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Special Elections: A Ray Of Hope Or Anomaly For Ky. Democrats?

Josh James

Tuesday's special election results allow Kentucky Democrats to breathe a little easier during the 2016 legislative session, but party leaders contend an in-depth look at the returns bode well for the party's odds in November too.

Voters in three House districts with majority Democratic registration handed the party a trio of wins, a symmetry Republicans have been quick to note.

House Minority Floor Leader Jeff Hoover says, while Republicans won the race that favored their party, "the other three are predominately Democrat districts and the Democrat candidate won all three of them, so I don't think it's a repudiation of [Governor] Matt Bevin at all. Heck, he's not been in office long enough for it to really be a repudiation on him in my opinion."

But a closer examination of the results shows Democrats taking all or part of six counties that helped propel Republican Matt Bevin to office only four months ago - details that lead House Speaker Greg Stumbo to detect the first inklings of a mood shift in the commonwealth's increasingly red electoral map.

"It's a different trend. It's a different dynamic. And we're happy that the Democratic Party was able to get its message out there in a way that Kentuckians accepted," he tells WUKY.

President Barack Obama, whom Republicans have frequently tied to Democratic candidates to great effect, leant his voice to the campaign of 8th District winner Jeffrey Taylor in the form of robo-calls. While Obama remains an unpopular figure on both sides of the aisle in the General Assembly, the campaign tactic didn't appear to hurt Taylor - who bested opponent Walker Hood Thomas by 18 points.

Still, GOP leaders maintain the broader trajectory favors their party. Hoover reminds supporters that, "Next week, when the new members are sworn in, we will have more Republicans in the House than we've had since 1921. We will have more Republicans than we had last year. The Democrats will still have fewer Democrats than there were last year. So we're moving forward."

The minority leader says the GOP's focus all along has been November, when all House seats are up for grabs.

The Kentucky Secretary of State's office reports nearly 28,000 ballots were case Tuesday, but turnout was down by roughly eight percent compared with the gubernatorial election.

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