Kentucky 3rd District
At the falls of the Ohio River, Americans more than 200 years ago founded one of their first inland metropolises, the river port and industrial city of Louisville. Established by George Rogers Clark in 1778, the city has always retained an air of the South. When Kentucky decided not to secede from the union in 1861, the decision was not unanimous, and the culture of tidewater Virginia is still evident in the Louisville lawn party. Mint juleps are served on the verandas of mansions, especially (but not only) during Kentucky Derby week in May; horse racing is a preoccupation throughout the year. Although the Ohio River is crossed by many bridges and the accent across the river in Indiana may sound the same to outsiders, Louisville partakes of the Cavalier culture that second sons of big landowners from England brought to Virginia in the 17th century, and their heirs brought over the Appalachians to the valleys of Kentucky in the 18th century.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
Louisville is Kentucky’s largest city, surpassing Lexington in 2003 after Louisville voters decided to consolidate the city and surrounding Jefferson County. Louisville has not been growing as rapidly as many other Southern and Midwestern cities. Its economy is in many ways pre-postindustrial: It produces cigarettes and whiskey, large appliances and Ford automobiles. However, it is also the headquarters of Humana health services and of Yum! Brands, which owns KFC, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell and Long John Silver’s. Its downtown hosts a new medical services center, the Muhammad Ali Center and the Owsley Brown Frazier Historical Arms Museum. The Louisville Bats’s Slugger Field, which opened in 2000 on the riverfront, has attracted $100 million in development nearby. But the pace of growth in Louisville-Jefferson County is still slower than in the counties that ring it and in the counties across the river in Indiana. This regional growth has fueled plans to build two massive bridges over the Ohio River, at an estimated cost of $4 billion. Louisville has not yet attracted large numbers of immigrants, but has an interesting variety: Vietnamese, Bosnians, Cubans, Chinese, Indians, Koreans and Mexicans.
The 3rd Congressional District of Kentucky includes all but a dozen or so precincts of Louisville-Jefferson County. There is a large black population in the West End of Louisville and just south of the old city limits, and a lower-income white population along the strip highway that leads to Fort Knox. The suburbs to the east tend to be affluent. Small, elite neighborhoods—Mockingbird Valley, Glenview, Ten Broeck—are nestled in the hills above the Ohio River. Louisville has long been an odd duck in Kentucky politics. If its elite were Virginia Cavaliers, many of its burghers were Germans and Pennsylvanians who made this river town a Republican and anti-slavery island in a secessionist and pro-slavery sea. That tradition helps explain why Republican Mitch McConnell was able to get elected as Jefferson County judge-executive in 1977 and 1981, when the state was electing Democrats to most other offices. Since the 1990s, Louisville, like so many metro areas, has trended toward the Democrats, even as the rest of Kentucky trended Republican. The 3rd District voted by narrow margins for Al Gore in 2000 and John Kerry in 2004, while the state’s other five districts all voted twice for George W. Bush. In 2008, the district voted for Barack Obama even as the rest of Kentucky went solidly for John McCain.