race in Kentucky this year.  Leading up to the election in Kentucky, most national observers had pegged the U.S. Senate race in the Commonwealth as the race to watch. With numbers slipping shortly after the now infamous “Aqua Buddha” ad aired, Jack Conway was soundly defeated by the tea party backed Rand Paul.  Now, attention has turned to KY-6, the central Kentucky congressional district, where blue-dog Democrat and incumbent Ben Chandler is holding on to a thin 649 vote margin over Republican Andy Barr.  Barr has requested a recanvass of the results and still has the option to petition for a recount.  This race may looks to be as close as Zenyatta’s race in the Breeder’s Cup Classic this weekend (sorry folks, we’re Kentucky … where everything is compared to horses or college basketball).  No other congressional race was close in the Bluegrass State.

As expected, neither chamber in the Kentucky Legislature switched party control, but there were significant developments nonetheless.  Republicans picked up two seats in the Kentucky State Senate, which provides their caucus with a constitutional majority, something needed to pass some revenue measures and constitutional amendments.  In the state house, Republicans picked up seven seats, which prevents Democrats, who control the chamber, from having that same constitutional majority.  Entrenched committee chairs or leadership members were mostly protected in both chambers with Senate Appropriations and Revenue Chair Bob Leeper and House Speaker Pro-tem Larry Clark holding onto their seats in tough races.  However, for the first time since 1996, incumbent state senators lost re-election, proving the volatility of this election cycle.

Perhaps most surprising in Kentucky were the local elections results, where Republicans saw their greatest gains in Kentucky history.  Solidly Democratic counties were electing Republican Judge Executive, Sheriffs, and other officials, many for the first time ever.  In Louisville, Democrats held onto the Mayor’s office, marking Democratic control of city hall for more than 40 years.  In Lexington, the Vice-Mayor, Jim Gray, defeated incumbent Mayor Jim Newberry.  Gray made headlines across the country as Lexington will become the 3rd largest city to be led by an openly gay mayor.

Now, the attention of the nation will once again turn to Kentucky in 2011.  The Commonwealth is one of only three states hosting gubernatorial elections in 2010.  The other two, Louisiana and Mississippi, are not necessarily expected to have competitive races.  Democratic Governor Steve Beshear is running for re-election, but most polls show his approval rating below the magic 50% mark.  Already, State Senate President David Williams and Louisville businessman and tea party activist Phil Moffett have announced their intention to seek the Republican nomination with a couple other candidates still considering the race.  With Paul’s recent success, many pundits have suggested that Kentucky will be the focus of tea party activists’ efforts, which will make an already exciting election cycle, even more entertaining."