Becoming an Informed Voter – Researching Your Congressional Delegation
Recent Political history of Kentucky
Kentucky is a Jeffersonian commonwealth, and was originally part of the state of Virginia. In 1782, Kentucky became an independent state from Virginia after a split (Barone, 2013). Kentucky’s 3rd Congressional District is the largest of Jefferson’s county. The district’s current representative is John Yarmuth, who won the seat on a democratic vote. John Yarmuth was first elected in Kentucky’s 3rd Congressional District in 2006. In 2014, he was reelected back to the U.S. House on a democratic ticket, defeating other competitors such as Michael Macfarlane on a republican ticket, and Greg Puccetti, an independent candidate. In 2012, John Yarmuth defeated Brooks Wicker who vied on a republican ticket. Kentucky’s 3rd Congressional District is inclined towards the Democratic Party. John Yarmuth is an average Democratic member – as such, most of his votes in parliament reflect the wishes of the Democratic Party members. Yarmuth has served on a number of committees including the Budget Committee and the Energy & Commerce Committee.
The state of Kentucky is largely Republican, especially in the choice or support of presidential candidates. Kentucky has two appointed senators in the U.S. Senate and six representatives in the U.S. House of Representatives. The longest serving senator is Mitch McConnell, having clinched the seat in 1984 through a majority win (Barone, 2013). Rand Paul serves as the junior senator after his election in 2011. Both of Kentucky’s senators support the Republican Party. The Republican influence in Kentucky is mainly due to Senator Mitch McConnell’s efforts. Since his election, McConnell has been particularly influential by helping Republican candidates win elections. In 1998, McConnell provided major support for Jim Bunnings to capture a senate seat in Kentucky (Barone, 2013). After showing weaknesses, McConnell also devised an exit strategy for Bunnings in 2010 since it looked clear that he would not recapture the seat.
How representatives and senators voted in the recent presidential and congressional elections
In the recent presidential elections held in 2012, Mitch McConnell declared his support for Mitt Romney who was vying for the U.S. presidential seat on a Republican ticket. Mitt Romney contested against Barrack Obama, who vied on a Democratic ticket. Mitt Romney lost the elections. Junior senator Rand Paul also declared his support for Republican Party flag bearer, Mitt Romney, while sidelining Democratic Obama in the 2012 presidential elections (Howley, 2013). Kentucky’s representatives include Ed Whitfield (1st District), Brett Guthrie (2nd District), John Yarmuth (3rd District), Thomas Massie (4th District), Harold Rogers (5th District), and Garland Barr (6th District) (Kentucky, 2016). Whitfield, Guthrie, Massie, Rogers and Barr are all Republicans, while Yarmuth is a Democrat as earlier mentioned. In the 2012 presidential bid, Yarmuth endorsed President Barrack Obama, a fellow democrat. The other representatives supported the Republican’s flag bearer Mitt Romney.
In the recent congressional elections held in 2014, Sen. Rand Paul endorsed Mitch McConnell for the senate seat. Speculations were rife that Rand Paul would endorse a tea party challenge candidate (Howley, 2013). His endorsement of the long-running senator cleared the air. Mitch McConnell also supported the junior senator for his election bid in the 2014 congressional elections. Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul endorsed Michael Macfarlane for the 3rd District House of Representatives election bid which he lost to Yarmuth. The U.S. House of Representatives members, Whitfield, Guthrie, Massie, Rogers, and Barr endorsed Republican candidate Rand Paul for junior senatorial position and the incumbent Senator Mitch McConnell. It is clear that majority of the House members endorse candidates based on their party affiliations.
Kentucky’s Political Party Affiliations
Kentucky is leaning more towards the Republican side. During the 2012 presidential elections, 61% of Kentucky residents voted for Mitt Romney, the then Republican candidate. Only 38% of the residents voted for Barack Obama who was vying on a Democratic ticket (Barone, 2013). In the last five decades, Kentucky was strongly Democratic, a position evident through mainly voting for Democratic candidates. However, in the recent past, Kentucky has leaned more towards the Republican Party. In the last four presidential bids, Kentucky has shown strong liking for the Republican Party, by voting in great numbers for Republican candidates. Currently, there are five Republican members in the U.S. House of Representatives, and only a single Democratic Party member. This represents a strong inclination towards the Republican Party. In the 2008 Democratic Primary, the current President Barack Obama lost to Hillary Clinton, reflecting the residents’ strong support for Republicans. Currently, it would be advisable to anyone vying for any electoral position to do so on a Republican Party ticket.
In the recent period, the Republican Party has dominated most electoral positions at the grassroots. To start with, its senators are from the Republican Party. These are Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul. Secondly, majority of the United States House of Representatives members are Republican (Stolberg & Blinder, 2015). There are five Republican members and only one from who is from the Democratic Party. A few independent candidates have successfully vied and won in any of the electoral positions in Kentucky. A Republican, Matt Bevin, also holds the gubernatorial seat. Democratic candidates have traditionally won the gubernatorial seat in Kentucky. In the last five decades or so, Kentucky has predominantly voted Democratic Party governors. In 2003, a Republican governor won the seat, serving up to 2007 when Steven L. Beshear replaced him on a Democratic Party ticket. Matt Bevin’s win on a Republican ticket reflects the strong influence of the Republican Party, and its dominance in the region. According to Stolberg & Blinder (2015), the political climate in Kentucky is “ripe for a Republican”.
