Flying well beneath a radar packed with presidential primary news, Kentucky is holding four state House special elections Tuesday that could have significant repercussions on the state’s politics and serve as a reflection of the rapidly evolving politics of the South.
— If Republicans win each of the four seats up for grabs Tuesday, the state House would be evenly divided at 50 seats apiece. That split-party control would provide Republicans with even more momentum after emerging from November’s elections with four of six statewide offices, including governor, and with all 100 state House seats up for reelection this fall.
— Four Democratic losses Tuesday would end the party’s 95-year run of controlling the Kentucky state House, which is the last legislative chamber in the South where Democrats hold a majority. Elsewhere in the region, where Democrats hold a single governor’s mansion thanks to an upset in Louisiana last year, the margins aren’t even close. Gov. Matt Bevin’s victory a few months ago facilitated the potentially historical elections. Two state House Democrats subsequently switched parties, nudging the majority within reach for the GOP. With Democrats currently holding a 50-46 edge, the elections will fill the seats of two other Democrats Bevin appointed to state positions and two state House Republicans who were elected to statewide offices in November.
— A district to watch closely is the 98th, which includes Greenup County and part of Boyd County in the northeastern corner of the state. Local union leaders are playing it up as a fight over the future of the labor movement, and both the Republican and Democratic candidates oppose right-to-work legislation. On Saturday, Bevin and Rep. Thomas Massie appeared at a get-out-the-vote rally for Republican Tony Quillen, while Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes and state House leaders rallied for Democrat Lew Nicholls. They’re vying for the seat of Democrat Tanya Pullin, who resigned after Bevin appointed her as an administrative law judge.
The Kentucky results are worth keeping an eye on while watching returns out of Michigan, Mississippi, and Idaho — and while waiting on Hawaii. If Republicans are successful, the results will provide further affirmation of the party’s dominance at the state level and a reminder that 2020 redistricting is just around the corner.
— Kyle Trygstad