Why are so many Kentucky General Assembly races uncontested?

Why are so many Kentucky General Assembly races uncontested?
Published: Nov. 7, 2022 at 3:44 PM EST
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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WKYT) - While the races for U.S. Senator and Lexington mayor might be races dominating campaign ads, many Kentuckians will find they don’t have a choice when deciding who should represent them in the state legislature.

More than half of the people running for the Kentucky House of Representatives will appear on the November 8 ballot unopposed. In 58 of the 100 races, there Is only one name for voters to select.

In those unopposed Kentucky State House races, Republicans make up 46 of the uncontested races while Democrats are the sole candidates in 12 races.

Members of the House are elected for two-year terms, meaning the terms are up this election cycle for all 100 seats. Senators are elected to four-year terms with half of the 38 seats up in 2022.

A job in the Kentucky State Senate doesn’t appear to be any more coveted. In 11 of the 19 state senate races in 2022, there will be only one name appearing on the ballot.

In those unopposed state senate races, Republicans make up nine of the uncontested races while Democrats are the sole candidates in two races.

Dr. Anne Cizmar, a government professor at Eastern Kentucky University, gave us four reasons why this is the case.

  • Redistricting. This is the first election with new maps in place. There were some questions around that and that likely gave some candidates pause this cycle.
  • A potential increase in partisanship and polarization. Why run if you don’t think you have a meaningful chance to win?
  • Dr. Cizmar also cited several legislators retiring, which means we may have more of a solidified race next time around.
  • She also noted the effect of covid on candidate recruitment, which could limit that process in some ways.

She says she knows this can all be frustrating for voters.

“We live in a country in which we have this democratic republic, and we’re looking for legislators we can choose who can go to Frankfort, or Washington, and make decisions on our behalf,” Dr. Cizmar said. “You want to provide that feedback, that input to the government, that’s so important to our system of government. If you can’t actually make a voting choice in the election, then it provides less opportunity for you to have input or say in what’s happening in your community or in your state.

Dr. Cizmar says it’s too soon to tell if this is a trend. Especially, because of COVID and redistricting. She says, right now, we just don’t know.