Thanks for watching our coverage tonight. We’ll post video of the candidate speeches on YouTube and on our website. Please stay tuned for a special report from PBS NewsHour at 11 p.m. to get election results and analysis from across America.
Closing thoughts: Jennifer Moore says tomorrow’s headlines will say McConnell wins U.S. Senate race but Republicans fail to take state House. Al Cross says it looks like McConnell will finally attain the goal he’s sought almost all his life, to become Senate Majority Leader. And Ellen Williams says McConnell as Senate leader will be great for Kentucky and the country.
Kentucky House Minority Floor Leader Jeff Hoover says Republicans have always known it would be difficult to get the majority in that body outright. He says the GOP won five elections, taking out two incumbents and winning three open seats. Hoover says he spoke with House Speaker Greg Stumbo earlier tonight and while there may be some hard feelings after hard-fought elections, the two men want to lead in a bipartisan way to solve the hard problems of the commonwealth.
Kentucky House Speaker Greg Stumbo jokes he’s glad that Minority Leader Jeff Hoover will continue to serve in that position as the GOP fails to gain control of that body. Stumbo notes that Kentucky remains the only state in the American South with a Democratically controlled House.
The panel says it looks like Republicans won’t gain control of the Kentucky House of Representatives. Al Cross says the Republican coattails stalled somewhere between the state Senate and House. Ellen Williams expects something like a 55-45 or 54-46 split. She says this is the first election after redistricting. She explains that Republicans controlled Senate redistricting, and they picked up seats there, while Democrats controlled House redistricting and they look to hold that chamber.
In recorded victory remarks, 3rd Congressional District Rep. John Yarmuth says he will continue to fight for an increase to the minimum wage so that Americans working 40 hours a week can make a “living wage” not a “poverty wage.” He pledges to continue push for pay equity. Says he’ll also keep working to make America a nation where health care is a right, not a privilege. Yarmuth says we have so much work to do to make this a better world, and he is committed to that cause.
Rep. Thomas Massie wins reelection in Kentucky’s 4th Congressional District. He says he wants fixes to the Affordable Care Act such as a repeal of the medical device tax, and a change in the definition of a full-time work week so that employers don’t cut worker hours. On the Brent Spence Bridge project, Massie says federal lawmakers no longer have earmarks, so they can’t just say they want to replace the bridge. He says the focus needs to be on Gov. Steve Beshear and the state legislature to figure out how to pay for a new northern Kentucky bridge.
Ronnie Ellis of CNHI News Service says Grimes seemed to be an ideal Senate candidate but she was never able to drive the narrative to her key issues. He says McConnell won eastern and western coalfields, which are traditionally Democratic strongholds, and that the senator ran the kind of disciplined campaign we expect. The only surprise was the ease with which he won. Ellis notes that in her concession speech, Grimes mentioned maintaining her organization, which would indicate a future run for office. She did not perform as well as Bruce Lunsofrd did six years ago. She would be a formidable candidate if she ran for governor, Ellis says, but she would have a lot to lose if she failed in a race like that. Ellis concludes by saying it’s easy to find fault when you’ve lost a race as convincingly as Grimes did tonight, especially when you’re running against a master, but we always wondered why she did not define herself when McConnell was busy with the Republican primary. That was a mistake, according to Ellis. He says Grimes Campaign Manager Jonathan Hurst did an admirable job, but many Democrats wondered why the candidate didn’t bring in some national talent who had experience running big races like this before.
Rep. Ed Whitfield wins reelection in the Kentucky’s 1st Congressional District. He is hopeful that a lot can be accomplished in next two years. He acknowledges climate change is an issue, but jobs and the economy are also important. He wants reasonable, common sense regulations to replace what he calls President Obama’s over-regulation. Whitfield is hopeful for tax reform, which he says will go a long way to stimulate the economy and create jobs. He wants flexibility to build new coal-powered plants with the best available technology, and he doesn’t think a minimum wage increase will pass, but wants improved workforce development policies.
Ellen Williams says one of the unsung winners tonight was Kentucky Senate President Robert Stivers because this is the first round of Senate elections he’s managed since taking over for former senate president, David Williams.
Al Cross says Grimes always thought about running for governor, but then she saw running for U.S. Senate as a no-lose opportunity. He contends it gave her a chance to develop a state-wide following and political organization. But he also says he can see Grimes running for Secretary of State again.
Amanda Van Benschoten of the Kentucky Enquirer says northern Kentucky came out big for McConnell tonight — he won by almost 70,000 votes in Boone, Kenton and Campbell Counties. She says his coattails helped local Republican candidates as well. Calls it a “big Republican night up here.”
Jennifer Moore says that the notion of Grimes running for governor hasn’t been ruled out. Al Cross says the prospects of her running for that office in 2015 have faded with her poor performance tonight.
