Spend two minutes watching the Kentucky Derby, and you quickly find out that the Bluegrass state is an atypical environment – and that’s likely just the way Kentuckians want it. And today’s primary election will probably not disappoint political junkies across the country in terms of drumming up excitement and interest.
At the Starting Gate
In Lexington, the battle to choose a Democratic candidate in the 6th Congressional District is joined. At the starting gate, we have a contest between an openly gay Mayor and a Marine combat pilot. In this case, the Marine pilot happens to be a lady. Jim Gray, the gay Lexington Mayor, claims to be 33 points ahead of Corpsman Amy McGrath, whose campaign boasts a seven-point lead. This disparity signifies the race is wide open.
The winner goes up against Republican Andy Barr for one of the so-called swing seats the Democrats think they can pick off. But it won’t be easy. As reported by Liberty Nation’s Graham Noble, “Barr won re-election in 2016 by a margin of more than 22%, and the district went for Trump by more than 15%. So no matter who wins in the primary it’s going to be a heavy lift to pry this seat from the GOP.
Down the Stretch
In February, Linda Belcher, Democratic candidate for the Kentucky statehouse, won a special election. She flipped the seat held by a pastor who killed himself following allegations of molesting a 17-year-old girl. Belcher defeated the pastor’s widow, Rebecca Johnson. Told you Kentucky wasn’t dull.
But today’s primary features not just hotly contested for various offices, but also key issues. One such topic that has animated the Kentucky political season regards finance and public education.
Hot Button Issues in Bluegrass Country
Teachers in the Bluegrass state are on the warpath because of a pension dispute. They claim the recent fiscal overhaul at the statehouse in Frankfort left their pensions massively underfunded. Thus, Kentucky teachers are running for state legislature seats in huge numbers. The Associated Press estimates that 40% of the legislative candidates are former or current educators. It’s the Kentucky version of, “If you can’t beat ‘em, then boot the bums out.”
Kentucky has been a reliable state for the GOP since the 1950s. But when a southerner is a presidential candidate, they tend to swing Democratic. Bill Clinton took the state in 1992 and 1996, and Jimmy Carter won it back in 1976. In 2016 Donald Trump pretty much wiped the floor with Hillary Clinton, carrying Kentucky with 62% to Mrs. Clinton’s 32%. And in little Elliott County, a Republican has never won a presidential election in 150 years until Donald Trump took it in 2016. Trump made history, winning by 2,000 votes.
Turnout for today’s primary is expected to be its highest in nearly a decade. An estimated 3.3 million people are projected to head to the polls. Some 25,000 have already voted with another 12,000 absentee ballots also in the mix. Polls are open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.
So, start crushing the mint for that Julep or pour a little Jack into your coke and prepare to hunker down for a good Old Fashioned primary showdown tonight in the state that jests: “Five million people, fifteen last names.”