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6th District sees registration shift - more democrats, fewer republicans after redistricting

Author: Roger Alford
Lexington Herald-Leader
October 18, 2012

FRANKFORT An increase in the number of registered Democrats and a decrease in Republicans in Kentucky's 6th Congressional District would appear to favor Democratic U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler in his rematch with GOP challenger Andy Barr.

The State Board of Elections released updated registration statistics Wednesday showing that 292,805 Democrats registered to vote in the 6th District.

That's up 8,281 voters from 284,524 in 2010 when Chandler first faced Barr. Meanwhile, Republican registrations fell by 3,890 from 170,678 to 166,788. The change is largely due to a redistricting plan approved by the state legislature earlier this year.

The campaigns differed on the significance of the change.

"This shift absolutely benefits our campaign," said Chandler spokeswoman Meghan Groob. "While the registration advantage is big, you can't underestimate the fact that folks in the new counties already know and respect Ben Chandler. He represented these counties for eight years as attorney general and four years as state auditor, and he's looking forward to representing them again after the election."

Democrats now hold a 126,000-voter edge over Republicans in the 6th District, but some question whether that's sufficient to overcome the drag of President Barack Obama, an unpopular political figure in Kentucky.

In Kentucky's May presidential primary, 42 percent of Democratic voters marked their ballots "uncommitted" rather than voting for Obama.

"Party labels mean less than they ever have this year," said Barr campaign manager Pat Melton. "Andy Barr's message of jobs, opportunity, and accountability is resonating with 6th District Democrats who are fed up with a cardboard congressman with a thin record and an even more invisible presence in their communities."

University of Kentucky political scientist Ernest Yanarella pointed out that Barr lost the 2010 election to Chandler by fewer than 700 votes despite a similarly huge Democratic advantage that year.

"I think that there are larger forces that are operating on this particular 6th District contest," Yanarella said. "Obama's shadow casts heavily across the 6th District."

Yanarella said the political climate seems to favor Republicans in Kentucky this year.

"Obviously, the existing edge and the redistricting clearly give Chandler a large advantage," he said. "Andy Barr got very close last election, despite the inherent advantage to the Democrat, which suggest he commands a lot of support from putative Democrats."

A record number of Kentuckians are registered to vote on Nov. 6 when they will choose state representatives and senators across the state and decide whether to ratify a constitutional amendment that would make hunting a right.

Since the May primary, Republican registrations grew statewide by 28,884 to 1,151,331.

Democratic registrations increased by 18,926 to 1,665,853.

The latest registration statistics also show that women voters still outnumber men 53 percent to 47 percent in Kentucky, and that Democrats outnumber Republicans 55 percent to 28 percent. Some 7 percent of the electorate is registered with third parties.