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Beshear Says GOP Control of House Would Set Kentucky Back to "19th Century"

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Governor Steve Beshear says Kentucky risks running off the “progressive path” it’s on if voters give the GOP a majority of state House seats.

Beshear’s comments came in Glasgow Thursday, following the announcement of state funding for a local infrastructure project. Beshear has been on the road this week, announcing funding for projects in districts where incumbent Democratic House members are facing competitive challenges by Republican candidates.

The state GOP and several super PACs have targeted Democratic Representatives they think are vulnerable, in an effort to give Republicans a majority of seats in the House. After the announcement in the Barren County High School Auditorium, Beshear was asked how he thought a GOP-led House would impact the state.

“If people will just look at Mississippi, Alabama, and a lot of these southern states where they’re dominated by far-right wing, conservative Republican parties both in the House, Senate, and the governorship—all of those states are in a race to get back to the 19th century,” Beshear said.

“They don’t want to be progressive. They don’t want to move ahead. And I’m not going to let Kentucky go there, if I’ve got anything to do with it.”

The Democratic Governor said recent gains the state has made in education and health care would be threatened if control of the state House changes hands.

The Kentucky GOP believes Tuesday’s elections offer the party a chance to win control of the House for the first time in over 90 years.

House Republican leaders have unveiled a list of legislative priorities they have described as their “Handshake with Kentucky” plan. The platform includes what Republicans call a “right to work” law that would allow employees to opt out of joining a union at their workplace.

The GOP plan also includes creating a "medical review panel" that would limit the exposure of doctors and hospitals to tort/malpractice lawsuits, as well as the "Responsible Budgeting and Spending Act," which will "require state revenue estimates to be based upon a 15-year rolling average rather than unsupported revenue projections."

GOP House Floor Leader Jeff Hoover of Russell Springs has accused Democratic House leaders of decades of poor leadership.

“For far too long, the majority leadership of the House of Representatives has made empty promises,” Hoover said when the GOP legislative platform was unveiled. “Democrats in Frankfort have failed to achieve meaningful results on behalf of families and local businesses, and the current leadership in the House of Representatives has squandered real opportunities while surrounding states prosper."

In the Backdrop: Bell vs. Jobe

Beshear’s Thursday announcement in Glasgow came as the local Democratic House Representative, Johnny Bell, is facing a strong challenge from newspaper publisher and Republican Jeff Jobe. The campaign for the 23rd District House seat has recently turned extremely negative, with each campaign and outside groups going on the attack via broadcast ads and mail pieces.

Bell and Democratic groups have detailed Jobe’s past troubles with the law, including arrests for D.U.I. and reckless driving. After a mail piece from the state Democratic Party detailing those arrests went out earlier this month, Jobe and Republican Party of Kentucky Chairman Steve Robertson called on Attorney General Jack Conway to investigate because the mailer contained Jobe’s personal information, such as his Social Security Number, date of birth, and cell phone number.

Jobe and outside groups supporting his campaign were the first to go negative, sending mailers early in the campaign that described Bell’s voting record as far too “liberal” for the voters of the 23rd House District. In recent weeks, broadcast ads and mailers have accused Bell, an attorney, of defending a convicted murder and drug traffickers.

One of those ads was paid for by Republican State Leadership Committee, based in Washington, D.C.

Other closely-watched races that could help determine which party controls the Kentucky House include:

  • The 13th House District in Daviess County, where Democratic Rep. Jim Glenn is taking on GOP challenger Alan Braden
  • The 7th House District that covers parts of Daviess and Henderson counties, as well as all of Union County, which features Republican Rep. Suzanne Miles of Owensboro and Democratic challenger John Warren
  • The 3rd House District, where Democratic Rep. Gerald Watkins of Paducah is being challenged by Republican Randy Bridges
  • The 6th House District, where Democrat Will Coursey of Symsonia faces Republican challenger Keith Travis
Kevin is the News Director at WKU Public Radio. He has been with the station since 1999, and was previously the Assistant News Director, and also served as local host of Morning Edition.
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