Politics & Government

National GOP group pours money into special House races

Boy Scout Troop 1784 from Versailles presented the colors Tuesday in the Kentucky House of Representatives.
Boy Scout Troop 1784 from Versailles presented the colors Tuesday in the Kentucky House of Representatives. cbertram@herald-leader.com

Out-of-state money is coming into Kentucky for the four special state House elections on March 8.

The special elections set by Gov. Matt Bevin to fill vacancies in the House could go a long way in determining if Democrats this year keep control of the state House. They have led the chamber since 1921.

The Republican State Leadership Committee, based in Washington, D.C., is launching a digital ad buy around the state trying to tie the four Democratic state House candidates to President Obama, who is highly unpopular in Kentucky.

The RSLC buy is the first phase of what it says will be “a six-figure, multi-platform ad campaign leading up to the four special elections for the open seats in the Kentucky House of Representatives.” The organization is the largest caucus of Republican state leaders in the country and the only national group whose mission is to elect down-ballot, state-level Republican officeholders.

“Democrats don’t seem to have a clue,” RSLC President Matt Walter said in a news release about the Kentucky races.

“They lost important races last November after running out-of-touch candidates determined to implement Obama’s policies in Kentucky,”” Walter said. They’ve since lost two state House representatives who switched to the Republican Party because of the Democrats’ commitment to the president’s failed agenda. And now they are trying the same play again by running four House candidates in the upcoming special elections who will be strong allies to the president and his extreme positions.”

Democratic Party consultant Dale Emmons called the RSLC’s spending an “out-of-state fabricated attack.”

“It would be wise for the voters in these Kentucky districts to look at the candidates and their abilities instead of listening to a group like this,” Emmons said.

With Democrats now holding a 50-46 margin in the House over Republicans, Democrats have to win at least one of the elections to keep their majority in the House.

If Republicans win all four seats, the House will have an even split in party membership — 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans. That has never occurred before in Kentucky and would produce interesting decisions on exactly who would preside over the chamber.

The four special House elections arose because of vacancies. The winners will serve through the end of the year.

All eight candidates in the special elections also have filed to run this year for the next two-year terms.

The four special House elections and their candidates are:

▪ 62nd District, which includes Owen County and parts of Fayette and Scott counties — Republican Phillip Pratt and Democrat Chuck Tackett. Both are from Georgetown.

▪ 54th District, made up of Boyle and Casey counties — Republican Daniel B. Elliott and Democrat Bill Noelker. Both are from Danville.

▪ 8th District, made up of parts of Christian and Trigg counties — Democrat Jeffrey R. Taylor and Republican Walker Wood Thomas, both of Hopkinsville.

▪ 98th District, which covers parts of Boyd and Greenup counties — Democrat Lew Nicholls and Republican Tony D. Quillen. Both are from Greenup.

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