UPDATE: Democrats outpacing Republicans in House candidate filings

By BERRY CRAIG

AFT Local 1360

Democratic candidates are beating Republicans in filings for next year's state House contests.  

So far, 28 Democrats and 18 Republicans have signed up to run in the May 22 primary election. On the Senate side, the GOP holds a 5-4 filing edge. The candidate mix includes incumbents and challengers.

"We will continue to see increased enthusiasm from Kentuckians who will step forward to run for office at all levels," said Brad Bowman, the Kentucky Democratic Party's communications director. 

"Working-class Kentuckians, teachers and those who've never held an office are running because they see what Republican governance looks like: lowering wages, cuts to education and no future vision benefitting everyday Kentuckians."

Jan. 30 is the filing deadline for primary candidates. Democrats and Republicans without primary opposition automatically advance to the Nov. 6 general election.

Most independents have until April 2 to file.   

In Republican-tilting western Kentucky, the state's former "Democratic Gibraltar," Democrat David Ramey of Murray has tossed his hat in the ring for the Fifth District House seat being vacated by Republican Kenneth Imes, who said he is retiring. Republican Larry Elkins of Murray has has filed.

Imes, also from Murray, defeated Ramey last year.

Fourth District Rep. Lynn Bechler, R-Marion, who ran unopposed in 2016, also has filed. So has Democrat Abigail Barnes of Salem.

Also, Brent Yonts, a Greenville Democrat, wants his old 15th District seat back. Yonts lost in 2016 to Republican Melinda Gibbons Prunty, who hasn't filed.

Third District Rep. Gerald Watkins, a Paducah Democrat, has said he's not seeking a fourth term, though more than a few Democrats, especially union members, hope he changes his mind. No Republican or Democrat has filed in his district.

Sixth District Rep. Will Coursey, a Marshall County Democrat, has told some people he's stepping down. But he hasn't made it official, and several Democrats, including those who pack union cards, have their fingers crossed that he'll opt for another trip to Frankfort.  

The Kentucky State AFL-CIO endorsed Ramey, Yonts, Watkins and Coursey last year.

The GOP enjoys a 64-36 majority in the House. The Republican Senate edge is 27-11.

But Democrats are buoyed by the recent Virginia elections in which Democrat Ralph Northam won the governorship and Democrats trimmed the GOP majority in the House of Delegates (the legislature's lower house) to at least 51-49. (The GOP total includes two districts where the vote was close, and the results are still uncertified.)  The GOP advantage was 66-34.

Republican Gov. Matt Bevin won't have to face the voters until 2019. Even so, Democrats are looking to gain at least some ground in state House and Senate races next year.