Republicans overtake democrats as Kentucky’s voting majority

Published 7:57 am Friday, July 22, 2022

Jared Darwish

As of July 15, Kentucky has officially become a Republican state from a party majority standpoint. The shift marks a historical switch in Kentucky’s party alignment, which has leaned democrat since the commonwealth’s statehood in 1792.

Email newsletter signup

The change in party identification for the state might come as shock to some, but Beau Weston, chairman of the Boyle County Democratic Party, said the switch was only a matter of time and downplayed its significance, noting that registered democrats have been voting republican in statewide elections for many years.

“This is not so much of a realignment as it is a relabeling,” Weston said.

Despite being a state that polls heavily for republican candidates in national elections, voters in the commonwealth have traditionally sided mostly with democrats,  especially on a state level. The 2016 elections marked the first time republicans held a majority over democrats in the state house since 1992.   

Similar to the state, Boyle County is trending Republican, as well. Although the news announced July 15 by Secretary of State is good news for bluegrass republicans, Tom Tye, Chairman of Boyle County’s Republican Party, says they must keep the pressure on during the run-up to this year’s midterm elections and beyond.

Tye and his Republican constituents chalked up the affiliation change to the modern day Democratic Party leaving behind their longtime supporters core values. Tye pointed to policies such as Covid-19 mandates, efforts to defund police and controversy over the 2nd Amendment as reasons why some have had a change of heart.

“I have people everyday come up to me and say their family has voted Democrat since the Civil War, however they are switching because they no longer believe Democrats stand up for their families rights any longer,” Tye said.

Tye also said his party attributes inflation, perceived weakness against foreign threats and immigration policies as reasons why voters in Kentucky and throughout the country are switching their allegiance.

The news came as a gut punch to Weston and his party, however, he believes party affiliation on the part of voters fluctuates depending on what is happening at the time, and added there are still reasons for optimism for the democratic party’s future in Kentucky and on a national scale.

Weston pointed to former republican Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin losing re-election in 2019 to Gov. Andy Beshear. Just in Boyle County, Bevin received about 1,000 fewer in 2019 than he did four years earlier.

“There is definitely work to do to get our majority back,” Weston said. “However I believe recent societal changes like the overturning of abortion and other attacks against social issues will bring people back to the party that stands for them and with them in the fight.”

For both republicans and democrats, success depends entirely on getting people registered to vote, Weston said. Secondly he stressed that his party must continue getting the word out about important issues and get them out to the polls so their voices are heard.

As for the party’s goal of attaining success in Boyle County, Weston said: “We want to inform people, because local voting will depend on knowledge of the candidate running rather than a voter’s national party identification.”

When talking about why the change happened in Kentucky, Weston said: “ I believe this wave is a reaction to progressive achievements in recent history such as gender and racial equality accomplished by our party.”

Like much of Kentucky, Boyle County has a long tradition of being a stronghold for democrats. The area also has a large number of independent voters, and Weston hopes the party will flourish once again in the area.

Weston said Kentucky has a mix of moderate republicans and conservative democrats, which contributes to changes in the state political landscape.