Skip to comments.Alice Kerr Lost KY Battle on Her Own Turf
Posted on 02/22/2004 7:01:44 AM PST by Theodore R.
Kerr lost battle on her own turf
By Ryan Alessi
HERALD-LEADER FRANKFORT BUREAU
In her 12-point loss in last week's special congressional election, Republican Alice Forgy Kerr was failed by some of the voters who knew her best.
Kerr, a state senator from Lexington, lost to Democrat Ben Chandler by an unexpectedly wide 55 percent to 43 percent margin in Tuesday's election to fill the 6th Congressional district seat.
Political analysts have offered a host of theories why Chandler, a former attorney general, won so convincingly, including the high, 35 percent, voter turnout, which by tradition favors Democrats, and his widespread name recognition.
But a close look at some of the voting results shows that Kerr slipped in territory where she, too, is well known.
She failed to carry her own senate district, which covers nearly half of Fayette County. And one of the two counties out of the 16 in the district where registered Republicans outnumber Democrats also went to Chandler.
Kerr did win Jessamine County, where Democrats outnumber GOP voters.
There's rarely a single reason for a political outcome, said Fayette County Clerk Don Blevins, a Democrat who has overseen elections for more than 22 years. "Usually, it's a combination of factors," he said.
"All elections are candidate-driven, either for or against," so a lot depends on the matchup.
The last time Kerr's name was on the ballot in her southern Fayette district, in November 2002, she was re-elected to the state senate over former University of Kentucky basketball player Derrick Hord, 18,276 votes to 13,610.
On that same turf Tuesday, Chandler topped Kerr by 202 votes. Worse, she attracted only 12,784 votes -- 30 percent less than in 2002.
Kerr was facing a tougher opponent in Tuesday's race than in 2002, said Joe Gershtenson, director of the Center for History and Politics at Eastern Kentucky University.
But "it's clear that some of her support either didn't show up or actually changed over to the other side," he said.
Democrats say they specifically tried to win in Kerr's back yard -- using a carefully targeted door-to-door effort.
On the books, Democrats outnumber Republicans in the neighborhoods she represents, 33,709 to 27,785, but they tend to vote Republican.
Over the 10-week campaign, the Democrats courted voters in that area more aggressively than in any race in recent history, said Carol Angel, who has run nine countywide campaigns in the last six years. She helped coordinate the voter-targeting effort for Chandler.
"We actually had people call the office and say, 'Thank you for sending someone to knock on my door and tell me to vote for a Democrat for a change'," Angel said.
"Never until this time have I actually had the resources and the amount of people to go door to door there," she said.
The Washington-based Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which spent more than $1.4 million on behalf of Chandler, paid for computer systems to map the district down to individual homes.
The group organized a 450-person army of volunteers who over the last few days of the campaign reminded Democratic voters to go to the polls.
They knew exactly where to go because early in the race, volunteers had canvassed the homes of registered Democrats.
They asked residents two questions: would they vote for President Bush or someone else in the fall? And would they vote for Chandler or Kerr?
"There were a lot of people there who said they supported Bush but said they would vote for Chandler. That really surprised us," she said.
So even though those residents had identified themselves with Bush -- as Kerr did in her campaign -- they got a second doorstep visit just before Election Day.
Kentucky Republican Party chairman Ellen Williams discounts all that Democratic planning. Chandler's win over Kerr in her own senate district means only that "more voters knew who he was," she said. "He was virtually an incumbent."
As for Kerr, "I would say a lot of people didn't know they were her constituents," Williams said.
Overall in the 6th district, Kerr only won two counties: Garrard, which has more Republicans than Democrats, and Jessamine. She lost Estill County, where Republicans have 1,000 more voters on the books than Democrats.
Williams said party registrations can be deceptive in Kentucky. "Voters in this state are pretty independent. Even Republican voters are independent minded," she said. "I think people vote for the person."
Ted Jackson, a Republican political consultant from Louisville, offered another possible cause of Kerr's loss: Kentuckians in both parties don't want one party to dominate.
Many voters might have decided that is was time to elect a Democrat, he said, because Republican Ernie Fletcher had just defeated Chandler in the governor's race and most of the state's congressional delegation is already Republican.
"There is still, on some level, this desire to have balance," he said. "With the tremendous victory that Ernie Fletcher had, there may have been a natural urge to pull back and go the other way."
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Reach Ryan Alessi at (859) 231-1303, 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 1303, or email@example.com.
Boy are you a big help! Didn't vote or voted for Chandler?? Pretty strange behavior for a supposed Republican. I think you're trolling, newbie "friend."
That is not true. Wouldn't happen to have some electricuted buddies somewhere named "LexingtonGOP" "UKFan" and "JohninSD", would you?
Well, that comment has to do with the fact that it is more likely that Democrat registered voters in Kentucky will cross over than Republicans. Republicans winning elections so consistently now in a State with overwhelming Democrat voter registration is what drives comments like that.
Say again? An incumbent Congresswoman on the ticket would not have been a weak candidate, let alone with a strong President and U.S. Senator of the same party topping the same ticket.
Uh, yeah...that's it. All .05% of the voters who knew McConnell was involved in the caucuses.
You still sound like a McConnell hater. That being said, of course we need a strong candidate to retake the 6th District seat from Chandler. I guess we'll see who comes forward.
BTW its easy to say you've been lurking since 1998 and FR is "a great site." Put your money where your mouth is and support Free Republic. Also get something on your profile. THEN I might believe you. Talk's cheap.