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Governor’s race may have ‘coattail effect’




FRANKFORT

Secretary of State Trey Grayson has long been considered a rising star in Kentucky Republican Party politics.

But if recent polls showing Gov. Ernie Fletcher trailing challenger Steve Beshear hold true, Grayson and other statewide candidates could see political blow back in their own races on Nov. 6, some political scientists and insiders say.

State Democratic Party Chairman Jonathan Miller said there would be a “huge coattail effect” in this year’s election.

“We feel very confident that Steve Beshear and Daniel Mongiardo will win and could win by a healthy margin,” Miller said. “And, if that’s the case, that will certainly help the rest of the ticket.”

With about six weeks until the election, recent polls have shown Fletcher trailing Beshear by double digits in his re-election bid ¿î one of three governors’ races in the country this year.

Fletcher campaign spokesman Jason Keller said he would not speculate on the accuracy of the polls. Fletcher has time before the election to convince voters he’s the best candidate for the job, Keller said.

Other constitutional races on the ballot include: Grayson facing a challenge from Democrat Bruce Hendrickson; incumbent state Auditor Crit Luallen, a Democrat, against Republican Linda Greenwell; and Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer, a Republican and former University of Kentucky basketball player, against Democrat David L. Williams.

And, Democrat Jack Conway and Republican state Rep. Stan Lee are running for attorney general, while Democrat Todd Hollenbach is facing Republican Melinda Wheeler in the state treasurer’s race.

State Republican Party chairman Steve Robertson said he thinks Kentucky voters would consider each candidate separately and not cast straight-party ballots.

“One thing that we’ve seen in Kentucky over the last decade is that Kentucky voters pay attention to the individuals they’re voting for,” Robertson said. “I think that all of our candidates are out there running fantastic campaigns and I think voters at the end of the day are going to sit back and make a decision on who they think is best.”

Brett Hall, a former Fletcher spokesman and now Wheeler’s campaign manager, said he didn’t trust the accuracy of most polls. Neither Fletcher or Beshear would have a victory by more than 20 percentage points, preventing a strong coattail effect for either candidate, Hall said.

“It doesn’t have an effect until you reach that landslide type proportion,” Hall said. “I don’t believe it’ll be a landslide one way or the other.”

Nevertheless, candidates in less publicized races can be affected by other contests on an election ballot, said Scott Lasley, a political scientist at Western Kentucky University. That “coattail effect” can be magnified in Kentucky because voters can choose to vote for all the candidates of a particular party rather than deciding on each race individually, Lasley said.

“Any time you have straight ticket voting, it’s going to increase the potential for coattails,” Lasley said.

Farmer, because of his basketball roots, is a popular candidate that may cause Democrats to think twice about voting a straight ticket, Lasley said.

The so-called coattail effect can also help candidates who might benefit from the ballot presence a more popular candidate of his or her own party, said Joe Gershtenson, director of the Center for Kentucky History and Politics at Eastern Kentucky University.

But what happens in the governor’s race can have an effect either way on candidates in other races, he said.

“There’s no doubt there’s always worries for candidates farther down the ballot when the person at the top from your party is not faring well,” Gershtenson said.

Miller, a Democrat, won a second term as treasurer in 2003 amid a favorable political climate for Republicans. Miller said it was a “tough race” for him, despite Fletcher winning the governor’s race by about 10 percentage points.

Nevertheless Grayson, who is seeking his second term as secretary of state, said he’s using Miller’s 2003 strategy of traveling the state, stressing his record and fundraising.

“I just think that if Kentucky voters are presented with the case for a quality candidate they’re going to give that candidate a shot,” Grayson said.


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