Republicans Sweep in Kentucky General Elections

In historic fashion, Kentucky Republicans have taken an overwhelming majority in the state House for the first time in almost 95 years.  In unprecedented fashion, Republicans picked up 19 state House seats, giving them a large 65-35 majority.

The Kentucky House was the last legislative chamber in the entire South that was still controlled by Democrats. Donald Trump’s huge presidential victory in Kentucky, Governor Matt Bevin’s commitment to seeing the House flip and Senator Mitch McConnell’s leadership and strategy overwhelmed local state House races in the eastern coal counties and in the western farm areas, with Trump’s coattails sweeping Republicans into state legislative victories.

Republicans have won unprecedented control of the three key legs of government in Kentucky – the state House, state Senate and Governor’s office.  Republicans last controlled the Kentucky state House in 1921; Republican Gov. Matt Bevin pulled an upset victory in the Governor’s race a year ago; and Republicans are sitting on a supermajority in the state Senate.

With Trump heavily sweeping Kentucky’s eastern coal country, a slew of key state House Democrats were taken out in a massive Republican wave.  Heading the list of Democrat casualties was House Speaker Greg Stumbo.

Meanwhile, Republicans swept the rest of the ballot in Kentucky as well with big winners including U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, four of the state’s incumbent Republican congressman, one new Republican congressman in an open seat. The only Democrat of significance to win was Louisville Congressman John Yarmuth. 

Republican Party Pickups in the House

  • House 8 – After spending only eight months in office, Democrat Rep. Jeff Taylor was defeated by Republican Walker Thomas.   Taylor was elected in a special election last March by more than 1,000 votes after President Obama recorded a phone banking message in support of Taylor.  Thomas is a former Hopkinsville city councilman and owner of a roller skating rink.
  • House 11 – Ten-year Democratic incumbent Rep. David Watkins was ousted by Republican Robby Mills is a Henderson City Commissioner.
  • House 13Rep. Jim Glenn, a 10-year incumbent, was defeated by Republican D.J. Johnson by a few hundred votes.  Johnson is a local small practice attorney. 
  • House 14Rep. Tommy Thompson, a 14-year incumbent who previously served as the House Majority Whip and chairman of the Banking & Insurance Committee, was defeated by Republican Matt Castlen by more than 60% of the vote. Castlen is t3he owner of a welding & manufacturing company in Owensboro.
  • House 15 – Twenty year Democratic incumbent Rep. Brent Yonts was defeated by Republican Melinda Gibbons Prunty
  • House 16Rep. Martha Jane King was defeated by Republican Jason Petrie, a general private practice attorney.  King was an 8-year incumbent.
  • House 23 – (Open seat; Johnny Bell retirement) – Republican Steve Riley easily defeated Democrat Danny Basil.  Riley is a retired teacher and former Barren County High School principal.
  • House 24 – Six-year incumbent Rep. Terry Mills was knocked off by Republican Brandon Reed.  Reed is a former deputy circuit clerk.
  • House 49Rep. Linda Belcher, a retired teacher and principal who has served 3 terms in the House, was defeated by Republican Dan Johnson by less than 160 votes.  Johnson is the Bullitt County party chairman who was placed on the ballot after the original candidate withdrew.  Johnson has been mired in controversy over racial slurs against President Obama, and the Republican Party of Kentucky asked his to withdraw his candidacy over the controversy.
  • House 62 – Republican Phillip Pratt turned the tables on Democratic Rep. Chuck Tackett after losing the seat by 253 votes in last March’s special election.  Pratt is the owner of a large landscaping business in Georgetown.  These two faced off eight months ago in a special election, after Ryan Quarles vacated the seat when he became state Agricultural Commissioner.
  • House 78Rep. Tom McKee, a 20-year incumbent who serves as the House Agriculture Committee chairman, was defeated by Republican Mark Hart.  Hart is the former Falmouth mayor and city council member.  This was Hart’s second run against McKee, losing by 969 votes in 2014. 
  • House 81 – Democrat Rep. Rita Smart lost by a mere 76 votes to Republican Wesley Morgan, an accountant and business owner.
  • House 84 – Democratic state Rep. Fitz Steele was handily defeated by Republican Chris Fugate in this Eastern Kentucky district by a whopping margin of 63% to 36%.  Fugate is a Baptist minister, retired State Police trooper, and his brother is the lead pastor at a conservative Lexington Baptist church. Steele was an 8-year incumbent and chairman of the House Natural Resources & Environment Committee. 
  • House 91 – Democratic state Rep. Cluster Howard was easily defeated by Republican Toby Herald, 56% to 44%.  Herald served in the legislature from 2013-14, narrowly lost to Howard two years ago by a mere 14 votes.  Herald works in the construction business. 
  • House 92 – Democratic state Rep. John Short was narrowly defeated by Republican John Blanton of Salyersville by a count of 51% to 49%. Blanton is a Baptist member and retired Kentucky State Police Major.  Short was a 6-year incumbent. 
  • House 93 – Freshman Democratic Rep. Chris Harris was upset by Republican Norma Kirk-McCormick in the midst of the Trump sweep.  Kirk-McCormick is a former vocational counsellor.
  • House 95 – In the most dramatic news of the night, Democrat House Speaker Greg Stumbo was defeated by Republican Larry D. Brown, a Prestonsburg attorney.  Stumbo is a former state Attorney General who has served in the Legislature for 32 years. 
  • House 97 – Democrat incumbent Rep. Hubie Collins was defeated by Republican William Scott Wells.
  • House 98 – After getting beat in a March special election earlier this year, Republican Denny Bentley reversed course and beat Rep. Lew Nicholls by a margin of 54% to 46%.  Bentley is an independent pharmacist from South Shore.

