Kentucky Isn’t Purple Anymore

Mark Ketron

Kentucky’s biggest battles seem to always be blue versus red.  The Kentucky Wildcats and the Louisville Cardinals basketball rivalry is a way of life in the state.  It would be difficult to find a deeper rivalry.  Although, over the last couple of years it is the blue versus red fight for voters–democrat versus republican.  The Commonwealth of Kentucky has been an interesting state to watch politically over the last several campaign seasons.  Kentucky politics has a history of Kennedy and FDR democrat party rule.  There are historically many local city and county positions throughout the state that are decided in the primary between the democratic candidates due to there being no GOP candidate.  Although Kentucky has a long seeded history of being blue, it seems to have gone from blue, to purple, to red.

Yes, the tide has changed. nixon

Bill Clinton won Kentucky in both of his elections in the 90s. This year, Hillary Clinton only received less than 33% of the vote, compared to Donald Trump’s 62.5%.  That is the lowest ever received by a Democratic candidate in Kentucky; even George McGovern received 34.7% in his crushing defeat by Richard Nixon in 1972 (electorally, McGovern only won Massachusetts and D.C. that year, and lost the national popular vote 60.7% to 37.5%).  In 1860 a split Democratic Party (Northern Democratic and Southern Democratic) garnered a collective 53.8% (Abraham Lincoln received less than 1% of Kentucky votes that year).  In 2016, out of Kentucky’s 120 counties, every county went Trump other than Fayette County (Lexington) and Jefferson County (Louisville).  One county of note is deep blue Elliot County.  Since Elliot County was founded in 1869 it had been won by the democratic in every presidential election—until 2016.  In fact, it was the longest running presidential blue county in the US.  Donald Trump won Elliot county 70.1% to 29.5% .

Of Kentucky’s six US congressional districts, five are now Republican.  John Yarmuth, representing the third district (which is most of Louisville) is the only Democrat.  Both of Kentucky’s US Senators are Republican.  Kentucky Senator Rand Paul handily won re-election this year.  (Kentucky’s other Senator is Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.)

Also this year, Kentucky voters threw another blow to the Democrats.  Not only did the incumbent Kentucky House Speaker, Greg Stumbo, lose his reelection, for the first time since 1920, the Kentucky House chamber went Republican, winning a supermajority–64 of the 100 seats.  Before the election, Kentucky was the last southern state to have a democrat controlled legislative chamber.  The Kentucky GOP already controlled the Senate.  Just last year, in 2015 Kentucky elected only its second Republican governor since 1971, and it’s third since 1947.  Governor Matt Bevin defeated the poll-leading and popular Kentucky Attorney General, Jack Conway 53% to 44%.

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It seems Kentucky’s ride and fight for political control went overwhelmingly red this year.  Is this a temporary move, as some say about states like Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania?  Only time will tell.  But for the time being, maybe Kentucky should be called “The Redgrass State”.

 

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