LOUISVILLE — In his victory speech Tuesday night, Republican Gov.-elect Matt Bevin led an enthusiastic crowd of supporters in chanting "Flip the House."
He was speaking of the GOP quest to wrest control of the state House of Representatives next year from Democrats for the first time in more than 90 years.
A Republican takeover of the House would give the party control of the governor's office and both chambers of the Kentucky legislature, plus every state legislative chamber in the South.
Dream on, says House Speaker Greg Stumbo, a Democrat from Prestonsburg.
Stumbo dismissed Bevin's chant and said he hoped the new governor would reach out to all lawmakers, who face tough decisions during the 2016 General Assembly that begins in January.
"Given the dynamics of modern politics, no one knows what is going to happen next year," Stumbo said when asked if Democrats might lose the House.
Democrats now control the chamber by a margin of 54-46.
Only one Democratic incumbent, Larry Clark of Louisville, has said he will not seek re-election next year.
Stumbo noted that special elections will be necessary to fill the seats of two Republican House members who won statewide offices Tuesday — Ryan Quarles of Georgetown, who will become state agriculture commissioner, and Mike Harmon of Danville, who will become state treasurer.
Stumbo said he wanted to fight the efforts of Republicans to paint themselves as the party of Christians.
His speech Tuesday night during the Democratic rally at Frankfort's Civic Center drew attention for its numerous references to God and Jesus.
Stumbo said he gave that speech "to rally the troops."
"I've given it hundreds of time before," he said. "It's wrong to say you can't be a Christian and be a Democrat. The Bible doesn't teach that. The message of Jesus is love and reaching out to others.
"I believe you can be a Christian and be a Democrat or a Republican or an independent."
Republican strategist Scott Jennings of Louisville said the GOP's chances of taking the House next year improved with Bevin's election.
"The issues Bevin ran on are heavily popular issues with Kentucky voters," Jennings said.
Recruitment of Republican House candidates should be easier with the GOP's strong showing Tuesday, winning three of the state's down-ticket constitutional races, Jennings said.
He said it was not necessary for Republicans to field a candidate for each of the 100 House seats.
"You can win the House by being more strategic in where you place candidates," he said.
Jennings also noted that 2016 is a presidential election year.
"Whether the Democrats put up Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, the GOP nominee in Kentucky will get 60 percent of the vote," he said.
Stumbo disputed that assertion, saying he thought Clinton would beat Trump in Kentucky.
Democratic strategist Dale Emmons said Bevin's election "certainly changes the dynamics of next year's state House races, but Kentuckians have chosen a divided government."
He noted that two Democrats won statewide office Tuesday, though narrowly. Alison Lundergan Grimes survived a challenge to remain secretary of state, and Andy Beshear, the current governor's son, won the election for attorney general.
He said people in House districts respect their representatives more than they do party politics.
"Republicans have been trying since 2003 to take over the House but have failed," he said. "This is not a new phenomenon."
Emmons added: "Kentucky may be right of center in politics, but that doesn't make it Republican."