 Key Republican-Held Seats

  • House 7 – Republican Rep. Suzanne Miles, a 3-year incumbent, defeated Democrat Joy Gray.
  • House 12 – Republican Rep. Jim Gooch, a 22-year incumbent and former chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, easily defeated Democrat Jim Townsend.  Gooch switched parties to the Republicans in early 2016 after Governor Matt Bevin (R) was elected. 
  • House 33 – (Open seat; Republican primary challenger Jason Nemes unseated longtime Republican Rep. Ron Crimm in May) – Republican Jason Nemes, an attorney and former director of the Administrative Office of the Courts, easily defeatd Democrat Rob Walker.
  • House 48 – (Open seat; Bob DeWeese retirement) – Republican Ken Fleming of Louisville defeated Democrat Maria Sorolis.  Fleming is a former Louisville Metro Councilman, former owner of a family aerial and mapping company, and now serves as the executive director of a faith-based counselling service in Louisville.
  • House 50 – (Open seat; David Floyd retirement) – Republican Chad McCoy, a Bardstown attorney, defeated Democrat James DeWeese.
  • House 58 – (Open seat; Brad Montell retirement) – Republican Rob Rothenburger defeated Democrat Cyndi Powell Skellie.  Rothenburger is the current Shelby County Judge/Executive, where he has served for the last 14 years.  He previously worked as a paramedic and city fire chief.
  • House 64 – (Open seat; Tom Kerr retirement) – Republican Kim Moser defeated Democrat Lucas Deaton.  Moser is the director of the Northern Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy.
  • House 74 – Freshman Republican Rep. David Hale easily defeated Democrat James Davis.

Democrat Party Pickups in the House

  • House 38 – Democrat McKenzie Cantrell narrowly defeated Republican Rep. Denny Butler in one of the most hotly contested races in the House.  Butler is a retired police detective and four-year incumbent who switched from the Democrat to Republican Party in late 2015 after Republican Matt Bevin was elected Governor.  Cantrell is an attorney with the Kentucky Equal Justice Center.  This district is heavily Democratic, voting for Obama in the last two presidential races. 

 Key Democrat-Held Seats

  • House 3 – Democrat Rep. Gerald Watkins, a 4-year incumbent, defeated Republican Joni Hogancamp.
  • House 6 – Democrat Rep. Will Coursey defeated Republican Paula Robinson.  Coursey is an 8-year incumbent.
  • House 10 – Freshmen Rep. Dean Schamore defeated Republican T.W. Short.
  • House 20 – Democrat Rep. Jody Richards, a 40-year incumbent and current Speaker Pro Tem, easily defeated Republican Melinda.
  • House 39 – Democrat Rep. Russ Meyer, a freshman legislator, easily defeated Republican Robert Gullette.
  • House 46 – (Open seat; Larry Clark retirement) – Democrat Alan Gentry of Louisville defeated Republican Eric Crump.  Gentry is a retired small businessman in the real estate field.  Crump is a private practice attorney.
  • House 70 – (Open seat; Mike Denham retirement) – Democrat John Sims defeated Republican John VanMeter.   Sims is a small businessman in Maysville who owns the local Dairy Queen. 
  • House 94 – (Open seat; Leslie Combs retirement) – Democrat Angie Hatton narrowly defeated Republican Frank Justice in this Eastern Kentucky race, defying the “Trump wave.”  Hatton is a Letcher County attorney. 