Kentucky’s 3rd District had a long tradition of supporting the Democratic Party. According to Benen (2016), Democrats have controlled Kentucky’s State House of representatives since the early 1920s. Currently, the Democrats dominate the Kentucky’s legislative chamber in the South. In the recent past, the Republic Party has gained increasing support. From 2008, the House has had more Republicans compared to the Democrats. In 2008, Republicans held four seats while the Democrats managed to capture two seats. In 2010 House, the Republicans were again four while the Democrats were two. The year 2012 represents the most significant change with five seats for the Republicans and one seat for the Democrats. Kentucky’s 3rd District showed its strong support for the Democratic Party by voting John Yarmuth. Yarmuth has won the last four elections on a Democratic ticket. The last Republican representative was Anne Northup who held the position between 2004 and 2005.
Mitch McConnell is the current Kentucky’s senator. He clenched the seat back in 1985. Born in 1942 in Alabama, he attended University of Louisville for his higher education and graduating with B.A. degree in history. In 1969, he joined the University of Kentucky College where he studied law. McConnell began his career as Senator John Cooper’s intern in 1964. His stay with Coopers gave him the inspiration he needed to view for the senate seat. He also worked as an assistant to Marlow Cook, who became a senator in the 1970s. He also worked for Gerald Ford and Antonin Scalia. In 1974 to 1975, McConnell worked as the Deputy United States Attorney for Legislative Affairs. In 1979, McConnell became Jefferson County’s Judge-Executive, a position he held until 1985 when he vied and won the U.S. Senate. McConnell won the U.S. Senate against a two-time incumbent, Huddleston Walter.
John Yarmuth became Kentucky’s 3rd Congressional District representative in 2007. He holds a bachelor’s degree in American Studies, having graduated from Yale University. Between 1971 and 1975, Yarmuth worked as an assistant to Marlow Cool who was a U.S. Senator by then. In 1976, he began his own publishing platform by launching the Louisville Today Magazine. From 1982, he worked as a vice president at the University of Louisville. In 1990, Yarmuth launched the Louisville Eccentric Observer, a local political newspaper for which he was also a columnist. In 2007, Yarmuth took office as Kentucky’s 3rd Congressional District representative in the U.S. House of Representatives. Over the recent election period, Yarmuth has been able to maintain his seat by winning the subsequent elections.
In 2010, Mitch McConnell received a 96 percent rating from the American Conservative Union (ACU). The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) rated the senator at 25 percent in 2015 (Vote Smart, 2016). The Americans for Democratic Action (ADA) gave a 0 percent rating to the senator. The senator received a 100 percent rating from the Family Research Council (Vote Smart, 2016). Overall, Senator Mitch McConnell received low ratings from a number of quarters. His low ratings could be an indicator that the senator has become unpopular in the region. According to the Morning Consult (2015) poll, Senator Mitch McConnell received the highest disapproval rating, gaining 49 percent disapproval rate among the Kentucky voters. Only 40 percent of Kentucky residents gave a positive approval on his job performance (Morning Consult, 2015).
John Yarmuth received a 4 percent rating from the American Conservative Union. This was a low rating from ACU. From the American Civil Liberties Union, he received a 90 percent, which was a good rating. He received a 90 percent score from the Americans for Democratic Action ratings. The Family Research Council gave him a 0 percent rating. John Yarmuth did not have any CC rating. John Yarmuth’s overall ratings seem to be high. Other bodies have given favorable ratings to the U.S. House Representative, meaning he is popular among Kentucky’s 3rd Congressional District residents. Yarmuth has higher chances of winning a reelection compared to McConnel, even though they are not vying for the same seat. Based on these ratings, I would classify Mitch McConnell as conservative. His stance and strict adherence to policies have made him unfavorable with most of the rating organizations. On the other hand, John Yarmuth is liberal. He is liberal because most of his opinions tend to favor civil liberties and social justice in the U.S.
Barone, M. (2013). The almanac of American politics 2014. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.
Howley, P. (2013, March 27). Rand Paul endorses Mitch McConnell in 2014 Senate race. The Daily Caller.
Kentucky. (2016). Representatives. Retrieved from https://www.govtrack.us/congress/members/KY
Morning Consult. (2015). The most (and least) popular senators in America. Retrieved https://morningconsult.com/senate-approval-bernie-rubio-cruz/
Stolberg, S. G., & Blinder, A. (2015 Nov. 3). Matt Bevin, Republican, wins governor’s race in Kentucky. The New York Times.
Vote Smart. (2016). Mitch McConnell’s Ratings and Endorsements. Retrieved from http://votesmart.org/candidate/evaluations/53298/mitch-mcconnell#.V5z0N_l97IU