Election 2018 Politics

In the wake of statehouse elections on Tuesday, Democrats netted two seats in the Kentucky House and Republicans gained one seat in the Senate, meaning Republicans still have supermajorities in both chambers.

The big takeaway is that Democrats did well in urban Louisville and Lexington and a couple historically Democratic pockets in the state, while the GOP was able to pick off a few seats in areas that have been trending Republican.

But the results are a let-down for Democrats who hoped that they would be able to ride a wave of teacher protests, opposition to Republicans’ record and Gov. Matt Bevin’s unpopularity into office.

Meanwhile, Republicans are emboldened that major initiatives passed over the last two years — like right-to-work, charter schools and changes to pension and workers’ compensation benefits — aren’t as politically volatile as opponents have suggested.

Or at least, not so politically volatile that Republicans couldn’t make up most of their losses to strong Democratic candidates with victories in other parts of the state.

Going into Election Day, Republicans had 62 seats in the House and Democrats had 37. One seat was empty after Bevin appointed Republican Rep. Kenny Imes to fill in as judge executive of Calloway County.

In the House, initial results show that Democrats were able to flip eight seats in their favor and Republicans were able to flip six and win the vacant seat that used to be held by Imes.

The net outcome is that Republicans will have 61 seats in the legislature and Democrats will have 39 when lawmakers are sworn in for the next legislative session in January — the GOP will again have a supermajority, meaning they don’t need any help from Democrats when trying to pass Constitutional amendments that require 60 votes.

Meanwhile in the Senate, Republicans were able to fend off strong challenges from Democrats in suburban areas. Plus they padded their supermajority when current House Republican Robby Mills defeated Senate Democrat Dorsey Ridley, increasing the GOP’s ranks to 28 seats of the chamber’s 38.

One note: the results could change if candidates request retabulations of ballot totals before the secretary of state officially certifies the vote, especially in a handful of races won by Democrats by single-digit margins. The deadline for lawmakers to request a recanvass is Nov. 13.

Here’s a list of the districts that flipped party affiliation:

Democratic Districts Flipping To Republican

House District 3: Randy Bridges over Martha Emmons. This seat was vacated by Democratic Rep. Gerald Watkins. Republicans have long eyed this district as one that was trending GOP. Emmons is a businesswoman who owns a bicycle and fitness shop, and Bridges is a real estate agent.

House District 6: Chris Freeland over Linda Story Edwards. This seat was vacated by Democratic Rep. Will Coursey, who ran for Marshall County judge executive and lost. The district includes Marshall County High School, where two sophomores were shot to death earlier this year. Edwards was the kindergarten teacher of Freeland, who is a local media mogul.

House District 27: Nancy Tate over Rep. Jeff Greer. Tate is a graduate of Kentucky Strong, an organization that recruits and trains women to run for office as Republicans. She defeated five-term incumbent Democratic Rep. Jeff Greer by just six votes in a district that went big for Donald Trump in 2016.

House District 49: Thomas Huff over Rep. Linda Belcher. Huff is a partner at a used car dealership and received a video endorsement from Sen. Rand Paul. He defeated incumbent Democratic Rep. Linda Belcher with 71 percent of the vote. Belcher won the seat in a special election earlier this year after the suicide of GOP Rep. Dan Johnson.

House District 72: Matthew Koch over Emily Ferguson. Koch picked up this seat in rural Bourbon County after it was vacated by Democratic Rep. Sannie Overly.

House District 87: Adam Bowling over Dustin Allen. Bowling won this seat after it was vacated by Democrat Rick Nelson. Bowling is an attorney and the son of former Rep. Mike Bowling, who was a Democratic lawmaker in the early 90s.

Republican House Districts Flipping to Democrat:

House District 11: Robert Wiederstein over James Buckmaster. Wiederstein picked up this seat vacated by incumbent Republican Rep. Robby Mills, who successfully ran for Senate District 4. The district was represented by a Democrat before Mills was elected in 2016 — longtime Henderson Rep. David Watkins.

House District 13: Jim Glenn over Rep. DJ Johnson. Initial returns show Glenn winning back his seat by just 1 vote. Incumbent Republican Rep. “DJ” Johnson has requested the vote be recanvassed — basically a re-check of the ballot totals. Glenn is a professor and former Democratic representative for the district. He was ousted by Johnson in 2016.

House District 32: In suburban Louisville, Tina Bojanowski beat out Rep. Phil Moffett. Bojanowski is one of the dozens of educators who ran for office after participating in massive teacher protests in Frankfort over the last year.

House District 48: Maria Sorolis over Rep. Ken Fleming. Also in suburban Louisville, Sorolis was able to best Fleming in a rematch of their 2016 race. Sorolis is a part-time middle school educator who won by more than 800 votes.

House District 88: Cherlynn Stevenson over former Rep. Bill Farmer. Stevenson won this Lexington district in her first bid for public office despite Farmer’s name recognition — he represented the district from 2003 to 2012. The district was vacated by Republican Rep. Robert Benvenuti.

House District 91: Cluster Howard over Rep. Toby Herald. Howard defeated incumbent Herald in the third rematch for this seat between the two men by just seven votes. Herald defeated Howard in 2016. Howard defeated Herald in 2014.

House District 95: Ashley Tackett Laferty over Rep. Larry Brown. Laferty won this heavily Democratic district after Brown defeated former House Speaker Greg Stumbo in 2016.

House District 96: Kathy Hinkle over Rep. Jill York. Hinkle defeated five-term GOP Rep. Jill York by just 5 votes.

Ryland Barton is the Capitol bureau chief for Kentucky Public Radio.