Last night proved to be a historic evening in Kentucky as Republicans seized control of the only remaining Democrat-controlled legislative body in the South. This signals a policy agenda shift in Frankfort as some of the core priorities of the business community have suddenly become more feasible.
Here are the major takeaways at the local, state, and federal levels, according to Greater Louisville Inc.
1. House Flip – Republicans now control the State House and hold a 64-36 seat majority. This is a net gain of 17 seats for Republicans, a significant increase that was not predicted. Democrats held the House 53-47 heading into Election Day.
2. New Political Landscape – There will be a lot of new faces in the General Assembly in 2017, with 28 new House members (23 Republicans and 5 Democrats) and 2 new Republican State Senators. Of the 19 seats up for election in the State Senate this cycle only 6 were contested and only one didn’t feature an incumbent. At the end of the day, all 5 incumbents were returned to Frankfort and the open seat was won by Stephen Meredith (R), keeping the partisan balance the same at 27 Republicans and 11 Democrats. Republicans now control the Governor’s Mansion, the State Senate, and the State House.
3. State Policy Agenda – With Republicans having all three policymaking bodies (Governor, House & Senate) it is expected that they will be able to move a consistent policy agenda. It will take the House some time for Republicans to staff up and get organized, but we expect them to be active this session. The Governor will likely have significant influence over the policy agenda. We expect these issues among others to be considered: right to work, prevailing wage, tax reform, charter schools, regulation reform, and medical malpractice tort reform.
4. Trump Wins – Not surprisingly, Donald Trump (R) won Kentucky’s 8 electoral votes by a 30 point margin over Hillary Clinton (D), but in a result that many say has stunned the world, Donald Trump went on to become the 45th President, capturing 276 electoral votes.
5. A Republican Congress – As of early this morning, Republicans were at 50 seats in the U.S. Senate, with one race still being too close to call. Even if Republicans do not win the seat in question, the Trump win at the top of the ticket empowers his vice president, Mike Pence, to cast any deciding votes in the U.S. Senate. U.S. Senator Rand Paul won a second term, dispatching Lexington Mayor Jim Gray 57%-43%. In 5 of 6 Kentucky congressional districts, voters returned the current incumbents, 4 Republicans and Congressman John Yarmuth (D), to Washington for an additional term. In the 1st Congressional District, Jamie Comer (R) won an open seat created by the retirement of Congressman Ed Whitfield (R).
6. Louisville Metro Council – The partisan makeup of the Louisville Metro Council remains the same. Councilwoman Cindi Fowler won re-election with 52% of the vote and Scott Reed (R) defeated Gill Holland (D) in an open seat vacated by Kelly Downard (R).
7. JCPS School Board Races – This important local race impacts the education of our future children. This year GLI established an online resource to highlight candidate responses to key questions. In the end, Chris Brady won re-election with 43% of the vote. Ben Gies will replace Chuck Haddaway, who had decided not to run for re-election, and Chris Kolb unseated current Board Chair David Jones, Jr.
8. Indiana Update – Across the river, Republicans swept all federal offices and all state legislative offices in our region. President-Elect Donald Trump secured running mate Gov. Mike Pence’s home state with 57% of the vote, former Sen. Evan Bayh lost his old senate seat to Congressman Todd Young by 10 points, and Congressman Young’s vacated seat was picked up by Trey Hollingsworth. Incumbent Republican State Rep. Steve Stemler handily won against Libertarian challenger Tom Keister in the 71st District encompassing Clarksville and Jeffersonville, while incumbent Republican Ed Clere defeated Democrat challenger Steve Bonifer in the 72nd District which encompasses the New Albany and Floyds Knobs areas.