Kentucky GOP overtakes Democrats in voter registration


FILE – Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., leaves the chamber after leading the acquittal by impeachment of President Donald Trump on Capitol Hill in Washington, Feb. 5, 2020. The Kentucky Republican Party, already dominating in electing candidates, achieved another long-sought goal, overtaking the Democratic Party in statewide voter registration, according to figures released by the Kentucky State Board of Elections on Friday, July 15. 2022. McConnell, considered the primary architect of the GOP’s rise in Kentucky, said his party’s voter registration supremacy in his home state was “a day I never thought to arrive”. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)


The Kentucky Republican Party, already dominant at the polls, took another long-sought step, overtaking the Democratic Party in statewide voter registration.

The Kentucky State Board of Elections announced Friday that the number of registered Republican voters stands at 1,612,060, compared to 1,609,569 registered Democrats.

“After a century and a half, Lincoln’s birthplace has finally aligned with Lincoln’s party,” Republican Secretary of State Michael Adams said.

It culminates the GOP’s long trajectory toward eclipsing the Democrats’ historic advantage among registered voters in the Bluegrass State. Although it seemed inevitable that the Republicans would come out on top, given the trends, party leaders hailed it as a historic achievement.

“Today is a day I never thought would come,” said Republican U.S. Senate Leader Mitch McConnell, considered the primary architect of the GOP’s rise in his home state.

McConnell, the longest-serving senator in Kentucky history, attributed his party’s latest achievement to decades of “hard work and grassroots effort,” adding that “this is just the beginning.”

When McConnell was first elected to the Senate in 1984, narrowly defeating incumbent Walter “Dee” Huddleston, the state had 1.3 million registered Democrats and 525,060 Republicans. Republicans have narrowed the registration gap over the years.

Their electoral successes in Kentucky became lopsided — first in federal races and eventually in state campaigns as many conservative Democrats crossed over to back GOP candidates.

Republicans currently hold Kentucky’s two U.S. Senate seats, five of six congressional seats, supermajorities in the state legislature, and most constitutional offices statewide. This reflects the GOP’s dominance in rural Kentucky.

“We are living in a historic moment in the Commonwealth,” said Republican U.S. Senator Rand Paul, who is seeking a third term from Kentucky in this year’s election. “The majority of Kentucky people realize that their beliefs are best represented by the Republican Party.”

The highest political office in the state – the governorship – is held by Democrat Andy Beshear.

Democratic state chairman Colmon Elridge did not mention his party’s registration change in a statement on Friday. Instead, he outlined his party’s platform to “fight for working families and meet the urgent needs of our communities” while touting Beshear’s record of job creation. Elridge lambasted Republicans for blocking “common sense proposals” such as expanding gambling and legalizing medical marijuana.

Beshear has received high performance marks in recent polls, but the governor is bracing for a tough re-election fight next year. Several prominent Republicans are already running for governor, and the party’s slate of candidates could grow.

Asked how the Republican registration gains would affect his re-election prospects, the governor noted that there was little difference between party numbers.

“What that means is we have to get along,” Beshear said Friday. “We need to stop trying to fight to move the state to the right or to the left, but just move it forward. And to focus on things that really impact people’s lives, like good jobs, great public education, and access to health care. »

Beshear is expected to make his handling of the state’s economy the cornerstone of his campaign message. Last year, Kentucky set records for job creation and investment and recently posted its lowest unemployment rates on record. The state’s two most significant economic development announcements — related to electric vehicle battery production — occurred during his tenure.

Republicans point to Beshear’s policy disagreements with the GOP-dominated legislature on issues such as taxes and abortion. And they’re trying to tie the governor to Democratic President Joe Biden as runaway inflation squeezes household budgets.

While touting his party’s priorities of “limited government and personal accountability,” Adams noted that registered Republicans constitute a plurality, not a majority, in Kentucky, as more than 300,000 voters are not registered with any of the two main parties.

“To win statewide elections and then to govern effectively, Republican candidates must appeal beyond our base to the 55% of voters who are not Republicans,” he said. .

Lynn A. Saleh