Voters will go to the polls on May 22 and for the first time anyone can recall there are local races for Marshall County GOP candidates. Typically in Marshall County, the primary election ballots are lined with only Democratic candidates.
Whether or not the field of GOP candidates, combined with the Democratic primary candidates, will result in a boost in voter turnout is as of yet unclear.
In 2014 only 6,508 registered voters actually voted, down from 8,822 in 2010.
Marshall County Clerk Tim York said, “I would expect it will be higher than the 2014 number. It would seem with the candidates on the ballot that interest would be fairly high but I don’t really hear anyone talking about it. I have learned in this job that I actually don’t know anything when it comes to what the voters will do.”
Based on the continued increase in registered Republicans and the party’s participation in the upcoming May 22 primaries, it seems the Republican Party is gaining steam in Marshall County. That gain is likely what contributed to the upcoming historic event for Marshall County’s Republicans—participating in the primaries for not just one, but three races: Marshall County Sheriff, Marshall County Commissioner 3rd District and Kentucky State Rep. 6th District.
Danny Holt, Chairman of the Marshall County Republican Executive Committee, said, “We don’t know of any Republican primary for Marshall County for local, county offices, ever. Maybe for state offices but never for county offices that we’re aware of, so it is historic for Marshall County especially with three of them this year. We’re excited about it and how things are moving and progressing. We have three primary races and we also have several that are unchallenged that will go on into the general.”
In all, the Republican Party has put forth candidates in the 2018 races for U.S. House of Representatives District 1, Kentucky House Rep. 6th District, Kentucky Senate District 2, Marshall County Coroner, Constable District 3, Marshall County Judge-Executive, all three Marshall County Commissioner races and Marshall County Sheriff.
Holt said the most recent numbers from the Kentucky State Board of Elections, which represent the registered voters, revealed 8,358 registered Republicans in Marshall County as of May; for comparison, Holt reported 7,343 registered Republicans in Marshall County as of the end of Dec. 2015.
“We’re seeing a lot more registered Republicans than in years past; we’re seeing a surge that is taking place from state races in 2015 and 2016 and then of course the presidential race. It’s brought about a lot of enthusiasm not only to get out and vote but also to run for office,” he said. “Not only do we have an increase in registered Republicans but for many years on the federal and state level we have seen a lot of Republicans elected by Marshall County people, and that’s because a lot of Democrats are voting for Republicans as well in general elections. It has encouraged more people to get involved and move the county and state in a different direction.”
“We know we’ve got some good candidates and we hope to see some good results in Nov. as well,” he added. “It’s going to be interesting. I see the whole county being an interesting race this year.”
Susanna French, Chairwoman of the Marshall County Democratic Executive Committee said she’s encouraged by the new faces in politics and by the participation from a larger demographic.
“I think people are becoming more civic-minded and more aware that they can and should run for office because they have something to contribute,” she said. “I think there’s a lot of education and initiative encouraging women and younger people to run for office because they have something to offer—a fresh perspective and energy. Especially with some of the legislation that has come out, it has encouraged more people to run for office to make those changes—like with teachers and younger people and women and we’re seeing legislation enacted that is detrimental to them and it’s not consistent with their ideals. Partisan representation, I don’t care if they’re Republican, Democrat or Independent, I think someone saying, ‘Why not me?’ when they have a real desire to make change, that is fabulous.”
French said she’s a proponent of supporting women’s involvement in politics and hopes to see that trend continue to grow as well. She said women represent more than half of the population but when it comes to politics, women only represent about 24-25 percent of elected officials on the statewide level in Kentucky and only about five percent of the elected officials in Marshall County.
Regarding the increase in Republican Party participation in Marshall County, French said it’s her opinion we’re seeing “a more balanced, two-party system” that better represents the actual beliefs of its people. She said for years they’ve known of Republicans registering as Democrats because they “got to vote more.”
“We have literally always had registered Democrats who felt more aligned with the Republican Party but they registered a certain way to be able to participate in a Democratic primary. They should be registered with the party that they most feel connected with so they can vote for candidates who get their core platform. Otherwise, they’re voting for candidates who have an opposing platform,” she explained. “For that reason, I am glad there are more Republican candidates in the primary because that reflects their ideals and their platforms and they have the options to vote for who they most connect with.”
French pointed toward the Republican and Democratic clubs at the high school and noted this year, the Democratic club has four times the members of the Republican club but last year, it was the other way around.
“I don’t know if that says anything other than some voters and some young people get involved when there are issues they can really get behind,” she said.
French also referred to what she calls ‘the Trump Wave,’ which she attributes to carrying the Republican majority in the last national election. She said she believes the party at the state level thinks that wave will carry over into the local elections as well.
“I don’t know if that will come to fruition because I don’t think [President Trump] can carry the local elections,” she added.
Regarding the Democratic side of the primary race, all eyes have been on the heavily-contested Marshall County Commissioner District 1 seat, which has four Democratic candidates vying for the seat (and one Republican). French said it’s not unusual to see a seat that heavily contested when it’s on the local-level. She said when we have elections with constitutional races on the ballot, the voter turnout isn’t as good as when there are local races and that’s because the people know their local elected officials are the people who will make decisions that directly impact them so they feel more involved in those races and more connected with those candidates.
Overall, French said she “couldn’t be happier” with the candidates slated on the Democratic ticket in next week’s primary elections.
“They are all really high quality and respectable and well-rounded candidates. I think we will be happy with whoever comes out as the victors in the primaries,” she said. “I couldn’t be happier with the group of candidates we have this year and they’ve been really good about being respectful to each other, there’s not been a negative word said that I know of and I’m proud of the races they’ve run so far.”
According to the Kentucky State Board of Elections May 2018 numbers, Marshall County has 25,740 registered voters, 12,384 of which are male and 13,356 female; 25 precincts; 15,769 registered Democrats; 8,358 registered Republicans; 902 registered Other; 645 registered Independent; 57 registered Libertarian; five registered Green Party; three registered Constitutionalists; one registered Reform Party; none registered Socialist Workers Party.
Statewide, Kentucky has 1,684,898 registered Democrats; 1,393,906 registered Republicans; 185,720 registered Other; 92,573 registered Independent.