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Reviewing some key state races

Ryan Alessi
Ryan Alessi

A month ago, the biggest race in the state was the U.S. Senate race between Republican U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell and Democrat Bruce Lunsford.

Since then, it has only gotten bigger.

It has snared headlines in national newspapers and been featured on cable news. And ads galore are pouring into Kentucky from interested political groups on all sides.

With McConnell serving as the Republican Senate leader, the nation will be watching this race Tuesday night.

Here's a rundown of the top Kentucky contests to watch Tuesday night (original Herald-Leader rankings are in parentheses):

1. (1) U.S. Senate: Lunsford, harnessing voter angst over the economy, has made a charge at McConnell, which has caught the nation's interest. But McConnell has stayed ahead in the polls on the strength of his argument about having clout.

2. (2) 2nd Congressional District: The retirement of Republican Ron Lewis in this district makes this the Democrats' best and maybe only chance to win back the seat and the most reliably Republican congressional district in recent elections. Both candidates, Republican state Sen. Brett Guthrie of Bowling Green and longtime Owensboro Democratic state Sen. David Boswell, have strived to connect with the conservative district by stressing their anti-abortion rights, pro-gun values. The economy has become a contentious subplot as both national parties traded misleading shots at the other party's candidate.

3. (3) 9th State Senate District: This is a must-win for the Democrats, who are seeking to eventually take back control of the state Senate. Both parties put up top-flight candidates with Republican David Givens, a Green County cattle company executive, and Democrat Steve Newberry, a Glasgow broadcaster and economic development board member. But the race turned negative last month when the Republican Party ran ads that tried to link Newberry to "liquor interests" and casinos. Those ads were panned by some area Republicans, who thought they might backfire on Givens.

4. (5) 23rd State Senate District: This is another race into which Democrats and Republicans are pouring lots of money and effort. Republicans, who control the Senate 22-14 with an independent and an open seat, are trying not to lose any incumbents and have helped Sen. Jack Westwood of Crescent Springs raise more than $250,000. But Democratic challenger Kathy Groob has matched Westwood dollar for dollar in the normally Republican district that covers Kenton County.

5. (7) 37th State Senate District: First-term Democratic Sen. Perry Clark took his time getting into full campaign mode, allowing Republican challenger Doug Hawkins, a Louisville metro councilman, to make up ground in the south Louisville Senate district. That has some Democrats sweating. Even though Democrats at the top of the ballot are expected to do well in Louisville, this area has a heavy independent-minded bent to it. And Republicans initially won this seat in 2004 before the GOP candidate was ruled ineligible because she didn't meet state residency requirements.

6. TIE 3rd State House District (13) and 22nd House District (12): These two seats had been held for more than a decade by Democrats. Both came open over the summer because of resignations and have drawn strong candidates from both parties. The 3rd District in Paducah and 22nd District in Allen, Simpson and southern Warren counties represent House Republicans' best chances for pickups in this election.

8. (18) 3rd State Senate District: Senate Democratic Whip Joey Pendleton of Hopkinsville is in another tough re-election race, this time with Republican Christian County Magistrate Tom Jones. Both sides have gotten nasty.

9. (6) 1st State Senate District: Former Democratic U.S. Rep. Carroll Hubbard is looking for political redemption after serving prison time more than a decade ago for federal campaign finance violations. But Republican Sen. Ken Winters remains strong in the far Western Kentucky Senate district.

10. TIE 1st State House District (11) and 54th House District (Not rated): Both districts are in swing areas and offer potential Democratic pickups. Two Republican representatives, Steven Rudy of West Paducah in the 1st District and Mike Harmon of Junction City in the 54th, have found themselves outspent by their Democratic opponents, McCracken Circuit Court Clerk Mike Lawrence and David Sparrow, a former University of Kentucky College of Agriculture dean.

Honorable mentions:

3rd Congressional District: Democratic U.S. John Yarmuth appears to be in command for his re-election over former U.S. Rep. Anne Northup.

16th and 100th State House Districts: Both seats are being vacated by Republicans and look to be pickups for the Democrats. The 16th covers Logan and Todd counties; the 100th is in Boyd County.

1st Congressional District: Republican U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield of Hopkinsville is expected to win an eighth term, but if Democratic challenger Heather Ryan, who has been working hard, can keep Whitfield's margin of victory under 10 points, it could signal a big night for Democrats and hope for that party's future in the district.

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