If you just consider the numbers, it appears a Democrat running in the 55th House District would be tough to beat.
There are more than twice as many registered Democrats in Mercer and Anderson counties and two precincts in Spencer County (21,919) as there are Republicans (9,798). Even if you added all the 1,800 or so voters who are registered as independent or with another party to the Republican side, Democrats still enjoy a mighty advantage.
“When you look at the numbers, you would think you could draw an obvious conclusion, but you can’t,” Kent Stevens said.
Stevens, a retired principal and teacher from Lawrenceburg, has first-hand knowledge of how those numbers don’t always add up to victory for a Democrat in the 55th. He was the incumbent Democrat in 2010 but was toppled by first-time Republican candidate Kim King of Harrodsburg, losing by 1,165 votes.
Now, King is the incumbent trying to hold on to the job, and Stevens is trying to earn a return trip to Frankfort.
“I just felt like I wanted to give it another shot. I feel like the people need my voice up there,” said Stevens, 60.
King, 50, a fitness trainer, did not respond to several attempts to contact her to comment for this story. As she did in 2010, King positions herself as a champion of traditional conversative values on her web site and in advertising, where she boasts of endorsements from the National Rifle Association and Kentucky Right to Life.
According to The Harrodsburg Herald, King told an audience at a candidates’ forum last week that her biggest accomplishment during her first two years in Frankfort was being among several Republican plaintiffs that successfully sued to overturn the state’s redistricting of legislative districts.
Had the redistricting been allowed to stand, part of Mercer County, including Harrodsburg, would have been moved into the 54th District that includes Boyle and Washington counties, which would have pitted King against fellow conservative Republican lawmaker Mike Harmon in a primary.
“If Mercer County had been split, everything else we tried to accomplish would have been inconsequential. It would have been a nightmare,” King said at the forum, according to the newspaper. “If I’m not able to accomplish anything else, I stand by that.”
In a telephone interview Thursday, Stevens suggested that wasn’t much for King to hang her hat on in terms of serving the district.
“That served her,” he said. “If that’s the best she has to offer, I hope people will take a closer look at what they’re getting.”
Stevens said when he was in Frankfort from 2008 to 2010, he helped grease the skids for major expansions at Hitachi and Corning in Harrodsburg that created hundreds of new jobs. Specifically, Stevens said he talked with Corning executives about what was needed from the state to make expansion possible and delivered that message to the governor’s office, which helped the deal go down, he said.
In campaigning in the district, Stevens said the concerns most often voiced by residents are about the need for new jobs in the area and fighting drug abuse.
“I’ll do whatever I can to make the pot as sweet as possible to get them to come here,” he said of luring new industry.
At the forum, King proudly said she voted against the two major bills designed to impact illicit drug use in the state, one limiting the purchase of Sudafed, a key ingredient in making methamphetamine and the other requiring doctors use the state monitoring system to keep track of prescribed drugs to prevent their abuse.
King called the Sudafed bill “a burden”¿and “a terrible bill.” Both bills became law, but King said, “I’d vote against both tomorrow,” the Herald reported.
Stevens said he would have supported both measures.
“I’ve talked to law enforcement, judges and the general public and everyone says those were good bills,” he said.
“She’s always talking about protecting family values, but I can’t think of anything worse for family values than the drug scene.”
Anderson and Mercer counties share nearly identical voter registration numbers. According to the Secretary of State’s website, there are 16,436 registered voters in Anderson and 16,495 in Mercer.
In 2010, Stevens carried his home county by only 753 votes while losing to King in Mercer County by more than 2,000 votes. He said he’s hoping for a much bigger turnout in his favor in Anderson County on Nov. 6 and thinks he will chip away at some of King’s support in her home county.
“I’ve been working hard, knocking on doors in all three counties telling people I’d appreciate a vote for Kent Stevens,” he said.