Stein moves up to Senate with big win

bmusgrave@herald-leader.comNovember 5, 2008 

Republicans defended their turf in key state Senate races to maintain a comfortable majority and greatly reduce the Democrats' chances of reclaiming the chamber any time soon.

Democrats, though, maintained control of the Lexington Senate seat left vacant when longtime Sen. Ernesto Scorsone became a Fayette Circuit Court judge earlier this year.

But votes in one contested Northern Kentucky Senate race were still in question Tuesday night because of a glitch in some voting machines in Kenton County.

If initial results of that race hold, GOP Sen. Jack Westwood would win that race, keeping Republicans in command with 22 senators to 15 Democrats and one independent. However, Republican state Sen. Brett Guthrie of Bowling Green will resign after winning the 2nd Congressional District race Tuesday.

In the Lexington race to replace Scorsone, state Rep. Kathy Stein, D-Lexington, defeated Lexington-Fayette Urban County Councilman Chuck Ellinger II. Stein won by double digits in the heavily Democratic district, according to unofficial results.

Stein, who celebrated her victory at Victorian Square in downtown Lexington, said she is looking forward to her new role in the Senate. Stein, who was first elected to the state house in 1997, was the favorite.

"Councilman Ellinger was very kind to me in his concession speech, and I look forward to working with him from my new position in the Senate," Stein said.

Another closely watched open seat, the 9th District seat vacated by Republican Sen. Richie Sanders, stayed with the Republicans.

Shortly after 8:30 p.m. EST, Democrat Steve Newberry conceded the race to David Givens, an executive with Green River Cattle Co.

Givens said Tuesday that he was humbled by the support he received from voters throughout his district.

The GOP pumped money into advertising aimed at defeating Newberry, a Glasgow broadcaster, in the district that covers Allen, Barren, Edmonson, Green, Metcalfe and Simpson counties. Newberry figures that the state GOP might have spent as much as $300,000 on advertising to defeat him.

But Givens gave more credit to his volunteers than to help from the GOP.

"We had a lot of volunteers from all over the district, outside of my home county," he said.

Newberry, a brother of Lexington Mayor Jim Newberry, said he was proud of the way he ran his race and had no regrets.

"We worked very hard," Newberry said. "But the weight of the McCain victory in Kentucky and the negative advertising worked against us."

In Northern Kentucky's 23rd District race, results for Westwood, the Republican incumbent, and Democratic challenger Kathy Groob were in question late Tuesday. According to unofficial results, Westwood won by 590 votes, or 16,859 votes to Groob's 16,269. The 23rd Senate District is in Kenton County.

Nathan Smith, vice chair of the state Democratic Party, said many voters reported that the machines in Kenton County would not allow voters to vote a straight party ticket. Smith said Tuesday night that the vote totals probably would be challenged.

Westwood beat Groob, a businesswoman and longtime Democratic operative, in 2004. It was a costly rematch, with both sides putting a combined $500,000 into the match.

In a tight race in Western Kentucky, Sen. Ken Winters, the Senate education chairman, beat Democrat and former U.S. Rep. Carroll Hubbard, who served time in prison for federal campaign finance violations.

In another race in Central Kentucky, Sen. Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, was expected to beat Democrat Robert Powell late Tuesday.

Sen. Tim Shaughnessey, D-Louisville, easily defeated Republican former state Rep. Bob Heleringer.

In another closely watched race, Sen. Joey Pendleton, who had to fight charges that he billed Murray State University while he was working as a legislator in Frankfort, defeated Tom Jones, a Republican Christian County magistrate.

Reach Beth Musgrave at (859) 231-3205 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 3205.

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