FRANKFORT — Well-known Democrat Don Blevins Sr. filed Friday to challenge Republican state Sen. Alice Forgy Kerr, making the race for Lexington's 12th Senate District a key battleground as Democrats again attempt to wrest control of the chamber from Republicans.
With Tuesday's filing deadline to run for office looming, the former Fayette County Clerk was among several candidates who filed papers in the Capitol Friday as Democratic and Republican officials scurried to field strong legislative candidates.
Among others filing was Democratic attorney Johnnie L. Turner of Harlan, who signed up to take on Republican incumbent Brandon Smith of Hazard in Eastern Kentucky's 30th Senate District. Despite heavy campaigning by Gov. Steve Beshear, Democrats lost that seat in early 2008 after Daniel Mongiardo was elected lieutenant governor.
At the urging of horse industry leaders, Beshear has been trying since his election to oust Republican David Williams of Burkesville from his post as Senate president, where he has been the leading voice against expanded gambling at racetracks.
Republicans now outnumber Democrats in the Senate 20-17, and independent Bob Leeper of Paducah generally sides with the GOP. The House passed a bill last summer to allow video lottery terminals at Kentucky racetracks, but it died in the Senate budget committee.
Kerr, who has represented a district that includes Keeneland since 1999, was one of 10 senators who voted against the bill.
Blevins said Friday that he has been encouraged "from various segments of our society, including the horse industry," to run for the office.
"Kentucky's budget already depends on gambling, so I don't have any objection to expanding it," said Blevins, adding that he has not read any legislation on the issue.
Kerr responded that it appears Blevins "wants to come to the Senate to be a double-dipper" — a phrase used to describe those who return to government work while also drawing a government pension.
Blevins retired in 2008 as Fayette County Clerk after holding that office for 27 years. Blevins' son, Don Blevins Jr., was appointed to succeed him.
Leaders of both political parties promised Friday to offer voters a lineup of strong candidates in legislative races. All 100 House seats and 19 of the Senate's 38 seats are up for grabs in 2010.
State Republican Party Chairman Steve Robertson said Friday his party will have "a very robust set of candidates" for the legislature.
Democratic Party Chairman Charlie Moore said that "many fine Democrats are saying yes to the call for public service so they can stop the course of no progress led by Senator Williams."
Both Robertson and Moore declined to identify potential candidates who haven't already filed.
Also filing for the Senate Friday was Richmond businessman Lee Murphy, who has managed several political campaigns.
Murphy, who worked last year for the U.S. Senate campaign of Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo, is running as a Democrat for the seat being vacated by Democratic Sen. Ed Worley.
Worley announced earlier this week that he would not seek re-election in the 34th Senate District, which includes Madison, Lincoln and Rockcastle counties. He said he wanted to spend more time with his family and is being encouraged to run for the office of secretary of state next year.
Murphy is president of Chapel Communications, an Internet provider service, and Kindred Creek Partners, which owns Fantastic Sam salons in Richmond, Winchester and Lexington.
Other candidates who filed previously for the 34th Senate seat are Democrat Michael S. Cope of Richmond and Republicans Jared K. Carpenter of Berea and Kent J. Kessler of Richmond.
Senate President David Williams also filed Friday for re-election. So far, he has one opponent, Republican Denver D. Capps of Burkesville.
Candidates who filed Friday for the state House, where Democrats hold a large majority over Republicans, included Richmond Mayor Pro Tem Rita H. Smart.
She is running for Democratic Rep. Harry Moberly Jr.'s House seat with his blessing.
Moberly, a Democrat, announced earlier this week that he would not seek re-election to the seat that he has held since 1980.
Georgetown resident Ryan Quarles filed Friday to run for the state House from the 62nd District that includes Scott County and the northern part of Fayette County. The seat is now held by Democrat Charlie Hoffman of Georgetown.