Nov 4, 2012 4:24 PM
FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Kentucky voters have plenty of decisions to make aside from their choice for president when they head to the polls Tuesday.
They'll also choose U.S. congressmen, state lawmakers, local judges and prosecutors. And they'll decide whether to make hunting a constitutional right.
Polls are open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. in both the state's eastern and central time zones.
Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes said state legislative races, not the matchup between Democratic President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney, will be the key reason for what she predicts will be a record turnout.
Obama, an unpopular figure in Kentucky, yielded the state to Romney after a poor showing in the Democratic primary. Some 42 percent of Kentucky Democrats marked their ballots "uncommitted" even though Obama was the only name on the ballot.
As a result, neither candidate has bothered to campaign in Kentucky.
"Being ignored the way we have, Kentucky voters don't have that sense of excitement," said University of Kentucky political scientist Steve Voss.
Grimes said competitive legislative races across the state seem to be generating the most enthusiasm among Kentucky voters.
Early absentee voting is on par with the 2008 presidential election, when about 64 percent of Kentucky's 3 million voters turned out. Absentee voting is one of the chief indicators of overall interest in elections. As of last week, Grimes said, about 73,000 voters had cast absentee ballots or were in the process of doing so.
Democrats hope to cut into the Republican majority in the state Senate. And Republicans, sensing that this year's political climate favors them in Kentucky, are looking to pick up several House seats, though it's unlikely they will win enough to take majority control from Democrats.
Early voting has been heaviest in some of the more competitive legislative races, including one in far western Kentucky where a former Kentucky congressman whose political career ended in scandal some 20 years ago is in a race for a state Senate seat.
Democrat Carroll Hubbard is asking voters to forgive his past transgressions that landed him in prison for a couple of years.
Hubbard faces Trigg County Judge-Executive Stan Humphries in what has become this year's most expensive Kentucky legislative race. Both candidates had banked more than $130,000 by early October in a race that is expected to see total spending by the candidates exceed $300,000.
Hubbard, 75, of Mayfield, represented Kentucky in Congress for 18 years, beginning in 1975. He lost his 1992 re-election bid after being caught up in the House banking scandal. He pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations and went to prison in 1995.
Kentucky has 47 contested House races and 10 contested Senate races on the Nov. 6 ballot.
In one of the more high-profile races, Republican Christopher Hightower of Auburn is challenging Democratic state Rep. Martha Jane King for the 16th District. Hightower is a former campaign aide to U.S. Sen. Rand Paul who resigned during his 2010 campaign amid a controversy after someone posted racially charged images on his MySpace page, including a photograph of a lynching.
Perhaps Kentucky's most contentious race is between Democratic U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler and Republican challenger Andy Barr. The two are in a rematch for the 6th District seat. Barr lost by less than 700 votes in the first go-around two years ago. They have hurled insults at one another since late summer in stump speeches and TV ads.
Their race also is the most competitive congressional matchup in Kentucky. U.S. Reps. Hal Rogers, Ed Whitfield, Brett Guthrie and John Yarmuth face no serious threats in the Nov. 6 election. And in Kentucky's 4th District, where U.S. Rep. Geoff Davis resigned, tea party Republican Thomas Massie is expected to dominate in his race against Democrat Bill Adkins, a northern Kentucky attorney.
In eastern Kentucky, Supreme Court Justice Will T. Scott and challenger Court of Appeals Judge Janet Stumbo are in a heated race replete with blistering TV ads. The Kentucky Judicial Campaign Conduct Committee said both Scott and Stumbo have engaged in false and misleading advertising.
Lawmakers also put a proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot that, if ratified by voters, would make hunting and fishing a constitutional right.
The National Rifle Association is pushing the proposal to head off any future efforts to outlaw hunting.
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