FRANKFORT — Kentuckians remain split on which political party should control the state House of Representatives, according to the final Bluegrass Poll before Tuesday's election.
Forty-four percent of registered voters in the state favor Republicans, while 42 percent side with Democrats, according to the poll of 704 registered voters. Fourteen percent weren't sure. Those results mirror the findings of a late-August Bluegrass Poll, when voters gave Republicans a one-point advantage over Democrats.
The poll also shows that only 13 percent of Kentuckians think Republican U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Bowling Green should run both for president and the U.S. Senate in 2016. That was down from 15 percent in late August.
State law now prohibits a candidate from appearing twice on the same ballot, but that could change if Republicans take control of the state House and embrace the GOP-led Senate's effort to alter the law.
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The Bluegrass Poll, sponsored by the Herald-Leader and WKYT-TV in Lexington and The Courier-Journal and WHAS-TV in Louisville, was conducted Oct. 25 to 29 by SurveyUSA. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.8 percentage points.
Democrats now control the 100-member state House with 54 members, but Republicans hope to gain five seats and take over after Tuesday's elections for the first time since 1921.
If that happens, Republicans have promised to quickly pass legislation that House Democratic leaders have bottled up for decades, including more restrictions on abortion and allowing workers to take jobs at unionized work sites without joining unions.
Both House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, and House Minority Leader Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, said they were pleased with the poll results.
"I'm more confident than ever that the House Democrats will widen their majority on Tuesday, because we have the best candidates and the better message," Stumbo said.
"We have worked closely with Gov. Steve Beshear to overcome the Republican-caused recession and the elitist policies pursued by U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell," he said. "I am proud of our record and believe the voters will support our caucus as we pursue a better Kentucky for all citizens, not just a connected few."
Hoover countered that "Kentuckians are tired of seeing surrounding states pass us by while the House Democrat majority leadership is content with the status quo. They are tired of seeing headlines about scandals and lawsuits involving members of the majority party."
He said the poll results show that "Kentuckians have confidence in Republicans to bring more jobs and more opportunity to the commonwealth by tackling the tough issues like tax reform."
Republicans held a slim advantage over Democrats among both men (45 percent to 42 percent) and women (43 percent to 42 percent). Voters younger than 50 chose Democrats by a 3-percentage point difference and voters 50 and older picked Republicans by a 5-percentage point difference.
Among black voters, who made up 6 percent of the survey's sample population, more than three-fourths chose Democrats. Among white voters, 46 percent chose Republicans and 40 percent chose Democrats.
Seventeen percent of Democrats said Republicans would do a better job leading the House, while only 7 percent of Republicans picked the other party. Among self-identified independents, 31 percent chose the GOP, 27 percent picked Democrats and 41 percent said they weren't sure.
Republicans were strongest among voters with no college education (47 percent), those who made more than $80,000 a year (52 percent) and in Eastern Kentucky (51 percent).
Democrats performed best among those with a four-year college degree (46 percent), those who make less than $40,000 a year (45 percent) and in the Louisville area (47 percent).
Poll respondent Lance Fleming, a McCracken County engineer, said Democrats have controlled the state House long enough.
"It's been nearly 100 years," he said. "I think the Republicans could do a better job in growing jobs. This state needs more opportunities for job creation, and the Republican plan for this is much better than what the Democrats want to do."
But retired middle school teacher Kathlee Rose of Grayson County said Republicans would want to deny hundreds of thousands of Kentuckians the health insurance that they now have that the state's Kynect program made possible through President Obama's Affordable Care Act.
"Republicans are only for businesses. Democrats are for the people and good business."
Rand Paul for president?
Paul is garnering much national attention as he ponders a 2016 presidential bid, but only about a third of Kentucky voters think he should enter the race.
In addition to the 13 percent who said he should run for president and re-election to the Senate in 2016, 21 percent said he should run only for president. Twenty-three percent want him to run only for re-election, and 33 percent said he shouldn't seek any public office in 2016.
Each of those results varied by no more than two points from a Bluegrass Poll in late August that asked the same question. In that poll, two-thirds of respondents also said they didn't support changing Kentucky law to allow Paul to seek both offices at the same time.
"Sen. Paul is grateful that a strong majority of Kentuckians stand with him in his efforts to change Washington," said Dan Bayens, a spokesman for Paul.
Poll respondent Ronald Humphrey of Marshall County, who is retired from the chemical industry, said Paul should stay put in the Senate.
"I am strongly for Paul, especially with his constitutional views, but he's too much of an isolationist to be president," Humphrey said. "With world events as they are, I think his stance on foreign policy is not a good one for anyone who might be president."
Eric Tapperson, a Hart County tree surgeon, said Paul should run for both president and the U.S. Senate.
"He's a good guy, one of the honest ones in Washington. My only problem with him is that he's backing Mitch McConnell this year for the U.S. Senate," Tapperson said.
Overall, women were less supportive of Paul's presidential ambitions than men. Among age groups, voters younger than 50 were far more supportive of Paul running for president than their older counterparts.
Paul performed best in Western Kentucky, where 27 percent said he should run for president and 13 percent said he should run for both offices. He had the least support in the Louisville area, where 15 percent said he should run for president and 13 percent said he should run for both offices.