Kentucky statehouse races: Teachers get failing grade on Election Day
“We’ll remember in November” rang hollow on Election Day.
The threatening chant by teachers and demonstrators against Republican majorities as they passed pension legislation last spring failed to carry over. On Tuesday, the GOP held on to supermajorities in both the Kentucky House and Senate.
Democrats claimed to be energized by mass demonstrations of teachers and public employees against a new pension law and hoped to score big in Tuesdays’ state legislative elections — particularly in the Kentucky House where all 100 seats were on the ballot.
But while results in many House races were extremely close, Tuesday’s elections produced a 62-38 majority for Republicans in the House. That represents a net gain of only one seat for the Democrats.
And it means the GOP will retain a supermajority of at least 60 seats in the 100-member chamber when the 2019 General Assembly convenes on Jan. 8. in the House.
Retaining a supermajority of at least 60 was the priority for Republicans who acknowledged they might see some slippage following the landslide of two years ago when they gained a stunning 17 seats and control of the chamber for the first time in nearly 100 years.
A supermajority can be important because 60 votes are needed to pass a constitutional amendment or — in short sessions held in odd-numbered years like 2019 — tax bills.
House Democratic Leader Rocky Adkins, of Sandy Hook, said, “While I wish we had a better overall outcome, I am proud of the hard-fought victories we had in many districts.”
Adkins said Democrats faced “an uphill battle because of a nationalized climate and the unfortunate rise of dark money and negative attacks.”
Republicans were sure to retain firm control in the state Senate, where half of the chamber’s 38 seats were on Tuesday’s ballot.
Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, predicted that while the outcome of one Senate race was too close to call late Tuesday, the Republicans would at least keep a 27-11 majority, or perhaps increase that majority to 28-10.
“The big blue wave that was predicted ran into a big red wall,” Thayer said. “We’ve held our ground under the worst political conditions.”
Democrats had hoped the energy generated by the pension controversy, combined with the fact that more than 30 educators were running for the legislature as Democrats, would result in big gains.
But results for the teacher candidates were mixed.
One key victory for Democrats came in the House’s 32nd District in Louisville where Republican Phil Moffett, who has represented the district for two terms, was defeated by Democrat Tina Bojanowski, a special education teacher for Jefferson County Public Schools.
And two other Democratic educators won as expected in heavily Democratic districts: Lisa Willner, a member of the Jefferson County Board of Education and a lecturer in psychology at Bellarmine University, defeated Republican Donna Lawlor, a retired teacher in the House’s 35th District; and Democrat Josie Raymond, a former middle school teacher and an academic coach at the University of Louisville, beat Republican Leigh Boland Jones in the House’s 31st District in Louisville.
But in Bullitt County, incumbent Democrat Linda Belcher, a retired teacher and principal, was soundly defeated by Republican businessman Thomas Huff.
Among the other incumbents who lost Tuesday was Republican Ken Fleming, who was defeated by Democrat Maria Sorolis in the House 48th District in Louisville.
In state Senate races, three Republican incumbents whose districts are at least partly in Jefferson County — Ernie Harris, Julie Raque Adams and Paul Hornback — each survived in races that were aggressively challenged by Democratic opponents.
By Tom Loftus
Louisville Courier Journal