FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Republicans claimed a rural Kentucky House seat long held by Democratic stalwart Rocky Adkins as the political parties split a pair of special legislative elections on Tuesday.
In a suburban northern Kentucky district, the Democratic candidate emerged victorious to retain the House seat for Democrats.
The two special elections filled vacancies created when Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear hired two veteran lawmakers to join his administration.
The split decision in the special elections gave Republicans a net gain of one seat in the House, adding to their overwhelming majority.
In the 99th District in northeastern Kentucky, Republican Richard White defeated Democrat William Redwine. The district includes Elliott, Lewis and Rowan counties. The victory solidified the GOP's strength in rural Kentucky.
State GOP Chairman Mac Brown called it a “historic victory." White had played up his support for President Donald Trump in the weeks of campaigning leading up to the election.
“Tonight's groundbreaking results should put Democrats on notice all across the state," Brown said in a statement. “Kentucky voters want leaders who support President Trump."
Adkins gave up the seat he held for decades to become Beshear's senior adviser. Adkins served in leadership positions both when Democrats were in the majority and later when they were relegated to minority status in the House.
In the 67th District in northern Kentucky, Democrat Rachel Roberts defeated Republican Mary Jo Wedding. The district includes part of Campbell County.
A Democratic group said Roberts had prevailed in a “Trump district." Democrats are looking to make further inroads in suburban areas in this year's elections in Kentucky.
“In deep-red Kentucky, Roberts defended a seat that broke for Trump in 2016," Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee President Jessica Post in a statement. “Democrats can and will compete everywhere heading into the 2020 election."
The seat had been held by veteran Democratic Rep. Dennis Keene. He left the legislature to take a job in Beshear's administration as commissioner of the Department of Local Government.
The special election winners will take their seats as the pace of the legislative session ramps up as lawmakers consider the state budget and other key issues. The session ends in mid-April.
All four candidates previously filed to run for full House terms in this year's regular election. An additional Republican filed in each district to set up contest primaries in both districts.