Eastern Kentucky voters rejected House Speaker Greg Stumbo on Tuesday as Republicans appeared poised to take control of the Kentucky House of Representatives for the first time since 1921.
The Prestonsburg lawyer lost to Republican Larry D. Brown, also of Prestonsburg, for the 95th House District seat. It covers Floyd County and part of Pike County.
“The voters have spoken, so I want to congratulate Larry Brown for his win tonight, and I want to thank the people of the 95th House District for a great career,” Stumbo said in a statement at 8:03 p.m. “I hope only the best for the district, my county, my commonwealth and my country.”
Stumbo, a strong critic of Gov. Matt Bevin, has served in the state House since 1980, except for a stint as state attorney general from 2004 through 2007. He has been House speaker since 2009 and was optimistic that he could keep the job if Democrats retained control of the House.
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The position of speaker is the top job in the 100-member chamber. The speaker, along with other leaders, determines the flow of legislation and can stifle minority party members.
Stumbo won by about 660 votes in May’s Democratic primary election, and Republicans considered him vulnerable for a takedown. Several outside groups put big money into the race.
Brown, also an attorney, was public in endorsing Donald Trump, his party’s nominee for president. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton is unpopular throughout Eastern Kentucky, especially after she said in March that she would put coal companies out of business as the nation moves toward renewable energy sources.
Clinton said she wanted to create new economic opportunities for current coal workers, but the political damage had been done, especially in coal-producing counties.
Stumbo also was hit hard in a TV ad that featured part of his public speech after last May’s primary elections in which he touted President Obama, who has never been popular in Eastern Kentucky.
Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, said of Stumbo’s loss, “I respect Greg Stumbo. He’s had a long career in Frankfort. I don’t wish anyone ill, but I think it’s apparent that as times change, the makeup of the legislature will change.”