The Bluegrass State is home to Kentucky Basketball, Fort Knox, and the Kentucky 6th Congressional District. In the latter, the Democrats have what seems like a rare pick-up opportunity in this rather red state.
As it turns out, this district has been in Democratic hands plenty. Its incumbent, Republican Andy Barr, won the seat back in 2012, knocking off a Democratic member who had been there almost a decade. Also, before Ernie Fletcher’s five-year run in Congress, Scotty Baesler (D) had six House years of his own. Prior to Larry Hopkins (R, 1979-1993 in Congress), the 6th District was Democratic for 48 straight years, and 111 of 113 years overall. Of course, a lot has changed in America since the post-Civil War period and the Great Depression.
Just because it’s Kentucky, a reliably red state on the presidential level, do not assume a Democrat cannot win here. Will they in the heart of Kentucky, or is the GOP going to hold off the challenge and keep this seat red?
2018 Kentucky 6th Congressional District Race: Our Rating
Kentucky-06 is rated as a Democratic GAIN (weak lean) as of October 16, 2018.
On our US House Elections 2018 page, you can see our ratings for all 435 seats up for grabs this year.
Kentucky 6th Congressional District Profile
The 6th District of Kentucky does not touch any state borders, lying in the east-central portion of the state. Its population center is Lexington-Fayette, a city-county consolidation of over 300,000 people and the second-largest city in Kentucky behind Louisville. It is also home to the University of Kentucky.
You will also find state capital Frankfort inside its boundaries, as well as a variety of smaller bluegrass towns. The district’s population is approximately 85 percent Caucasian and almost three-quarters living in urban areas.
If one were only to look at Charlie Cook and the Cook Political Report’s evaluation of the 6th District’s voting patterns, they might not know there is a race here. Kentucky-06 is an R+9 district according to Cook, making it a normally-safe vote for the GOP on the presidential level.
Congressman Andy Barr (R) defeated incumbent Ben Chandler (D) in the 2012 election, after losing by less than 700 votes in 2010. Subsequent re-election runs by Barr have been met by bigger margins of victory.
2018 Kentucky 6th Congressional District Candidates
Republican: Andy Barr. The incumbent is seeking a fourth term in the US House. Barr is a lawyer who got his JD inside the 6th District at the University of Kentucky. He was a part of then-governor-elect Ernie Fletcher’s transition team in 2003. Now, he serves on the House Financial Services Committee.
Democratic: Amy McGrath. The Democratic nominee, McGrath is a retired Marine Corps lieutenant colonel and a former fighter pilot. She is a graduate of the United States Naval Academy, and she did tours during Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Libertarian: Frank Harris. Harris is a Lexington native, and, probably like many in the area, attended the University of Kentucky. He most recently worked in tech support. Harris is a former Republican.
Independent: James Germalic. We don’t know much about Germalic, except that he’s running and he’s from Ohio. James, if you want to reach out and tell us a little about yourself, we will put it in the article. Some websites have spelled it “Germalio,” so I don’t know.
Independent: Rikka Wallin. Wallin is a photographer by trade and a former Democrat running as an independent. She is running on a progressive, anti-war platform and this is her first run for elective office.
2018 Kentucky 6th Congressional District Democratic Primary Results
Amy McGrath won the Democratic nomination with approximately 48.7 percent of the vote. She defeated Lexington’s mayor Jim Gray by a little over 8,000 votes in the final count.
McGrath lost to Gray in the district’s most populous county, Fayette, but made up for it by sweeping all 18 other counties in Kentucky-06.
Here’s Why We’re Talking About The 2018 Kentucky 6th Congressional District Race
Democrats in the 21st Century do not often have opportunities in Kentucky. Sure, this state does still elect Democrats, and that’s what most of their governors have been, but we are a long way from Bill Clinton carrying this commonwealth twice. Like West Virginia next door, though perhaps not as starkly, the Bluegrass State got very red, very fast. As recently as 1998, Democrats controlled both houses of the state legislature; in 2018, the GOP has a Senate supermajority and is close to it in the House. All this is by way of saying Kentucky is a red state.
So, what happens when you get a Republican congressional seat in play? It has happened before, but not with great results for Democrats. Their last House pick-up was in 2006 when they ousted Anne Northup in the Louisville seat. It’s been 12 years and the Democrats sense opportunity here, but remember: it’s Kentucky.
Amy McGrath fits the profile of someone who could possibly win here, given her military background. Granted, per issue positions via her website, she is not running on a conservative platform, but moderates can win in Kentucky.
A loss in this seat would be a black eye for the GOP in a seat they feel they should win. It would be one of the most Republican Cook PVI seats to drop if McGrath claims victory. This may also turn out to be a seat the Democrats need if they intend to retake the House. Democrats need to gain two dozen seats for a majority, but if their “Blue Wave” does not materialize as strongly in November, every individual result could matter.
As of mid-October, we forecast a narrow McGrath victory. Are we confident in that? Very mildly, and you might see this rating change between now and election day.