Politics

A special election will be held on Tuesday to fill an eastern Kentucky House district seat vacated by a Republican who retired last year.

The contest will take place in House district 89, which includes Jackson County and parts of Laurel and Madison counties.

Democratic candidate Kelly Smith, an Eastern Kentucky University librarian who lives in Berea, will square off against Republican candidate Robert Goforth, who owns several pharmacies and lives in East Bernstadt in Laurel County.

The contest comes a week after Democrat Linda Belcher won the special election for a state House seat in Bullitt County previously held by Republican Rep. Dan Johnson, who killed himself in December.

Democrats are trying to build momentum off of the election, characterizing it as the beginning of a “blue wave” in Kentucky.

But once Belcher is installed, Democrats will still just have 37 members in the 100-seat state House of Representatives.

Last year, Republicans won control of the state House for the first time in nearly a century after dominating in elections with Donald Trump at the top of the ticket.

That gave Republicans control of both chambers of the legislature and the governor’s office for the first time in state history.

For the last 20 years, the 89th district seat was held by former Republican Rep. Marie Rader, a business owner and public housing director for the City of McKee. She resigned late last year citing health concerns.

According to the State Board of Elections, Republicans outnumber Democrats by more than 2-to-1 in the district with 22,247 Republicans and 10,115 Democrats.

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