After months of brutal attack ads from 6th District U.S. Representative candidates Ben Chandler and Andy Barr glutting the Lexington television airwaves, many area voters are understandably confused when they are told they won't be voting for either candidate.
"People have been bombarded on the local stations and then they come in and wonder 'why can't we vote for [Chandler or Barr],'" said Mercer County Clerk Chris Horn, who has stressed the need for election workers to be prepared for a lot of questions. "It's hard for some people to grasp because they see the ads from morning to night. We've tried to get the word out."
Although newly drawn maps for state legislative districts were struck down in court, the U.S. congressional redistricting plan approved earlier this year in Frankfort moved Boyle, Garrard and Mercer counties from the 6th District now represented by Chandler to the 2nd District. That seat is currently held by Republican Brett Guthrie of Bowling Green, who is running as the prohibitive favorite.
Tim Montgomery, chairman of the Boyle County Republican Party, said he was pleased with what he had learned about the congressman so far. However, he admitted some are disappointed the county was removed from the 6th District in the midst of a close contest that has attracted the money — and venomous advertising — of the national parties and political action committees.
Boyle, Garrard and Mercer all went for Barr in a 2010 election decided by less than 700 votes and only tenths of a percentage point in Chandler's favor. According to Montgomery, many people who didn't know the districts had changed came in asking for yard signs for Barr at local Republican headquarters, only to be told Guthrie was now the party's candidate.
Montgomery said people took many of the 20 or so signs left over from the 2010 election.
Guthrie was in Danville on Wednesday checking out Stuart Powell Field and touring local businesses with Danville Mayor Bernie Hunstad. He said he has been spending some money on direct mailing, radio and print advertising in the area, but felt it would be difficult — if not entirely unnecessary considering the lack of legitimate competition — to completely join the fray.
“There are so many ads between Andy Barr and Ben Chandler, if we tried to do a lot of ours it would be even more confusing,” Guthrie said. “We’ve tried to go more direct with our advertising in these counties, and we want to try to get to know the people in the communities.”
Experts in the state and in Washington, including the Rothenberg Political Report, consider Guthrie's seat safe from opposition. While his visits to the area can technically be classified campaign stops, for practical purposes they are meant to meet constituents and lay the groundwork for the future.
Guthrie's Democratic challenger likely won't help those already struggling to keep their electoral options straight. He is opposed by David Lynn Williams, a perennial candidate from Glasgow, not to be mistaken for David Lewis Williams, the Republican head of the Kentucky Senate who made an unsuccessful gubernatorial run last year.
Williams, who is retired from work in the construction industry, has been a candidate for Congress in the past as a Republican, in addition to runs for Glasgow mayor and for governor. His most high profile gambit recently was his 2007 run as a Democrat for agriculture commissioner, a contest he lost to Richie Farmer.
Craig Astor, a Larue County Realtor, aircraft mechanic and restaurant owner, also is running as a Libertarian. Astor previously ran unsuccessfully in the Republican primary for the 19th District State House seat and served as the head of the Larue County Republican Party.
Astor was the only 2nd District candidate to show up for a Kentucky Educational Television forum earlier this month. During his interview with Kentucky Tonight host Bill Goodman, Astor said he left the Republican Party primarily because of concerns for the monetary policy and the scope and reach of the federal government infringing on personal liberty.
The biggest unknown in state political circles, Independent candidate Andrew Beacham, has actually drawn the most national attention during the race for a graphic anti-abortion television advertisement in which he compares Barack Obama to Adolf Hitler, Al Capone and serial killer Ted Bundy. The ad, which was scheduled to run numerous times in western Kentucky television markets, also shows dismembered fetuses and other dead bodies he blames Obama for because Beacham says the President “gives your money” to Planned Parenthood and the Muslim Brotherhood.
An Associated Press story on Beacham links him to anti-abortion activist and fringe presidential candidate Randall Terry. According to the candidate's website, Beacham co-directed many of Terry’s media projects and, he boasts, was one of a group of people who disrupted Obama's speech at Notre Dame University in 2009.
Lynn Zellen, communications director for Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, said in an email she was not aware of many inquiries about their ballot options. She said there was an effort following redistricting to make sure voters and candidates facing filing deadlines were up to date on the changes.
Zellen said Grimes has encouraged voters to visit the online voter information center to find out about their districts and precinct location and view sample ballots.