Republicans Lead In Kentucky

By John Celock

Kentucky Democrats’ traditional dominance of the state’s constitutional offices could be jeopardy this year, according to a new poll.

A Public Policy Polling poll released Tuesday shows GOP candidates leading for all of Kentucky’s statewide offices, including a narrow lead for the party’s nominee for governor and state attorney general. The poll shows two Democratic incumbents in jeopardy of losing their seats. While Kentucky has traditionally gone Republican in races for the U.S. Senate in the last two decades, Democrats have historically dominated races for state office.

The poll showed that Republican nominee Matt Bevin narrowly leads Democrat Jack Conway 38 percent to 35 percent in the open seat race for governor, with independent Drew Curtis polling at six percent. A poll without Curtis shows Bevin leading 40 percent to 38 percent.

Bevin, who lost a 2014 primary challenge to U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, is the surprise winner of the gubernatorial nomination, narrowly besting state Agriculture Commissioner Jack Comer. He facing off against Conway, a two-term state attorney general, who had cleared the field in his attempt to succeed term limited Gov. Steve Beshear (D).

In the race to succeed Conway as attorney general, Republican state Sen. Whitney Westerfield leads Democrat Andy Beshear 41 percent to 36 percent. Beshear, who is seeking his first elective office, is the son of the outgoing governor.

In the race for the open state treasurer’s spot, Republican Allison Ball leads Democrat state Rep. Rick Nelson 40 percent to 31 percent while in the race for agriculture commissioner, Republican state Rep. Ryan Quarles leads Democrat Jean-Marie Lawson Spann 40 percent to 31 percent.

The poll shows danger for Secretary of State Allison Lundergan Grimes (D) who trails her Republican challenger, former Erlanger Councilman Steve Knipper 47 percent to 42 percent. The results come months after Lundergan Grimes, long touted as a rising star in Kentucky politics, lost the U.S. Senate race to McConnell. Lundergan Grimes, the daughter of a well-connected former state Democratic Party chairman with ties to the Clintons, had been touted nationally during her Senate race.

The poll noted the lowest level of undecided voters in the secretary of state’s race. Lundergan Grimes has been noted as a potential future candidate for governor or the Senate if she wins reelection to the secretary of state’s office. Lundergan Grimes, 36, first entered the political realm in 2011 defeating Secretary of State Elaine Walker in the Democratic primary. Walker had been appointed to the job earlier that year by Beshear to fill a vacancy. Shortly after capturing the secretary of state’s job, Lundergan Grimes had been mentioned as a likely Senate candidate against McConnell.

The poll also showed potential danger for state Auditor Adam Edelen (D), who is trailing his Republican challenger, state Rep. Mike Harmon, 39 percent to 33 percent. Edelen, a former chief of staff to Beshear and state homeland security director, is holding his first elective office. He has made his name with a series of audits on local government entities around the state. Edelen, 40, has been mentioned as a likely candidate for higher office in the future.

Democrats have a long history of controlling Kentucky’s governorship and other constitutional offices, with Beshear’s predecessor, former Gov. Ernie Fletcher (R), being a rare Republican to lead the state. Comer is currently the only Republican to hold a state constitutional office in Kentucky.