Politics & Government

Candidates go down to wire in special state House election in Central Kentucky

From left: Lyen Crews, John-Mark Hack and James L. Kay II.
From left: Lyen Crews, John-Mark Hack and James L. Kay II. Photos provided

FRANKFORT — In these final days before Tuesday's special House election in Central Kentucky, all three candidates are scurrying to get out the vote.

Besides knocking on doors and making phone calls, Republican Lyen Crews was to participate in a rally Friday night at the Gaffney Farm in Versailles with state Agriculture Commissioner James Comer.

Democrat James Kay is scheduled to attend a noon rally Monday with Gov. Steve Beshear at the Kentucky Democratic Party headquarters in Frankfort. Meanwhile, independent candidate John-Mark Hack hinted Friday at some surprises yet to unfold.

"We have a couple of significant shots to be fired. It will shake the two political parties to the core," he said without elaborating.

Voters in the 56th House District that includes Woodford County and parts of Fayette and Franklin counties will decide Tuesday who will replace Democrat Carl Rollins of Midway, who resigned to take a higher education post. All three candidates are from Woodford County.

The winner will serve the remainder of Rollins' term, which runs through the end of next year.

The district leans Democratic. Figures with the state Board of Elections show the district has 18,173 Democrats, 10,410 Republicans and 2,269 in other parties for a total of 30,852 voters. Most of the district's voters — 18,476 — live in Woodford County.

The race is viewed by many as a barometer for next year's state House elections. Republicans next year hope to gain control of the 100-member House for the first time since 1920. Democrats dread the possibility that the House could go GOP along with the state Senate. Democrats now have a majority of 54 to 45 in the House, with the one vacant seat to be filled Tuesday.

Crews, a financial officer for eCampus.com in Lexington, said he is "cautiously optimistic" about helping Republicans narrow the margin in the House.

Crews has been conducting get-out-the-vote walks, especially on Saturdays. Several Republican state legislators have joined him.

Kay said the race "absolutely is winnable" for him.

Chad Aull, campaign manager for Kay, said Kay, an attorney, has "been hitting" various public events like this week's Woodford County Fair and knocking on "as many doors as possible."

Kay's campaign has scheduled get-out-the-vote walks Saturday morning in Frankfort and Versailles.

He has been joined in recent efforts by prominent Democratic leaders like Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, state Auditor Adam Edelen and various state legislators.

Big money has been in play in the campaign for the two major political party candidates. Kay has raised the most. Through June 10, Kays took in $132,749 compared to $68,806 for Crews and about $14,000 for Hack.

But Crews is benefiting from the independent Republican State Leadership Committee based in Washington. It reported last week that it had spent $140,538 in the race.

Hack, who was an agricultural official for former Gov. Paul Patton and now is involved in the food industry, said he thinks he will win because "there is an overwhelming negative response to the obscene amounts of money being spent by the two parties, and I think that will favor me."