This is the first Tuesday in November and for the first time since 2009, Kentucky voters will not be going to the polls on the first Tuesday in November. However, the number of special local elections in this region this year, plus the amount of interest in the 2015 Senate race for the seat held by Mitch McConnell, has made it seem like an election year.
An amendment approved by Kentucky voters on 1992 made it unnecessary for the state to have an election in one out of every four years by moving the election of all local offices and all legislative seats to even number years. The governor and other statewide offices still are elected in odd-numbered years, but those are four-year terms that are not up for election until 2015.
Based on how much already has been written about the anticipated Senate race between Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes and five-term incumbent Mitch McConnell, many voters may find it difficult to believe the winner of this contest will not be determined for another year. And there is no guarantee that either Grimes or McConnell will be on the ballot next November. After all, both must first win their party’s nomination in the May primary.
While Grimes and McConnell are the heavy favorites to be on next November’s ballot, McConnell is being challenged for the Republican Party nomination by Tea Party candidate Matt Bevin, who has been endorsed by the Senate Conservative Fund, and Grimes is certain to face some opposition in the Democratic primary. We learned in 2010 there is no such thing as a sure thing in Kentucky politics. After all, at this time in 2009, then-Secretary of State Trey Grayson was the hand-picked choice of the Republican Party establishment to succeed the retiring Jim Bunning and few had even heard of Rand Paul, who defeated Grayson in May and Democratic-nominee Attorney General Jack Conway in November.
This also has been a year for local elections in this corner of Kentucky, beginning with voters in Greenup County soundly rejecting the sale of alcohol throughout the county. That means the only places in Greenup County where alcohol can be legally sold is at Bellefonte County Club and in Russell restaurants that seat at least 100 and get at least 75 percent of their revenue from non-alcohol sales. However, no restaurants in Russell have sought a liquor-by-the-drink license, as voters approved a “moist” referendum four years ago.
Other alcohol-related issues on the ballot in this region have fared better. Voters in the two downtown Ashland precincts that have been “wet” since 1981 voted to allow the Sunday sale of alcohol, and Grayson voters easily approved the legal sale of alcohol, ending 76 years of prohibition in the city. Residents of Louisa were circulating petitions to allow the city to have a wet-dry election before learning that the sixth-class city was too small for such elections.
The Fairview Independent Board of Education again voted to enact a 3 percent utilities tax, and residents of Westwood again successfully petitioned to place the tax question on the ballot. However, this time voters approved a tax they had soundly defeated on previous special elections.
While we have gotten a bit of a respite from the constant campaigning of candidates in 2013, that will soon end. All county offices from judge-executive to sheriff to members of fiscal courts or county commissions are on the ballot in 2014, as are all city offices in this region except for Ashland mayor. There also is the race for the U.S. Senate for McConnell’s seat, as well as races for all seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.
In short, the ballot in 2014 is longer than in any other year, and it includes offices for city and county races that directly impact our lives and in which we have the greatest chance of making our votes count. Thus, while we have no reason to vote today, we will be making some major decisions on Nov. 4, 2014.
In fact, the campaigning already has begun, and we’re not just talking about the Senate race. Candidates for county and city races already have been out shaking hands. Expect a rash of yard signs to soon appear.