  Other Republican incumbents who easily won their races (or were uncontested):

  • Rep. Steven Rudy (McCracken-1)
  • Rep. Richard Heath (Graves-2)
  • Rep. Lynn Bechler (Crittenden-4)
  • Rep. Kenny Imes (Calloway-5)
  • Rep. Myron Dossett (Christian-9)
  • Rep. Jim DeCesare (Warren-17)
  • Rep. Tim Moore (Hardin-18)
  • Rep. Michael Meredith (Edmonson-19)
  • Rep. Bart Rowland (Monroe-21)
  • Rep. Jim DuPlessis (Hardin-25)
  • Rep. Russell Webber (Bullitt-26)
  • Rep. Kevin Bratcher (Jefferson-29)
  • Rep. Phil Moffett (Jefferson-32)
  • Rep. Jerry Miller (Jefferson-36)
  • Rep. Stan Lee (Fayette-45)
  • Rep. Bam Carney (Taylor-51)
  • Rep. Ken Upchurch (Wayne-52)
  • Rep. James Tipton (Spencer-53)
  • Rep. Daniel Elliott (Boyle-54)
  • Rep. Kim King (Mercer-55)
  • Rep. David Osborne (Oldham-59)
  • Rep. Sal Santoro (Boone-60)
  • Rep. Brian Linder (Grant-61)
  • Rep. Diane St. Onge (Kenton-63)
  • Rep. Addia Wuchner (Boone-66)
  • Rep. Joe Fischer (Campbell-68)
  • Rep. Adam Koenig (Kenton-69)
  • Rep. Jonathan Shell (Garrard-71)
  • Rep. Donna Mayfield (Clark-73)
  • Rep. David Meade (Lincoln-80)
  • Rep. Regina Bunch (Whitley-82)
  • Rep. Jeff Hoover (Russell-83)
  • Rep. Tommy Turner (Pulaski-85)
  • Rep. Jim Stewart (Knox-86)
  • Rep. Robert Benvenuti (Fayette-88)
  • Rep. Marie Rader (Jackson-89)
  • Rep. Tim Couch (Leslie-90)
  • Rep. Jill York (Carter-96)

Other Democrat incumbents who easily won their races (or where uncontested):

  • Rep. Wilson Stone (Allen-22)
  • Rep. Jeff Greer (Meade-27)
  • Rep. Charles Miller (Jefferson-28)
  • Rep. Tom Burch (Jefferson-30)
  • Rep. Steve Riggs (Jefferson-31)
  • Rep. Mary Lou Marzian (Jefferson-34)
  • Rep. Jim Wayne (Jefferson-35)
  • Rep. Jeff Donohue (Jefferson-37)
  • Rep. Dennis Horlander (Jefferson-40)
  • Attica Scott (Jefferson-41) – newly elected
  • Rep. Reggie Meeks (Jefferson-42)
  • Rep. Darryl Owens (Jefferson-43)
  • Rep. Joni Jenkins (Jefferson-44)
  • Rep. Rick Rand (Carroll-47)
  • Rep. James Kay (Woodford-56)
  • Rep. Derrick Graham (Franklin-57)
  • Rep. Arnold Simpson (Kenton-65)
  • Rep. Dennis Keene (Campbell-67)
  • Rep. Sannie Overly (Bourbon-72)
  • Rep. Kelly Flood (Fayette-75)
  • Rep. Ruth Ann Palumbo (Fayette-76)
  • Rep. George Brown (Fayette-77)
  • Rep. Susan Westrom (Fayette-79)
  • Rep. Rick Nelson (Bell-87)
  • Rep. Rocky Adkins (Elliott-99)
  • Rep. Kevin Sinnette (Boyd-100)