Josh Goodman is a former staff writer for GOVERNING..E-mail: email@example.com
Jimmy Higdon preserved the G.O.P.'s narrow edge in the Kentucky State Senate yesterday by winning a surprisingly comfortable 56%-44% victory in a key special election. Higdon's victory in the 14th District was half a reflection of the national mood and half a hyper-local triumph.
You already know this, so I want belabor the point: Especially in a conservative district in a conservative state, it's a good time to be a Republican candidate. Voters seem inclined to use state elections to send messages to national politicians, which is benefiting the G.O.P. If you need more evidence, Republicans also won a state House of Representatives special election in Kentucky yesterday, for a seat that a Democrat had previously held.
But, the win also had a lot to do with Higdon. Higdon's margin of victory was 2,400 votes. He won Marion County, one of the five counties in the district, by 1,400 votes (and a 2-1 margin), even though Marion County is easily the most Democratic county in the district.
The reason is simple. Higdon is from Marion County and represents it in the legislature. The people of Marion County know him and apparently they like him.
In every election each candidate has a home base, of course (unless a candidate truly is a carpetbagger). Usually, a candidate will over-perform in his home area. So, it might seem silly to attribute Higdon's victory to such a usual occurrence, especially when Democrat Jodie Haydon also won a solid victory is his own home county, Nelson County. Don't those things cancel out?
I think there's a case to be made, however, that Higdon enjoyed an extra benefit from coming from such a Democratic place. Had Higdon not been from Marion County, Democrats might have been the ones winning it 2-1 (after all, they have a 6-1 voter registration edge there). In contrast, had Higdon hailed from a county that normally votes 2-1 for Republicans, he'd have had much less room to grow his total beyond what any Republican candidate would have won.
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