5 Ky. incumbents prevail in race for U.S. House

Little will change in Kentucky's congressional delegation next year, with five U.S. House incumbents re-elected Tuesday and Republicans holding onto the sixth seat, vacated by retiring U.S. Rep. Ron Lewis, R-Cecilia.

In a closely watched race, the 2nd Congressional District in west-central Kentucky chose Brett Guthrie, 44, a Republican state senator from Bowling Green to succeed Lewis.

Guthrie defeated Democratic state Sen. David Boswell, 58, of Owensboro, a former state agriculture commissioner who has held elected office in Frankfort since the 1970s.

Given a mostly rural, deeply conservative congressional district, both Guthrie and Bos well campaigned as staunch conservatives who opposed abortion, supported gun ownership and criticized the recent Wall Street bailout package passed by Congress. Furthermore, Boswell declined to associate himself with Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama.

Faced with a choice between a conservative Republican and a conservative Democrat, voters chose the former. Guthrie was supported by national Republicans and received help on the campaign trail from Vice President Dick Cheney and first lady Laura Bush.

With nearly 100 percent of precincts reporting, Guthrie held a five-point lead over Boswell, with 15,487 votes separating them out of 301,913 cast. Guthrie could not be immediately reached for comment.

Guthrie, a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., and Yale University, is vice president of his family's business, Trace Die Cast Co., which produces aluminum castings for car parts. He was first elected to the state Senate in 1998.

Lewis, the current GOP congressman, is retiring after 14 years. It was Lewis' capture of that seat in an early 1994 special election that foretold the Republican revolution placing Congress in GOP control that year. Previously, the 2nd was a solidly Democratic district, with Democratic U.S. Rep. William Natcher holding the seat for more than 40 years, and dying while in office.

Incumbents strong

In Kentucky's five other congressional races, all the incumbents were returned to office by wide margins, as expected. Most of them faced weak opponents with little name recognition, money or party support.

In Louisville's 3rd Congressional District, Democratic U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth easily turned back a challenge by his Republican predecessor, Anne Northup.

Yarmuth, 61, first defeated Northup in 2006 after she had held the seat for a decade. Their 2006 contest was close; their contest this year was not, with Yarmuth winning by about 20 percent.

In Central Kentucky's 6th Congressional District, U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler, D-Versailles, cruised into his fourth House term. He defeated Republican Jon Larson, a Lexington lawyer.

Chandler, 49, has settled comfortably into Congress since he first won a special election in early 2004 after losing Kentucky's gubernatorial race the previous fall. He has joined the conservative Blue Dog Coalition and secured a seat on the powerful House Appropriations Committee, where federal spending is decided.

"I'm very pleased and very honored to get the chance to continue to represent Central Kentucky," Chandler said Tuesday night.

Chandler said he expects the House to craft a stimulus package that could pump money into the ailing economy, with a special session of the 110th Congress possibly being called before the 111th convenes in January.

"The economy and job creation really has to be our top priority," he said. "What we've seen in the Bush years is a widening gap between people who have a whole lot and people who don't have much of anything. We need to find a way to grow the middle class."

U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Somerset, won in southeast Kentucky's 5th Congressional District. He drew no Democratic opponent this year, just an independent candidate, Jim Holbert of London. Rogers, 70, was first elected in 1980. He is a senior member of the appropriations committee, with particular clout in homeland security funding.

U.S. Rep. Geoff Davis, R-Hebron, won in Northern Kentucky's 4th Congressional District against Democratic doctor Michael Kelley of La Grange. Davis, 50, was first elected in 2004.

U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Hopkinsville, won in Western Kentucky's 1st Congressional District against Democrat Heather Ryan of Paducah. Whitfield, 65, was first elected in 1994.