Beyond the United States Senate race, the 55 contested House races will provide plenty of strategy and heartburn for the respective parties this fall.
The Kentucky House of Representatives is the lone legislative chamber in the south that Democrats still control, and have controlled since 1921.
To take the majority, Republicans need a net pick up of 9 seats — the chamber make up currently sits a 54 – 46— but the GOP is defending 42 incumbents because of retiring members.
However, Democrats are challenging 20 incumbent Republicans and are fighting for a half-dozen open seats created either through redistricting, retirements and in the case of Rep. Julie Raque Adams, R-Louisville, a run for state Senate.
Rep. Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, the Republican floor leader in the House, is the man who could be propelled to the front of the chamber if Republicans pull off the upset in 2014 and take control of the chamber.
In an interview with Pure Politics, Hoover cited several issues that Republicans plan to use against Democrats. One is President Barack Obama and an attempt to nationalize the House races, a tactic Republicans used in 2012 in their gain of four seats (7:34).
Secondly, Hoover said that a measure within the overall budget is ripe for Republicans to point out in the elections the “gas tax” within the revenue bill which accompanies the two-year spending plan.
“Every sitting incumbent sitting legislator voted for a gas tax increase and were seeing gas prices right now at unprecedented levels,” Hoover said (8:00).
Through the budget negotiation process House Democrats dropped their support of a gas tax increase.
At the time, Gov. Steve Beshear said a 1.5 cent gas tax increase would make up $45 million extra in revenue for road construction in 2015 and more than $60 million in 2016. The governor and the Democratic-controlled House wanted to return the tax on a gallon of gasoline to 2013 levels.
Hoover also Republicans are looking to the west for several pick-ups and he listed several Democratic incumbents who will likely be targets in the upcoming races including Rep. Jim Glenn, D-Owensboro, who has scraped by in his last two elections with 251 votes in his last race and 206 votes in 2010. Glenn faces Alan Braden, a financial analyst and former Owensboro city commissioner.
Freshman Rep. Gerald Watkins, D-Paducah, will also face a tough re-election fight from Republican Randy Bridges of Paducah, a realtor. As Pure Politics has pointed out , the race should prove interesting as the area has shifted to the right, but Watkins is one of the most conservative Democrats in the House.
Another incumbent Hoover named is Rep. Jim Gooch, D-Providence, who is being challenged by Republican Dianne Burns Mackey, a Daviess County School Board member. Gooch has not had a challenger since winning the seat in 1995.
As it is in any modern election, fundraising will play a key role in the races. House Republicans landed a big get with the newly elected U.S. House Majority Floor Leader U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-California, making a trip to Bowling Green in July.
While Hoover would not say just how much money the Republicans want to raise in the election cycle, he said they would raise “significantly more than we raised two years ago.” Hoover said they raised more than the $750,000 they were hoping in that election.
Super PACs have also become major players in the election process, but have occasionally clogged the messaging process.
But, Hoover “encouraged anyone, including these Super PACs to get involved” in the races and fundraising this year — likely knowing they’ll need every dollar to compete.
That segment of the interview ends with Hoover answering a question about whether Hoover could fulfill the duties of House Speaker if the Republicans eventually gain control of the House.