FRANKFORT — If Republicans hope to take over the Kentucky House this fall for the first time since 1921, they'll probably need to win most — if not all — of the eight contested districts that don't have an incumbent seeking re-election.
Republican incumbents can't or have chosen not to seek re-election in seven of the eight open seats, which are among 53 contested House seats on the Nov. 4 ballot. (Incumbents and primary winners in the other 47 seats are unopposed.)
Democrats, who hold a 54-46 majority in the House and redrew House district boundaries last year to their liking, hope the newly drawn maps will give them an advantage.
"We are very encouraged by our prospects in the open seats," state Democratic Party chairman Daniel Logsdon said.
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Logsdon praised Gov. Steve Beshear, a Democrat, and House Democratic leaders "for doing a terrific job in recruiting candidates for the races."
State Republican Party chairman Steve Robertson said the House GOP candidates in the open seats "have been working very hard, and it's paying off.
"We are confident we will do very well in the open contests, with a good chance of winning all of them," Robertson said.
Here's a look at candidates in the eight open House seats.
The tightest of the eight contests appears to be in the newly drawn 10th District. It was in Hopkins County, but it now covers Breckinridge and Hancock counties and part of Hardin County.
Incumbent Ben Waide, a Madisonville Republican and a physical therapist who has been in the House since 2011, did not seek re-election because he is running for judge-executive of Hopkins County. A state grand jury indicted Waide in July on two counts of violating state campaign finance laws. He has denied any wrongdoing.
Running for the 10th District seat this fall are Republican Alan Claypool and Democrat Dean Schamore. Both are from Breckinridge County.
Claypool runs a management consulting firm, and Schamore operates an information technology company and was president last year of the Breckinridge Chamber of Commerce.
Both describe themselves as conservative.
On his campaign website, Schamore states that his mother, Angela Schamore, is a former mayor of Hardinsburg and that he is a sixth cousin of Daniel Boone. "If you want more, vote Schamore," he says.
Claypool says on his website that his primary purpose is "to glorify God by enjoying Him forever." He grew up in Owensboro and moved to Atlanta after college to work as a software developer. He came to Breckinridge County in 1998 to be closer to family in Owensboro.
In 2013, Claypool was a statewide volunteer coordinator for Louisville businessman Matt Bevin's unsuccessful campaign for the U.S. Senate against Republican incumbent Mitch McConnell.
In the 39th District, which covers parts of Jessamine and Fayette counties, Democrat Bob Damron of Nicholasville did not seek re-election this year because he is running for judge-executive of Jessamine County. He has been in the House since 1993.
Seeking to replace him in the state House are Democrat Russ Meyer, the mayor of Nicholasville and a small-business owner, and Republican Jonah Mitchell, a Realtor and an adjunct professor at the University of Kentucky's Gatton School of Business.
Democrats outnumber Republicans in the district, about 55 percent to 45 percent, but Jessamine County has been trending more conservative in recent years.
The race appears to be tight and might be one of the most expensive House races in the state. As of mid-June, Meyer had raised about $65,000 and Mitchell about $24,000.
Republican Jim DeCesare of Bowling Green represents the 21st District, which had been in Warren County, until the end of this year. After the district's boundaries were redrawn, it covered Hart, Metcalfe and Monroe counties, and part of Hardin County.
DeCesare is now unopposed this fall in the 17th District, which includes Butler County and part of Warren.
Vying to represent the new 21st District are Republican Bart Rowland of Tompkinsville, an insurance agent and the current state representative for the 53rd District of Cumberland, Green, Metcalfe and Monroe counties, and Democrat Joe Choate of Munfordville. The 53rd has been moved to Anderson and Spencer counties and part of Bullitt County.
Choate is involved in real estate and farming.
The race appears competitive, but Rowland has the advantage of running as a quasi-incumbent. He was first elected in 2012.
The 26th District, which covers parts of Bullitt and Hardin counties, also was affected by the redrawing of House maps last year.
Incumbent Tim Moore, R-Elizabethtown, now lives in the 18th District and is unopposed this year. Under redistricting, the 18th includes Grayson County and part of Hardin.
The two candidates for the 26th are Republican Russell Webber and Democrat J. Scott Wantland, both of Shepherdsville.
Webber, who is self-employed with a health care supply company, has been the state representative for the 49th District since 2013. Wantland is an attorney.
It's another tight race that leans slightly to Republicans because of its GOP history.
Republican Julie Raque Adams, who has held this seat in a portion of Jefferson County since 2011, is running this fall for the state Senate.
The candidates trying to replace her in the House are Republican Phil Moffett and Democrat Ashley Miller, both of Louisville.
Moffett, a businessman, ran unsuccessfully for governor with Tea Party support in 2011. He is an advocate for charter schools.
Miller has a doctorate in nursing. To help pay for her education, she entered the pageant system and won several titles, including Miss University of Louisville 2008 and Ms. Kentucky United States 2013.
She is a volunteer at The Healing Place, a support center for adult addicts, and a part-time radio sportscaster.
Miller has the support of Democratic U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth of Louisville, but the district has favored Republicans in recent years.
The 36th District was moved from Garrard and Madison counties to eastern Jefferson County and a portion of Oldham County.
Its representative, Republican Jonathan Shell, is unopposed in the 71st District this fall, which covers Garrard and Rockcastle counties and part of Madison County.
The candidates for the new 36th are Republican Jerry Miller of Eastwood in Jefferson County and Democrat Debbie Barber.
Miller, a certified public accountant and Humana executive, has been a member of the Louisville Metro Council since 2010. He was state parks commissioner for former Gov. Ernie Fletcher.
Barber is a nurse anesthetist and owns a realty company.
Both candidates are running vigorous campaigns.
Two former state representatives are running to represent the 49th District, which covers a portion of Bullitt County. Republican state Rep. Russell Webber is running this fall in the new 26th District.
This fall's contenders for the 49th are Democrat Linda Belcher, a retired educator, and Republican Mike Nemes, who worked in construction.
Both hope to make a comeback after losing their state House seats in 2012.
Democrats outnumber Republicans in the district, 57 percent to 43 percent, but voters there have become more conservative in recent years.
The 53rd District, which covers Anderson and Spencer counties and part of Bullitt County, was previously in the south-central part of the state. It is represented by Republican Bart Rowland of Tompkinsville, who is running this fall in the new 21st District.
Candidates this fall for the 53rd are Republican James Tipton of Taylorsville and Democrat Kent Stevens of Lawrenceburg.
Tipton, a farmer and Realtor, has been a member of the Spencer County Farm Bureau for more than 30 years.
Stevens, a retired educator, is a former state representative.
Both political parties say their chances are good in this district.