Kentucky voters have a clear idea of their options for state legislature this year.
The filing deadline for candidates to run as a Democrat or Republican in all 100 state House seats and half of the state Senate seats passed on Tuesday afternoon. The deadline has also passed to run in a special election in March for four vacant state House seats.
Since the GOP’s strong showing in statewide elections in November, Republicans have set their sights on taking the House, the last Democratic-controlled state legislative body in the South.
Democrats currently hold a 50-46 control of the House.
Here’s a rundown of the legislative elections.
The special elections for four vacant seats in the state House could have profound implications for the control and political makeup of the chamber.
The GOP can at best even the House at 50-50 if Republicans sweep the races. The winners will only hold the seats through the end of 2016. All 100 House seats will be up for grabs in the general election in November.
The special elections will take place on March 8 in the following districts:
The district includes Hopkinsville, parts of Christian and Trigg counties.
Democrat Jeff Taylor is a retired economic development manager for the Tennessee Valley Authority and chair of the Christian County Democratic Party.
Republican Walker Thomas is a former Hopkinsville city councilman and owner of a roller skating rink.
The seat was vacated by former Democratic Rep. John Tilley, who Republican Gov. Matt Bevin appointed to be secretary of the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet.
The district includes Danville and all of Boyle and Casey counties.
Republican Daniel B. Elliott is an attorney and vice chairman of Boyle County’s Republican Party.
Democrat Bill Noelker is an assistant district attorney for Boyle and Mercer counties and former Navy fighter pilot.
The seat was vacated by former Republican Rep. Mike Harmon, who was elected state auditor in November.
The district includes Georgetown, Owen County, parts of Scott and Fayette counties.
Republican Phillip Pratt owns a landscaping company in Georgetown.
Democrat Chuck Tackett is a former Scott County magistrate. He unsuccessfully ran for the seat against former Rep. Ryan Quarles in 2014.
Quarles was elected agriculture commissioner in November.
The district includes South Shore, parts of Boyd and Greenup counties.
Democrat Lew Nicholls is a retired Greenup County circuit court judge and lay leader for the United Methodist Church.
Republican Tony Quillen is an engineering consultant and has been a Greenup County commissioner for 17 years.
The seat was vacated by former Democratic Rep. Tanya Pullin, who Bevin appointed to an administrative law judgeship.
State House General Election
Even after the dust settles from the special elections in March, all 100 state House seats will be up for election in November. The major party candidates will be chosen in the May primary; independents can still enter the races.
Democrats have controlled the House since 1921, but the election of Republican Bevin has given the GOP new hope that they can take over the chamber.
Several longtime Democratic members of the House have decided not to run, including Pikeville Rep. Leslie Combs, Glasgow Rep. Johnny Bell, Louisville Rep. Larry Clark and Maysville Rep. Mike Denham.
Rep. Thomas Kerr is the only House Republican not seeking re-election.
Republicans will be targeting rural Democratic-controlled districts that they believe have a chance of flipping.
After the November election, Rep. Jim Gooch of Providence and Rep. Denny Butler of Louisville switched their party affiliations from Democrat to Republican, citing growing differences with their former party.
Both men have drawn Democratic challengers in their districts. Gooch will be squaring off against longtime Webster Co. Judge-Executive Jim Townsend. Butler will face the winner of a primary race between Louisville Metro Councilman Dan Johnson and employment law attorney McKenzie Cantrell.
Glasgow Rep. Johnny Bell, the House Democratic whip, announced on Monday that he would not seek re-election in his district. Two Republicans and one Democrat have filed for the seat.
State Senate Races
Half of Kentucky’s state Senate seats will also be up for election in November. Republicans have a 27-11 majority in the chamber and many senators are running unopposed for re-election.
Sen. Gerald Neal, a Democrat from Louisville and also the minority caucus chair, has two challengers from his own party. Toni Stringer, a retired judge from Jefferson District Court, and former legislative employee Charles Booker filed to run as Democrats before the deadline.
Two Republicans area also running for Neal’s seat: John Yuen and Sherita Rickman.
Senate Minority Leader Ray Jones, a Democrat from Pikeville, will have a primary challenger: Pikeville Attorney Glenn Hammond.
Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer, a Republican from Georgetown, will face a challenge from former House Democratic Caucus Chair Charlie Hoffman. In 2010, Hoffman lost his seat in the House to Quarles, the new agriculture commissioner.
Sen. Albert Robinson, a Republican from London, will have to deal with a primary challenge from Republican Michael Bryant, the director of business development for a call center in London. Democrat Janice Odom of Horse Cave is also running.
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