Herald-Leader Editorial

Legislative election results: No clear trends

May 23, 2014 

Anyone sorting through Tuesday's results in state legislative primaries hoping to spot some hint of things to come in November had to be disappointed. Sure, a couple of incumbents suffered defeat, but for reasons that seemed unique to their respective situations rather than being reflective of any general trend in voters' mood.

Republican Sen. Sarah Beth Gregory appeared to be a victim of legislative redistricting enacted by the 2013 General Assembly.

Redistricting took away two counties that were in the 16th District when Gregory won a special election in 2012 after former Senate President David Williams accepted appointment to a judgeship.

And Max Wise, the Campbellsville University political science instructor who won the primary, carried all three of the new counties added to the district.

The irony here is that Gregory was considered a rising star among Senate Republicans who, under an unwritten agreement that gives the majority party in each legislative house complete authority for redistricting their respective chambers, were totally responsible for redrawing her district in a way that seemingly cost her re-election. (No Democrat filed for the seat.)

Democratic Rep. Keith Hall's loss to challenger Chris Harris in the 93rd District primary largely can be attributed to the well-publicized ethical controversies swirling around Hall in recent years.

The most notable of those led to the Legislative Ethics Commission fining Hall $2,000 after his company won some no-bid sewer contracts that he voted to include in the state budget. The legislature is better off without him.

Although there was no discernible indication of voters' mood in legislative races, Hall's loss may have been part of a more general trend in Eastern Kentucky. Losses by a handful of longtime local officeholders, including two in Hall's home Pike County, could indicate voters in the region are ready for some change.

The other interesting outcome in legislative races came in the 32nd House District where Phil Moffett, a Tea Party favorite who lost to David Williams in the 2011 gubernatorial primary, won the Republican nomination.

But here, too, anyone looking for straws in the wind will have trouble finding them.

Moffett's victory probably was more attributable to residual name recognition from his 2011 race than to his Tea Party creds.

And Democrats, hoping a Tea Party opponent gives them a chance at a takeaway in November (the district is now represented by Republican Julie Raque Adams, who is running for the state Senate), need to wake up and remember the 32nd is in Eastern Jefferson County. This is pretty much all you need to say about a Democrat's chances there.

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