Rep. Brett Guthrie (R)
Kentucky 2nd District
In the 1770s and 1780s, Americans began settling the limestone-soil country of central Kentucky, staking out towns like Bardstown and Elizabethtown and starting academies and colleges. They were well settled when Stephen Foster wrote “My Old Kentucky Home” just before the Civil War. The war tore deeply here. This part of Kentucky gave birth to Abraham Lincoln, and during the conflict, it lost thousands of soldiers, both Union and Confederate. The area is the home of several Kentucky landmarks—Fort Knox, the nation’s gold depository; some of the nation’s largest bourbon distilleries; and Mammoth Cave, the world’s largest accessible cavern, near Bowling Green. Kentucky culture is more broadly disseminated than one might think. Executives at the five Japanese-owned plants in Bardstown feel at home there because Foster’s songs, apparently well adapted to Japanese tones, are universally known in Japan. In 2004, a Japanese bluegrass band played at a bluegrass festival in Owensboro, the home of the International Bluegrass Music Museum.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 2nd Congressional District of Kentucky consists of much of the territory south and southwest of Louisville, starting with fast-growing Spencer County and proceeding south to Bowling Green and west along the Ohio River to Owensboro, a port with warehouses that receive aluminum alloys to make lightweight engine parts. The city has aggressively and successfully courted new economic development in recent years. It also hosts an annual international barbecue festival where mutton, a throwback to Welsh shepherds who settled in western Kentucky, remains a favorite.
Much of the district is rural and small-town country, where people have family roots that go back generations and a connection with the past not often found in metropolitan areas. Civil War loyalties are reflected in the election returns here. Kentucky was deeply split on secession, with some counties pro-South and others pro-Union. For many years, the balance of opinion here favored the Democrats. But in the 1990s, it moved toward the Republican Party, which better matched its conservative cultural leanings. In 2000 and 2004, this was George W. Bush’s best district in Kentucky. In 2008, Republican nominee John McCain did well here, winning the district 61%-38% over Democrat Barack Obama.
Rep. Brett Guthrie (R)
Elected: 2008, 1st term.
Born: Feb. 18, 1964, Florence, AL .
Home: Bowling Green.
Education: U.S. Military Academy, B.S. 1987; Yale U., M.A. 1997..
Religion: Church of Christ.
Family: Married (Beth); 3 children.
Military career: Army, 1987-2001
Elected office: KY Senate, 1998-2008.
Professional Career: V.P., Trace Die Cast, 2001-08.
The new congressman from the 2nd District is Brett Guthrie, a Republican elected in 2008 to succeed retiring GOP Rep. Ron Lewis. A graduate of West Point, Guthrie served 14 years in the U.S. Army, first in the Reserves, then as a field artillery officer with the 101st Airborne division at Fort Campbell. After his discharge, Guthrie joined the family business in Bowling Green, Ky., Trace Die Cast, Inc., a leading supplier of aluminum castings for the automobile industry with a workforce of more than 500. His father had started the business with his savings and just five employees in the 1980s. Guthrie eventually became vice president. In 1998, Guthrie was elected to the state Senate, where he focused on education issues and became chairman of the Transportation Committee, helping the state develop its highway budget. Republicans expected him to eventually join the leadership ranks, but Guthrie had his sights set on Congress.
|Brett Guthrie (R)||158,936||(53%)||($1,257,624)|
|David Boswell (D)||143,379||(47%)||($900,518)|
|Brett Guthrie (R)||Unopposed|
After Lewis announced his retirement, his longtime chief of staff, Daniel London, jumped into the race to succeed him. Guthrie also got in and wound up running unopposed. Leading Republicans criticized Lewis and London, saying they’d set up a succession plan: Lewis had waited until just before the filing deadline to announce his retirement, leaving little time for candidates other than London to file. London apologized and withdrew from the race. Guthrie avoided a contested primary and marshaled his resources for the contested general election.
The Democratic nominee was state Sen. David Boswell, a 30-year veteran of Kentucky politics and a former Agriculture commissioner. He ran as a conservative Democrat, and the two contenders were virtually indistinguishable on the issues. Both opposed abortion rights and supported gun ownership, and both spoke out against the massive bailout for the financial industry passed by Congress that fall. “These two candidates are very similar—their experiences in the Kentucky state Senate, committee assignments that they’ve worked on, their backgrounds,” said Billy Ray Smith, a former Democratic agriculture commissioner. “They’re very similar in a lot of their philosophies and political motivations.”
National Democrats sensed they might be able to pick up a Republican House seat and made the contest one of their top priorities of 2008. Guthrie found himself neck and neck with Boswell in a district that had been held by a Republican for 15 years. He ran ads tying Boswell to liberal congressional Democrats and their opposition to offshore drilling, which Republicans argued would help lower gas prices. And he emphasized his military background to the district’s sizable active and retired military population. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee ran an ad claiming that Trace Die Cast had sent jobs out of state to Mexico. Former President Bill Clinton stumped for Boswell in the district; First Lady Laura Bush put in an appearance for Guthrie. Guthrie proved more adept at fundraising, with a war chest of nearly $1.3 million; Boswell’s barely topped $900,000.
Guthrie won 53%-47%. Once in the House, he was named to the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and to the Education and Labor Committee. His colleagues predicted Guthrie would bring his bipartisan style to Congress. “He will work extremely hard on the one hand, but he’s a little low-key on the other. He won’t come in and try to run roughshod,” state Sen. Charlie Borders told the Louisville Courier-Journal. “He’ll try to find consensus and work with everyone sitting at the table.”