June 24, 2013

Special elections may break D and R tie

Going into tomorrow’s special election to fill the vacant seat in House District 56, the Democrats hold 68 of the 138 seats in the Kentucky General Assembly — 54 in the House of Representatives, 14 in the Senate. And the Republicans hold 68 seats as well — 45 in the House, 23 in the Senate. There's one independent.

That the two parties are dead even in total representation is interesting but not as significant as it might appear to the legislative untutored, because the Democrats control the House and the Republicans control the Senate, and ruling a chamber is the important thing.

However, the overall tie is very significant for its symbolism. For 20 years now, Kentucky has been a competitive two-party state, in terms of state-house politics (election of governor, constitutional officers and the General Assembly). Local and federal races are different, but that’s a story for another day.

All three candidates in tomorrow’s election reside in Versailles (Woodford County). A win by Democrat James Kay would suck some the wind out of the sails of the Republicans, who have high hopes of capturing control of the House in 2014. On the other hand, if R’s nominee, Lyen Crews, get a victory, watch out for the dancing pachyderms.

But in a small turnout special election — about 25 percent is expected — the outcome is even more unpredictable. Independent candidate, John-Mark Hack, has visions of pulling off a Wallace Wilkinson-style surprise. Older readers will recall the 1987 governor’s race, where, in the Democratic primary, John Y. Brown Jr. and Steve Beshear went head-to-head with so much negativity, Wilkinson (creating a wave with the lottery) surfed in the back door. Conditions seem ripe for Hack to do well, despite not being able to compete financially in this race.

Below is a profile of the current Kentucky General Assembly from Who’s What In Kentucky 2013-2014, the biennial legislative directory produced and published by Kentucky Roll Call. Click here to review the book.