Candidates ranging from presidential contenders to state legislative challengers are making their final campaign stops ahead of Tuesday’s primary elections in the commonwealth.
The journalists on Comment on Kentucky previewed several key races and what to look for when the votes are tallied.
The Democratic Presidential Primary
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders have barnstormed the state during the last week before the primary. But perhaps Bill Clinton had the toughest job as he campaigned for his wife in the eastern Kentucky coal community of Prestonsburg.
Joe Gerth of the Louisville Courier-Journal says the former president was booed by coal miners who were angry at Secretary Clinton’s statement in March that her policies would put coal companies and miners out of business. Gerth says Bill Clinton welcomed the miners to the rally and then explained how his wife planned to revitalize struggling coal communities.
Bill Clinton won Floyd County with more than two-thirds of the vote in the 1992 and 1996 presidential elections, according to Gerth. He adds that Hillary Clinton garnered 91 percent of the vote in the county’s 2008 Democratic presidential primary. But this year Gerth says the Clintons are struggling to keep the state, and especially the coal-producing counties, in their column.
Meanwhile, Sen. Sanders made several appearances across Kentucky, including visits to Bowling Green and Paducah. Sanders has attracted support from millennials, due in part to his platform of free tuition at public universities and community colleges. But if Sanders hopes to score big with Kentucky college students, he may be disappointed, says John Cheves of the Lexington Herald-Leader. In the state’s 2008 presidential primary, Cheves says only 26 percent of Democrats aged 18 to 24 turned out to vote. He says that compares to 52 percent turnout for Democrats over 50 years of age. So while Kentucky’s young adults may favor a certain candidate, Cheves says they don’t have a good record of actually voting on election days.
Michael Gossum of WBKO-TV in Bowling Green says he’s hearing predictions that Clinton could secure a narrow victory. But he says Sanders could win the state if he gets big numbers in Jefferson County. Gossum adds that Sanders is hurt by Kentucky’s closed primary, which means the senator won’t be able to count on ballots from voters who are registered as independents.
Kentucky has a total of 60 Democratic delegates to award to the candidates.
Senate and Congressional Races
In the race for U.S. Senate, incumbent Republican Rand Paul faces two challengers in the GOP primary: Lexington financial analyst James Gould and Louisville chemical engineer Stephen Slaughter. John Cheves says Lexington Mayor Jim Gray appears to be the front-runner in the crowded Democratic field. Cheves says Gray failed to deliver a polished performance at the candidate forum presented by KET last week. He says the millionaire businessman is a good administrator but not adept at off-the-cuff speaking.
In the 6th Congressional district race, incumbent Republican Andy Barr features a primary challenge from Harrison County Tea Party activist Roger Brill. Cheves says Brill supported Barr in his first run for Congress, but now feels the Congressman has “sold out” to the Washington establishment. In the Democratic primary, minister Nancy Jo Kemper faces retired state energy official Geoff Young. Barr easily won reelection in 2014, and Cheves says many poll-watchers consider it likely that the Lexington attorney will retain the seat.
Four Republicans are competing for the Republican nomination in the 1st Congressional district. Michael Gossum says former Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer of Monroe County has a comfortable lead in the polls. But, he says a high turnout in the western end of the district could help Mike Pape of Hopkinsville. Pape served as district director for U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield, who is retiring. Gossum says the Democratic Primary has only one candidate, Hopkinsville construction worker Sam Gaskins.
Key State Legislative Contests
Among the 19 primary races for the state Senate, Joe Gerth says he’s watching contests in the 31st and 33rd senatorial districts. In eastern Kentucky’s 31st, Pikeville attorney Glenn Hammond is challenging Democratic incumbent Ray Jones, who is the minority floor leader in the Senate. Gerth says Hammond is attacking Jones for supporting Hillary Clinton in the past. In western Jefferson County’s 33rd district, incumbent Sen. Gerald Neal has two Democratic challengers: former District Court Judge Joan Stringer and Charles Booker, who once worked for Neal.
On the House side, Gerth says Jimmy Rose, a former state representative from Martin, is challenging House Speaker Greg Stumbo in the 95th House district. Gerth says Rose is critical of Stumbo for spending too much time in his Lexington home and neglecting the needs of the district.
Gerth says he’s also watching two Jefferson County races. Incumbent Republican Rep. Ron Crimm in the 33rd House district has two challengers, including the son of former state Rep. Mike Nemes. And in the Democratic primary in the 41st district, incumbent Rep. Tom Riner faces former Louisville Metro Council member Attica Scott.
The opinions expressed on Comment on Kentucky and in this program synopsis are the responsibility of the participants and do not necessarily reflect those of KET.