Tomorrow, Kentuckians will go to the polls bringing a close to the 2018 election season. This election cycle includes not only a hotly contested congressional race in Kentucky's 6th district in Central KY, but also more contested state legislative races than we've seen in years. Judicial and local government candidates will round out lengthy ballots across the Commonwealth. With that in mind, we hope this short analysis will be helpful as tomorrow night's results begin to pour in. As always, we'll provide an update tomorrow evening and a more detailed analysis shortly thereafter.
State Legislative Races
House of Representatives
All 100 state house seats are up for re-election. Of the 100 seats, 90 are contested and there are 23 open seats, where the incumbent either chose not to run for re-election or was defeated in the May primary. Here's the breakdown:
Of the 90 contested races – 60 are currently GOP seats and 30 are currently DEM seats.
With 23 "open" seats we are guaranteed at least 23 new members of the House when the legislature gavels in session in January. Of the 23, 12 are currently held by the Democrats and 11 by the Republicans.
The following ten House members don't have opposition - Rep. Charlie Miller (D – Louisville), Rep. Russ Meyer (D – Nicholasville), Rep. Attica Scott (D – Louisville), Rep. John Sims (D – Flemingsburg), Rep. Kelly Flood (D – Lexington), Rep. David Meade (R – Stanford), Rep. Jeff Hoover (R – Jamestown), Derek Lewis (R – London), Rep. Angie Hatton (D – Whitesburg), and Rep. Rocky Adkins (D – Sandy Hook)
The current make-up of the House is 62-37, with the Republicans holding a super majority. There's one vacant seat, which was created when Governor Bevin appointed Rep. Kenny Imes as the County Judge Executive in Calloway County. Having at least 60 seats allows the majority party to pass certain measures, like constitutional amendment legislation, revenue bills, and procedure and rule changes without seeking support from members of the minority.
Nineteen, or half of the Senate's 38 seats are up for re-election tomorrow. Here's the breakdown:
There are 18 contested races. Of those, 16 are GOP seats and 2 are DEM seats.
Senator Dennis Parrett (D-Elizabethtown) is the sole member without a contested race.
There is one open seat, with incumbent Senator Joe Bowen not running for re-election
Two current state House members are running for seats in the Senate. Rep. Matt Castlen is running for the open seat, while Rep. Robby Mills is running against incumbent Senator Dorsey Ridley.
Senate Minority Leader Ray Jones is running for County Judge Executive in Pike County. If he wins, a special election will be called to fill his Senate seat.
The current make-up of the Senate is 27 to 11, with the Republicans – like in the House – holding a supermajority of the votes. A supermajority in the Senate is considered to be 23 seats.
What To Watch For
Following a contentious and controversial debate and vote on pension reform legislation during the session, teacher and state employee organizers began a "Remember in November" campaign focusing on members who voted for the pension changes. While there was some impact in the May primary races, it remains to be seen whether the effort will produce any significant amount of change in the general election.
Will the Republicans maintain super majorities in the House and Senate? Legislative leaders have indicated they want to tackle "tax reform 2.0" during the 2019 session, but 60 votes in the House and 23 in the Senate will be needed to pass any revenue-raising measure. Without super majorities, a bi-partisan effort will be needed to move forward with these changes.
There are a handful of "rematches" in the House worth keeping an eye on. In the 8th, Rep. Walker Thomas (R) is running against Jeff Taylor (D), who he beat for the seat two years ago. In the 13th, former member Jim Glenn (D) is challenging Rep. DJ Johnson (R) in hopes of winning the seat back. Brent Yonts (D), a longtime representative in the 15th, is running against current incumbent Rep. Melinda Prunty (R) who beat Yonts in 2016. The 24th has Terry Mills (D) challenging incumbent Brandon Reed (R) and in the 91st Cluster Howard (D) and Rep. Toby Herald (R) face-off for the third time.
President Trump remains very popular in rural areas of the state and recorded autodial phone calls, which were turned into radio ads, supporting several House Republican candidates. Trump's popularity declines, though, in the state's population centers, like Louisville and Lexington, which could be areas where Democrats make gains.
There continues to be heavy third-party spending in Kentucky legislative races, although maybe not quite as much as in 2016. Groups like Kentucky Tomorrow, Kentuckians for Strong Leadership and Kentucky Family Values have spent significant amounts.
Will the 6th District Congressional race between Congressman Andy Barr and Amy McGrath impact legislative races in the Central Kentucky area? This race is expected to be close and record amounts have been spent on both sides. Due to the increased interest in this race, it could possibly impact the legislative races down the ballot.