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Budget, gambling influence state primaries

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - The retirement of Senate Minority Leader
Ed Worley has attracted six candidates to the primaries for his
34th District seat in central Kentucky.
Republicans, who hold a slim 20 to 17 majority - with one
independent - in the Senate, are hoping to pick up the seat the
Democrat Worley held for 12 years before announcing his retirement
in January.
With the Republican Senate and Democratic House still unable to
agree on a state budget, voters get their first say on legislative
performance in Tuesday's primary. That's putting attention on six
incumbents - five of them Republicans - who are facing challenges
from within their party.
"For the first time in my memory, you have several entrenched
Republicans that are facing credible opposition," said Charlie
Moore, chairman of the state Democratic party. "I think that is a
direct reflection of the disappointment of the leadership that's
been shown by the Republicans."
Republican Sen. Alice Forgy Kerr is facing a tough primary
challenge in Lexington from veterinarian Andy Roberts, who has been
critical of Kerr's opposition to expanded gambling at the state's
racetracks. Roberts has been receiving support from farms and
horsemen and has spent about $10,000 more on his primary campaign
so far, according to state campaign finance records.
Longtime state Sen. Ernie Harris is facing a challenger in the
Republican primary for the first time since 1998. Opponent Don
Godfrey of Goshen says on his Facebook campaign page that he is
"supporting Kentucky's equine industry."
Senate President David Williams and Senate Banking and Insurance
Committee chairman Tom Buford are also facing primary challengers.
Williams is opposed by Denver Capps of Burkesville while Buford,
who has supported gaming at racetracks, faces Chad Crouch of
Wilmore, an expanded gambling opponent.
Worley, along with Gary Tapp in the 20th District, are two
Senate incumbents not seeking re-election this year. Three
Democrats and three Republicans are seeking their party's
nomination in the May 18 primary for Worley's seat, which covers
Lincoln, Madison and Rockcastle counties. Two in each party are
vying for Tapp's seat, which covers Bullitt, Shelby and Spencer
counties.
Leaders from both parties say the General Assembly's failure to
reach an agreement on the state's two-year budget will have
repercussions in the fall election.
A House proposal to borrow roughly $1 billion for school
construction and other projects loomed as the main sticking point
in reaching agreement on a $17 billion budget.
Kentucky Republican Party chairman Steve Robertson said the GOP
could be poised for a huge gain in the Democrat-controlled state
House.
"I think now more than ever people want checks and balances in
government," Robertson said. "And I think the way they view that
is they need to support folks from the other side of who's in power
now."
Moore said it's "laughable" that House Democrats are to blame
for the budget impasse.
"The Republicans own the failure of the budget process," Moore
said.
In the state House, 39 incumbents drew no opposition, and even
one first-time candidate for a vacant House seat is running
unopposed.
There are more than two dozen state House races in the May
primary, with 14 Democratic races and 12 Republican. At least seven
state legislators in the House and Senate, including Worley and
Tapp, opted not to seek re-election.
Fourteen House incumbents are facing primary challenges.
In Pike County, Democratic Rep. Keith Hall is facing a challenge
in the 93rd District House primary from Donna Damron, the county's
former judge-executive. The three-way race also includes Danny J.
Varney. According to campaign finance records, Hall has raised
about $65,000 to Damron's $8,800.
Worley cited fatigue as a reason for retiring from the House.
The former Richmond city manager was elected to the state Senate in
1998, and was elected floor leader in 2003.
The Senate's lone independent, Bob Leeper, faces a three-way
race in the fall.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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