Kentucky's 4th Congressional District will be a key race to watch in 2004. Conservative Democratic Rep. Ken Lucas is retiring, and Republicans count this as among one of their best chances to gain a seat outside Texas. Nick Clooney, father of actor George Clooney, is the Democratic candidate. He was unopposed in the primary. Geoff Davis, who lost to Lucas two years ago, is running again for the Republicans.
Davis, a manufacturing consultant, will take on Clooney, a media personality in the Cincinnati area. While the elder Clooney, a Democrat, opposes abortion and gun control, Republicans have threatened to use his son's more liberal views against him in the fall.
Republican Sen. Jim Bunning will seek a second term in 2004. His re-election campaign issued an apology in April after Bunning said a potential opponent looks like one of Saddam Hussein's sons. Bunning made the comment about state Sen. Daniel Mongiardo, the son of Italian immigrant, during a speech at a Republican event in March. Mongiardo will face Bunning in the November election after winning the Democratic primary.
Republicans chose state Sen. Tom Buford to challenge Rep. Ben Chandler, a Democrat who won a special election in February to represent the Lexington area.
Republican Rep. Ernie Fletcher left the district to become the governor. In the 2003 gubernatorial election, the three-term Republican defeated Chandler, who was the Democratic Attorney General. Democratic Gov. Paul Patton had been barred from seeking a third-term by constitutional limits. Scandals associated with an extramarital affair effectively ended his political career anyway.
Fletcher, who has represented the 6th district off and on since 1994, becomes the state's first Republican governor in 32 years.
Bush carried Kentucky by 15 percentage points over Al Gore in 2000, but Democrats believe their chances are better at a time when unemployment is rising.
Fletcher easily defeated Chandler with 55 percent of the vote. President Bush had stumped for Fletcher twice in one month and Democratic party activists argued that a vote for Chandler would tell the White House its economic policy is a failure.
Fletcher inherits a $262 million shortfall in the current fiscal year, and outgoing Gov. Patton said he would leave its solution to his successor and lawmakers.
Kentucky Republicans, who had not won a constitutional state office since 1967, won two other statewide offices in the 2003 elections _ secretary of state and commissioner of agriculture. That left newly-elected attorney general Greg Stumbo as the top Democratic officeholder in a race that at times was overshadowed by personal issues. Stumbo was dogged by paternity and child-support issues; one of his opponents advocated medical marijuana; and another was an ex-judge who was twice disciplined on the bench.
Lt. Gov. Steve Henry, a Democrat, had expressed interest in running but abandoned plans after a federal lawsuit accusing him of defrauding Medicaid and Medicare while teaching at the University of Louisville Medical School. Henry has since agreed to a $162,000 settlement.
In the 2002 elections, Senator Mitch McConnell became the first Kentucky Republican elected to four consecutive terms, trouncing Democrat newcomer Lois Combs Weinberg.