How seven counties could be early indicator in Ky. governor's race

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - As voters go to the polls in Kentucky's contentious governor's election, voters in seven counties could be a good barometer into how the race will end.

While the majority of counties lean Republican or Democratic, the "split seven" have a less than five percent difference in the number of registered voters for each of the parties.

Madison County -- the state's ninth most populated county -- leads the list the "split seven" for having just 57 more registered Democrats than Republicans. Registered Democrats in the county totaled 31,366 while Republicans totaled 31,309, according to September 2019 voter registration statistics from the Kentucky Board of Elections.

"Madison is also a county to keep an eye on because it has a major state university but also has major manufacturing and farming employment," said WKYT political editor Bill Bryant. "It's a county that truly has a cross section of every type of Kentuckian and a true urban-rural split."

Other counties with a small difference in registered voters include Lawrence, Meade, Metcalfe, Scott, Shelby and Trigg counties.

Fayette and Jefferson which are the state's two most populated counties lean Democratic, according to registration totals.

WKYT's analysis of the voter registration totals found several Kentucky counties where one party dominated the registration rolls.

In eastern Kentucky, Knott, Breathitt, Elliott and Wolfe counties have more than 80 percent of voters being Democrats

Republicans have a strong grip on southern Kentucky and the northern Kentucky suburbs of Cincinnati. The counties with more than 80 percent registered Republicans are Leslie, Clay, Monroe, Clinton, Jackson, Cumberland and Casey.

"It's also interesting that many of the counties with such one party dominance are in eastern Kentucky," Bryant said. "That's another reason why both candidates put such an effort on getting votes there."

In the race, Republican Gov. Matt Bevin is being challenged by Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear, the son of Kentucky's last Democratic governor.

While Beshear stressed issues like pay raises for teachers and access to health care, Bevin promoted his conservative credentials on abortion and gun rights and has tried to shift attention to national issues by condemning efforts to impeach President Donald Trump.

Totals show there are more registered Democrats than Republicans in the state. Registration data from the state shows today there were 1.6 million registered Democrats versus 1.4 million Republicans.