Minority Leader Rep. Rocky Adkins drove from Pikeville to Columbus Belmont State Park with a stop in Murray last Monday. The drive bisects the Commonwealth from the northeastern end of Kentucky to the farthest southwestern on the Mississippi River.
Adkins is on a mission. He is stumping for Democratic candidates with the goal of taking back the Kentucky House of Representatives which the Dems lost in the last two cycles. He has been on the road almost constantly since the General Assembly gaveled out in April 2018.
For the 99th District Representative who has been in the majority for most of his tenure that began in 1987, the loss of the House is a burr under his saddle. The former Morehead State basketball player from Sandy Hook in Elliott County pulls no punches on what happened. "They whooped us. They surely did"
Adkins is out to return the favor.
He's got a steep climb. With the election of 2016, the balance shifted to 63 Republicans and 37 Democrats in the House. That reflects a change in the Commonwealth's shifting spectrum from blue to red. For the first time in memory, Democrats are no longer the majority party. 49% of registered voters are Democrats, 41% are Republicans and the rest are independents or other parties.
The Republicans have a firm grip on the Kentucky Senate with 27 Republicans and 11 Democrats. Only the most optimistic, read here "starry eyed" thinks that the Dems have any hope of flipping enough seats to change that body in the 2018 election.
Adkins told a small crowd at the Columbus Belmont Park that Republican rule had been bad for workers. Labor lost fights in the Legislature as the Governor and his Party pushed through repeal of prevailing wage and turned Kentucky to a right to work state. Adkins said that the Republicans raised taxes on the 95% to give tax breaks to the top 5%.
"You don't build an economy from the top down. You build it from the bottom up."
Adkins stumped in Murray for David Ramey, the Democratic candidate running against Republican Larry Elkins. Ramey runs an insurance agency and Elkins is currently county judge. Elkins is looking to trade spots with current Republican Representative Kenny Imes who's running for county judge.
Elkins has had some stumbles in his race, most recently being accused of using county employees to answer his campaign phone. The complaint arose because the campaign website listed the county office as its contact number. Elkins has also battled with supporters of the Calloway County library. Elkins opposes a broad expansion which advocates say the library sorely needs.
In the River Counties event, candidate Desiree Owen is the candidate supported by Adkins' appearance. Owen is a former radio broadcaster, lobbyist and political consultant. Currently the Ballard Countian co-owns Green Timber Duck Club with her fiancée.
Owen's stump speech asks voters to think of changing from Rep. Steven Rudy who has been in the Kentucky House since 2006. "If we want to change what's going on in Frankfort, we have to change who we send to Frankfort."
Owen and Adkins agree that Western and Eastern Kentucky share some common problems and some common opportunities. Owen says that the River Counties, Ballard, Carlisle, Hickman and Fulton are "Eastern Kentucky without the coal."
Adkins says that both regions are about hope and opportunity.
"Give me 51 votes" Adkins says and the agenda in Frankfort will change.