A lot is at stake in May 20 primary

A lot is at stake in May 20 primary

A lot is at stake in May 20 primary

By Ronnie Ellis
CNHI News
Service

FRANKFORT, Ky. Sat, May 10 2008

— This is the
primary election Kentuckians have longed to see – one in which the voices of
Kentucky voters might matter in selecting the next president of the United
States.

But there’s a problem. It may be over by May 20. On the
Republican side, it already is. Arizona Sen. John McCain has had the Republican
nomination wrapped up for two months. And after last week’s big loss to Barack
Obama in North Carolina and closer-than-expected win in Indiana, some prominent
Democrats are suggesting Sen. Hillary Clinton should get out of the Democratic
race.

Secretary of State Trey Grayson said turnout in the presidential
primary four years ago was only 15 percent and while he hasn’t calculated a
prediction for this year, he said this week he expects turnout to be
up.

That might affect some down ticket races. Heading those is the
Democratic primary to choose a nominee to take on Republican U.S. Sen. Mitch
McConnell who faces token opposition from Daniel Essek, a truck driver from
Whitley County. On the Democratic side are seven active candidates and one,
Andrew Horne, whose name will appear on the ballot but who has withdrawn. Votes
for him will not be counted.

U.S. Senate:
Two wealthy Louisville
businessmen, Bruce Lunsford and Greg Fischer, are focusing on each other.
Fischer attacked Lunsford in television ads about Lunsford’s past businesses,
including a company which owned nursing homes and was cited by Medicaid and
Medicare for over billing.

Former Kentucky Democratic Party Chairman and
political consultant Danny Briscoe, who is not working for either, said
Fischer’s advertising isn’t effective. Briscoe said no one knows Fischer while
Lunsford has wide name recognition.

“Fischer’s commercials have been so
bad, he ought to sue his people for making them,” Briscoe said.

Lunsford
may have his own problems. Despite spending $14 million of his own money running
for governor in the last two Democratic primaries, he never got as much as a
third of the vote. In 2003, he endorsed Republican Ernie Fletcher. Some
Democrats haven’t forgiven him.

Other Democrats, however, say it’s more
important to defeat McConnell than to dwell on Lunsford’s past transgressions.
Briscoe said McConnell will be helped by national politics. He’ll be running in
a conservative state with Obama at the top of the Democratic ticket and he has
plenty of money to spend.

The other Democrats in the primary are Michael
Cassaro, a Prospect physician; David Wylie of Harrodsburg; David Lynn Williams
of Glasgow; James Rice of Campbellsville; and Kenneth Stepp of
Manchester.

U.S. Congress:
Two congressional races should be
competitive – the third in Jefferson County and the second which stretches from
Owensboro to Elizabethtown to Bowling Green and includes a small portion of
Jefferson County.

In the third, Anne Northup is expected to win the
Republican primary in her quest to regain the seat she held for 10 years but
lost to incumbent Democrat John Yarmuth in 2006. Generally Kentucky’s most
liberal district, it includes the affluent east end of the county and the
largely African American west end of Louisville. Obama is expected to bring out
large numbers of voters in the west end, which could benefit Yarmuth who
endorsed Obama.

Two Daviess County Democrats, Judge/Executive Reid Haire
and state Sen. David Boswell, are running for the Democratic nomination for the
open second district seat vacated by the retiring Republican Ron Lewis. Boswell,
a former Commissioner of Agriculture, is better known outside of Daviess County,
but Haire has raised far more money and is advertising on television.

The
winner will face state Sen. Brett Guthrie of Bowling Green. The district has a
Democratic edge in voter registration, but it typically votes Republican in
federal elections. State Sen. President David Williams said Guthrie will also
benefit from running down ticket with McConnell while Obama at the top may hurt
the Democrat.

State House:
Only 38 of the 100 House districts will be
contested, and they won’t threaten Democratic control of the chamber. In the
26th, Democrat Mike Weaver of Elizabethtown will try to win back his old sear
from Republican Tim Moore. And in the 11th, Herb McKee is challenging fellow
Democrat David Watkins in the primary. Watkins introduced a bill to increase the
cigarette tax in the House.

In the 63rd, Republican Will Terwort will
challenge freshman Alicia Webb-Edgington in a primary. The winner will meet
Democrat Ken Padgett in the fall. Freshman Democrat Sannie Overly is challenged
by fellow Democrats Jim Lovell and Roy Baber. In the 74th, Richard Henderson
faces fellow Democrat Billy Ray Fawns.

In the 100th, Republican Mike
Stewart will face one of three Democrats, Kevin Sinnette, Bobby Jack Woods or
Cyrus Reynolds for the open seat vacated by retiring John Vincent.

State
Senate:
Gov. Steve Beshear vowed last year to help Democrats retake control
of the Senate, but the math is against that happening.

“It’s basically
numerically impossible for Democrats to take control,” Williams said. That’s
buttressed by the special election Republican Brandon Smith won in the 30th
district earlier this year which increased Republican control by one, to
22-15-1. Bob Leeper of Paducah is an independent.

Former governor and
state Sen. Julian Carroll, D-Frankfort, said he thinks Democrats could pick up
as many as “three or four seats, and I’ll be disappointed if we don’t pick up
two.”

Democrats are hopeful in the first where Carroll Hubbard and Rick
Johnson battle in the Democratic primary to take on Republican incumbent Ken
Winters. And in the 9th, Democrats think they have a great chance to pick up the
seat vacated by Republican Richie Sanders. Democrats Steve Newberry, John
Rogers, and Horace Johnson are vying for the chance to face the winner of a
three-way Republican primary between Jeff Jobe, Bob Bryant or David Givens.

But Republicans have hopes with challengers Doug Hawkins against
incumbent Perry Clark in Jefferson County and Williams mentioned Republican Bob
Heleringer who is challenging Jefferson County Democratic incumbent Tim
Shaughnessey.

Ronnie Ellis writes for CNHI News Service and is based in
Frankfort, Ky. He may be contacted by email at rellis@cnhi.com.

Copyright © 1999-2008 cnhi, inc.

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