American Truth: Kentucky’s Political Landscape | News

Secretary of State Michael Adams (R-KY)

PADUCAH — From Democratic stronghold to Republican juggernaut: That’s the path Kentucky politics has taken for the past 100 or so years.

Why have Kentucky voters made this political shift over time? There are many reasons and all are part of our American truth.

Republican Secretary of State Michael Adams acknowledges the decades-long shift in Kentucky’s electorate to lean more to the right than to the left. However, he is quick to point out that he beat his Democratic opponent in 2019 by just four points.

“Democrats always have more registered voters than Republicans. That’s not a bad thing. I like having competitive politics. It forces every campaign to be good. It forces every party to be good. I don’t think not that we’re as red as people think we are. So I think we’re definitely becoming more Republican. Registration is finally catching up with voting behavior, but voting behavior is more Republican at the presidential level and at the federal level because the problem posed is more a lot about cultural issues,” Adams said.

In the last six presidential elections, Kentucky’s eight electoral votes have gone to the Republican candidate.

Democrats leave the party

Al Cross is director of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues at the University of Kentucky. He is also a journalist and political columnist.

“(Kentucky is) as much Republican today as it was in 2016. It was a living Democratic state except in presidential elections,” Cross said.

Only four times since 1956 has Kentucky helped put a Democrat in the White House.

In 1964, Kentucky voters supported Lyndon B. Johnson. The state turned blue again in 1976 supporting Jimmy Carter. Kentucky also helped Bill Clinton cross the finish line twice, once in 1992 and once in 1996.

While Republican candidates generally ruled the roost at the federal level, the opposite was true at the state and local levels. Only three times in the past 70 years has Kentucky appointed a Republican to the governor’s office. These three candidates are Louie B. Nunn in 1967, Ernie Fletcher in 2003 and Matt Bevin in 2015.

Kentucky, specifically Western Kentucky, has been a Democratic stronghold for 100 years. So why have more people in Kentucky moved away from the Democratic Party?

Cross said there were three reasons for this and the first was the civil rights movement. .

“You don’t change the culture. Some people say Kentucky joined the losing side after the Civil War, but it was still southern culture. And when civil rights came and Kentuckians considered that, most of them honestly didn’t like it,” Cross said.

The Civil Rights Movement was the beginning of social issues helping to separate the Kentucky Democrats from the National Party.

The second reason for this change was the Vietnam War. It was a quagmire that many Americans and Kentucky Democrats wanted to get away from.

“Yes, Lyndon Johnson was ousted from office by his own Democrats because of the war,” Cross said.

The third reason more Kentucky Democrats walked away from the party was the United States Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision on abortion.

“It took Republicans a while to embrace that as a party platform, but they did it in 1980. And that was one of the reasons Ronald Reagan carried the state in 1980,” Cross said.

The Kentucky electorate

McCracken County Clerk Julie Griggs noticed changes in party affiliation over time.

“There’s been a big shift. When I first came to work here, I’d say the number of registered Democrats versus Republicans was probably 70 to 30. It was a huge number of Democrat voters here at McCracken,” Griggs said.

Julie Griggs

Julie Griggs, McCracken County Clerk

This has changed and is reflected on the ballot. Kentucky has a closed primary. Republicans can only vote for Republicans and Democrats can only vote for Democrats.

There are several races in Western Kentucky where only one party has candidates on the ballot. If you are registered in the opposing party, you do not have the right to vote for who will eventually advance in November and win.

“Other states, and most states, have what are called open primaries, which allow the voter to choose which primary they want to vote in. I like to see us go the way of opening of our primary. I don’t believe that Democrats should vote in my primary or that I should be able to vote in the Democratic primary. You could see that there would be a possibility of mischief there if that were done. But I think we should allow our independent voters to vote in one or the other,” Adams said.

“Before, there were so many Democratic candidates running, but it was always the same way. A lot of races were decided in the primaries because it was Democrats running against Democrats. It turns out that it’s this year, this election that only a lot of Republicans are running,” Griggs added.

Despite an influx of support for the Republican Party, there are still more registered Democrats in McCracken County than Republicans. Just over 27,000 Democrats to about 24,000 Republicans.

McCracken County voters

While Adams pauses before backing an open primary, he thinks it’s essential to get more voters like Independents in the fold.

“So I think it’s better for the campaigns, better for the parties, for independent voters to decide ‘do they want to vote in the GOP primary or the Democratic primary’ and try to woo those voters. That would be nice. for the voters. It would be good for the parties and the candidates. It’s also good for Kentucky because there are a lot of extreme people on both sides who win their respective primaries. Very extreme people whose opinions don’t reflect not those of ordinary Democrats and ordinary Republicans,” Adams said.

Calloway County voters

Livingston County Voters