GOP groups working for Republican control of Kentucky House

jbrammer@herald-leader.comJuly 17, 2014 

FRANKFORT — Two national groups dedicated to electing Republican state legislators have their sights set on the Kentucky House.

The GOP has a great shot to take control of the Kentucky House for the first time since 1921, officials with the Republican Legislative Campaign Committee and the Republican State Leadership Committee said Thursday in a telephone conference call from their national meeting in Colorado.

Pennsylvania House Speaker Sam Smith said Kentucky is one of the "Sweet 16" targets the RLCC has identified as opportunities to flip legislative control. Republicans now control 60 of 99 legislative chambers in the country.

Matt Walter, president of the Republican State Leadership Committee, declined to say how much money the groups plan to pour into Kentucky this fall or what big-name national Republicans may be in the state for fundraisers.

He did say Kentucky "will be on the receiving end of revenue."

The RLCC has spent more than $1 million on legislative races in Kentucky since 2008. It spent more than $400,000 in Kentucky during the 2010 election cycle and more than $355,000 in 2012. The group spent more than $200,000 in Kentucky last year and expects to top its previous spending record this year.

Walter also said Kentucky has "big names of its own" to help GOP legislative candidates.

He said U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's re-election campaign in Kentucky against Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes will increase voter turnout in the state, making party contact with voters essential.

Officials from the two groups called Kentucky "one of the last remaining Democratic strongholds in the South," after the election of Republican Suzanne Miles in Western Kentucky's 7th District in a December special election. The seat had been held by Democrat John Arnold, who resigned in the wake of a sexual harassment scandal in which he maintains he did nothing wrong. Miles is being challenged this fall by Democrat John Warren, also of Owensboro.

State Democratic Party Chairman Daniel Logsdon said the war cry from the Republican groups is "the same old same old."

"We heard this two years ago. We will be ready for them again," Logsdon said. "We feel very confident that Democrats will keep the House."

In 2012, Republicans launched a "12 in 12" campaign to pick up 12 state House seats. They brought in help from former Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee of Arkansas and former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour but only took four seats.

Democrats now hold a 54-46 majority in the state House. The RLCC said this year that it has identified nine seats that Republicans can win in November.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, has predicted that Democrats will gain at least six House seats in November.

Republicans control a majority in the Kentucky Senate, and that will not change in November.

Jack Brammer: (859) 231-1302. Twitter: @BGPolitics. Blog: bluegrasspolitics.bloginky.com

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