Politics & Government

Kentucky House remains in Republican control; Democrats make few gains

Democrats made the tiniest of dents in Republicans’ control of the Kentucky House of Representatives Tuesday, but the GOP still will dominate the law-making chamber for at least another two years.

Going into Election Day, Republicans enjoyed a membership advantage of 62-37, with one vacancy, in the House. The GOP had gained 17 seats in the House two years ago to take control of the chamber for the first time since 1921.

In unofficial results Tuesday night, Democrats flipped eight House seats and Republicans flipped six, giving Democrats a net gain of two. That makes the unofficial count in the House 61 Republicans and 39 Democrats, but four of those races were decided by fewer than 10 votes.

If that count stands, Republicans keep their super majority. A super majority in the House occurs when a party has at least 60 of the chamber’s 100 members. A super majority is needed to pass tax issues in odd-numbered legislative sessions and constitutional amendments.

With Tuesday’s elections, the Republicans remained in firm control of both the House and Senate, and the governorship with Matt Bevin.

House Minority Leader Rocky Adkins, D-Sandy Hook, was touting a possible takeover this year by Democrats in the House, but that goal seemed too lofty. Ninety of the House’s 100 seats were being contested.

That optimistic view by some Democrats was fueled by teachers and state workers upset with a Republican pension bill approved last spring by the state legislature. The status of the bill is pending in the Kentucky Supreme Court.

Adkins, who has been in the House since 1987, said President Trump was a big factor in Democrats’ losing control of the state House to Republicans in 2016, and Trump was not on Tuesday’s ballot.

He said late Tuesday night, “While I wish we had a better overall outcome, I am proud of the hard-fought victories we had in many districts.”

Democrats “faced an uphill battle,” Adkins said, because of a nationalized climate and the unfortunate rise of dark money and negative attacks.”

One of the Democrats’ gains Tuesday was in Fayette County’s 88th House District.

The seat was open because Republican incumbent Robert Benvenuti III did not seek re-election. The district has more Republicans than Democrats: 20,344 to 18,842.

In Tuesday’s race, William Farmer Jr., a Republican tax accountant who represented the district from 2003 to 2012, lost in unofficial results to Democrat Cherlynn Stevenson, a non-profit event planner making her first bid for public office.

Stevenson was endorsed by the Kentucky Educators Political Action Committee, the political arm of the Kentucky Education Association, and KY 120 United, an advocacy group formed after the pension bill passed in this year’s state legislature.

In other House races in Fayette County, Democratic incumbents Susan Westrom, Ruth Ann Palumbo and George A. Brown Jr. and Republican Stan Lee won re-election.

Other Democratic flips Tuesday were in the 11th District, where Robert Wiederstein beat Republican James Buckmaster; in the 13th where Jim Glenn won by one vote over Republican incumbent DJ Johnson; in the 32nd District, where Tina Bojanowski ousted Republican incumbent Phil Moffett; in the 48th, where Maria Sorolis outpaced Republican incumbent Ken Fleming; in the 91st, where Cluster Howard won by seven votes over Toby Herald; in the 95th, where Ashley Tackett Lafferty knocked off Larry D. Brown; and in the 96th, where Kathy L. Hinkle narrowly won over Republican incumbent Jill York.

In southeastern Kentucky’s 87th House District, Republican Adam Bowling of Middlesboro defeated Democrat Dustin Allen of Pineville. The seat has been occupied by Democrat Rick Nelson of Middlesboro, who did not seek re-election and ran in in the House will return.

Seats Republicans flipped were District 3, where Randy Bridges defeated Martha Emmons; District 6, where Chris Freeland beat Linda Edwards; District 27, where challenger Nancy Tate outpaced incumbent Jeff Greer by six votes; District 49, where Thomas Huff beat Linda Belcher; District 72, where Matthew Koch defeated Emily Ferguson; and District 87, where Adam Bowling beat Dustin Allen.

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