Politics & Government

Republicans field candidates in 91 of 100 House elections

State Rep. Leslie Combs, D-Pikeville.
State Rep. Leslie Combs, D-Pikeville.

Republicans, in their quest to take control of the state House this year, are fielding candidates in 91 of the 100 House districts up for election.

“House Republicans accomplished our recruitment goals for 2016,” state Rep. Jonathan Shell, a Lancaster Republican who is the House GOP campaign chairman, said in a news release. “We have candidates in every corner of the state, in nearly every district. We have inspiring candidates who will bring a new majority to the people’s House and who will govern this state the way Kentuckians deserve.”

House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, was not impressed.

He said Democrats were “more laser-like” in their approach of fielding House candidates.

“There are districts that won’t accept Democrats and districts that won’t accept Republicans,” Stumbo said. “We targeted races. We have a good slate of candidates out there. We are in a position to succeed.”

Democrats now outnumber Republicans in the House 50-46. They have been the majority in the chamber since 1921. Four special House elections have been set by Republican Gov. Matt Bevin for March 8 to fill vacancies and serve the remainder of this year’s terms.

House Minority Leader Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, said Tuesday’s filing deadline for legislative races “has been met with an unprecedented number of quality Republican candidates.”

Republican officials noted that in last fall’s election for governor, Bevin won 26 state House districts held by a Democrat. In 2014, 13 of those Democrat-held districts were uncontested by Republicans. This year, a Republican candidate is running in 25 of those 26 districts.

Also, Republicans in 2014 had only three non-incumbent women candidates for the State House. This year, there are 11.

On the last day to file for this year’s state legislative races, state Rep. Leslie Combs, D-Pikeville, decided not to run again.

Combs, who has represented the 94th House District in Pike and Letcher counties since 2007, said in a news release that “deciding not to run for another term was not an easy choice.

“The decade I have spent working for the people of the 94th State House District has been one of the most professionally rewarding periods of my life, and I will always look back with pride on the lasting accomplishments of which I have been a part,” Combs said.

Combs’ decision not to run for another two-year term is another blow to House Democrats.

Combs said she will continue working with people across Kentucky to implement the SOAR initiative to provide job growth and economic opportunity to Eastern Kentucky.

She said she will continue supporting the state Democratic Party, especially in its quest to keep control of the state House. The governor’s office and state Senate are now controlled by Republicans.

“This decision is not meant to be a ‘good bye,’ but rather an opportunity to take on new and exciting challenges,” she said.

Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes’ office said 220 candidates filed for seats in the state House.

Jack Brammer: (502) 227-1198, @BGPolitics