Politics & Government

Incumbents prevail in state House races

No state House incumbents lost a race for re-election Tuesday, but Democrats posted a net gain of one seat.

That would make the margin in the next General Assembly 65 to 35 in favor of the Democrats, though party officials held out hope late Tuesday that a recount will turn a close race in Elizabethtown in favor of the Democratic nominee, former Rep. Mike Weaver.

Weaver came out of retirement to face freshman Republican Rep. Tim Moore. Complete but unofficial returns showed Moore winning by just over 100 votes.

House Speaker Jody Richards, D-Bowling Green, said he was pleased that his party picked up another House seat Tuesday. In the last presidential election, Democrats lost several House seats.

“I think we’re doing very, very well,” Richards said.

But Rep. Jeff Hoover, the House Republican floor leader, noted the two open seats his party lost were in districts with Democratic majorities.

“I think overall it was a good night for us,” he said, with fewer losses than predicted.

Only 29 of the 100 House seats were contested.

In the 75th District, which includes the University of Kentucky and downtown Lexington, Democrat Kelly Flood, an ordained Unitarian Universalist minister, defeated Republican Kimberly Ward by a wide margin.

In an interview, Flood said education will be her top priority, from expanded pre-school availability to funding for UK. On her Web site, she also cited support for a higher tobacco tax, state funding for artists and arts organizations and protection for natural resources, among other issues.

“It’s such an honor as a progressive to serve a district that doesn’t want me to back off on my greatest passions,” Flood said.

Flood raised 10 times as much money for the race as Ward, 43, a dental assistant.

Rep. Robert Damron, D-Nicholasville, turned back a challenge from Republican Chris Moore in the 39th District, which covers Jessamine County and a small part of Fayette County.

Damron touted his legislative accomplishments, including initiatives to cut taxes and increase criminal penalties. The investment banker has been in the legislature since 1993.

Damron crushed Moore in fundraising, taking in more than 10 times as much as the challenger.

Democrats picked up open seats in the 16th District -- Todd and Logan counties -- and in the 100th District in Ashland.

Both had been represented for more than a decade by Republicans who decided not to run again.

Democrat Martha Jane King ran a hard race to defeat Republican nominee Tim Thompson in the 16th.

And in the 100th, Democrat Kevin Sinnette, a lawyer, won by a margin of nearly 2-1 over Republican Michael R. Stewart, a former Ashland city commissioner.

Sinnette said on his Web site that his long service as Ashland city attorney had prepared him to work on legislative issues in Frankfort.

Republicans converted the 3rd District seat in Paducah to their column with a win by Brent Housman, a financial planner, over the Democratic nominee, McCracken County Commissioner Zana Renfro.

But Democrats held on to the 22nd District seat, which includes Allen and Simpson counties and part of Warren County, where Rep. Rob Wilkey did not run again.

Wilson Stone, 55, a farmer and longtime member of the Allen County school board, defeated Republican Shawn McPherson, 43, a businessman.

Both men are from Scottsville and attend the same Church of Christ.

For the third election in a row, Republican Rep. Mike Harmon of Junction City beat Democrat David Sparrow, of Danville, in the 54th District, which covers Boyle and Washington counties.

Sparrow, a former administrator in the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, lost to Harmon by just 62 votes two years ago. This time, the margin was more than 1,000 votes.

Harmon, 42, a loan officer, stressed his socially conservative views. Sparrow had touted his experience in agriculture, industry, education and retail.

In the neighboring 55th District, Democrat Kent Stevens of Lawrenceburg, a retired educator, defeated Republican Timothy Gray of Mercer County.

In the 49th District in Bullitt County, Democrat Linda Belcher won her effort to succeed her late husband in the seat. Democrats chose Belcher, a former teacher and school administrator, as the nominee after her husband, Rep. Larry Belcher, was killed in a car crash.