FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Races featuring re-election bids by President Donald Trump and his top ally on Capitol Hill, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, top the ballot in Kentucky. Other races to watch include all six Kentucky House seats, a seat on the Kentucky Supreme Court and two constitutional amendments.
Republican President Donald Trump and Democratic former Vice President Joe Biden are at the top of the ballot in a state where the GOP has dominated federal elections for more than 20 years. That includes the last presidential election, when Trump carried Kentucky by 30 percentage points. The last Democrat to carry Kentucky was Bill Clinton in 1996. Neither candidate campaigned in Kentucky, instead focusing on swing states elsewhere.
Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Democrat Amy McGrath, a retired Marine combat pilot, are capping a bruising, mega-spending campaign in Kentucky. McConnell has touted his leadership post and close ties to Trump as a political asset for Kentucky as he seeks a seventh term. McGrath is running as a political outsider and supports term limits for senators. She has described McConnell’s decades-long Senate career as a symptom of what ails American politics.
Republican U.S. Rep. Andy Barr and Democratic challenger Josh Hicks are vying for the 6th District seat in central Kentucky. For decades, the district stretching from the bluegrass region to the Appalachian foothills had swung between Republicans and Democrats, but lately it has stayed in GOP hands. Barr, who has been a target of national Democrats, has been a loyal supporter of President Donald Trump. Hicks is an attorney who previously served as a Marine and police officer. He’s a former Republican who says he switched parties because of GOP policies favoring the wealthy. The 5th District candidates are incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers and Democratic challenger Matthew Ryan Best. The 4th District candidates are incumbent Republican Rep. Thomas Massie, who drew Trump’s ire on coronavirus relief, and Democratic challenger Alexandra Owensby. The 3rd District candidates include incumbent Democratic U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth and Republican challenger Rhonda Palazzo. The 2nd District candidates include incumbent Republican U.S. Rep, Brett Guthrie and Democratic challenger Hank Linderman. The 1st District candidates include Republican incumbent U.S. Rep. James Comer and Democratic challenger James Rhodes.
Republicans appear poised to maintain overwhelming majorities in both chambers of the Kentucky General Assembly. Democrats are targeting suburban districts in hopes of whittling away at the GOP's strength in rural districts. Republican Rep. Jason Nemes of Louisville is in a tough reelection fight and Democrats are hoping to pick up the Lexington seat of retiring GOP Rep. Stan Lee. A state Senate race in eastern Kentucky features candidates with the same last name. Democratic Sen. Johnny Ray Turner is being challenged by Republican Johnnie Turner.
Kentucky lawmaker Chris Harris and Circuit Judge Robert Conley are vying to represent a Supreme Court district in eastern Kentucky. Harris, a Democrat, has represented Martin County and part of Pike County in the House since 2015. As an attorney he has argued cases in state and federal courtrooms across the state. Conley hears cases as a circuit judge in Greenup and Lewis counties. He was recently reprimanded by the state’s Judicial Conduct Commission, in part for throwing a man in jail for three days for contempt of court without conducting a hearing.
One amendment known as Marsy’s law would add a series of crime victims’ rights to Kentucky’s Constitution. The measure was a reprise of a 2018 constitutional amendment that cleared the legislature and was approved by Kentucky voters, but was voided when the Kentucky Supreme Court ruled that the wording was too vague. It's worded differently this time, but would have similar effects. It guarantees, among other things, that crime victims have the right to timely notification of court proceedings. Another amendment would lengthen the terms of district judges and state prosecutors. It calls for district judges, who currently serve four-year terms, to start serving eight-year terms in 2022. It also increases the time they have to be a licensed attorney before becoming a judge. In addition, the amendment would add two years to the term of a commonwealth’s attorney.