Now remarks from Rep. Andy Barr, who won reelection in the 6th Congressional District. He says tonight is a celebration of America’s democratic system, but he contends there are enormous challenges facing the country, with much to accomplish over next two years. Says he wants to unleash the entrepreneurial spirit to grow economy, reform the tax code, create an energy renaissance by building the Keystone Pipeline and ending EPA’s war on coal, deliver real health care reform, and secure the nation’s borders… Barr says we need solutions to restore hope and prosperity. He pledges to remain accessible and open to his constituents, whether Republican or Democrat, whether they voted for him or not. It’s time to end the gridlock in the Senate and get bills to the president’s desk, Barr says. America’s greatest days are ahead of us, but we must do our part. The he quotes the hymn, “The Church of Christ in Every Age,” to conclude his speech.
Jennifer Moore says she hope McConnell holds true to his pledge to work with Democrats because she says the senator has been responsible for the partisan gridlock and bickering. If he can change that, Moore says that would be a welcome relief.
Al Cross says the Senate filibuster has become an “escalating arms race.” Cross says he thinks McConnell hopes to have a truce and get some work done in Washington, but says the real question For McConnell is how far his fellow Republicans will be willing to go to work with — or against — President Obama.
With 72 percent of precincts reporting, McConnell has about an 8 point lead over Grimes. The panel notes that’s a greater margin than his defeat of Bruce Lunsford in 2008, and about the same as McConnell’s defeat of Steve Beshear in 1996.
Al Cross says he doesn’t think McConnell has ever been as complimentary to one of his defeated opponents as he was to Grimes. Cross says Grimes conducted a pretty good campaign for never having run a race this big before.
Sen. Mitch McConnell takes the stage. He says he’s grateful to the people of Kentucky for putting their trust and confidence in him for a long time. “I work hard to bring your concerns to Washington, and I will not let up.” He says every election is a job interview — in this case, a very long one… McConnell says he spoke with Grimes, and says she earned his respect. Says it took a lot of guts for Grimes to enter a race like this. “I admire her willingness to step into the arena and fight as hard as she did. We need more people like who are willing to do that, not fewer. She deserves a lot of credit for it. This was certainly a hard-fought contest.”
McConnell credits his wife, Elaine Chao, and his campaign manager Josh Holmes. He also mentions his parents: his father, a World War II combat veteran, and his mother, who helped him overcome his bought with childhood polio. He describes them as optimists who believed in America. “Without a trace of cynicism, they transmitted the central promise of this country on to me, the promise that every generation will leave the next one a little better off than the one before.” …McConnell says some folks are no longer sure that compact will survive. They want reassurance that people in government are actually on their side. Says he pledges Kentuckians this: “I’ve heard your concerns. I’ve made them my own. You will be heard in Washington.”
The senator says the government can’t be trusted to do the basic things because it’s too busy doing things it shouldn’t be doing at all. Says that too many people in Washington have forgotten their duty to serve… McConnell says tonight we begin another race – the race to turn this country around, to restore hope and confidence and optimism to this commonwealth and this nation… “We do have an obligation to work together on issues where we can agree. I think we have a duty to do that. Just because we have a two-party system doesn’t mean we have to be in perpetual conflict.” He says Kentuckians are tired of government that only seems to work when it works against them…
McConnell recognizes Dr. Noelle Hunter, who appeared in one of McConnell’s campaign ads. He says “she made him seem more warm and cuddly.” He says this woman is the reason he runs. “We can make a difference and we do every single day.” But the government can also do terrible damage to families and communities, McConnell says. “If you’re an elected official like me, it hardens your resolve to do something about it. For too long, this administration has tried to tell the American people what’s good for them, and then blame somebody else when their policies didn’t work out. Tonight, Kentucky rejected that approach. Tonight Kentuckians said we can do better as a nation. Tonight they said we can have real change in Washington. And that’s just what I intend to deliver.”
McConnell concludes by saying the future he sees is a bright one. He says the experiment in big government has lasted long enough and that it’s time to go in a new direction. “It’s time to turn this country around and I will not let you down.”
Elaine Chao is introducing her husband, Sen. McConnell. Says we’ve never needed a leader like Mitch McConnell more than in times like these, and that he wants to restore people’s faith in the government. Chao says McConnell always wants to be back in the commonwealth he calls home, and acknowledges that the outpouring of support for her husband has been truly overwhelming.
Gov. Steve Beshear introduces Alison Lundergan Grimes. He says she took every blow there was to take and she’s still standing. Beshear says Grimes will help him and others lead this state in a progressive fashion.
Secretary Grimes takes the stage and sounds subdued and serious. She says her campaign broke records in fundraising, and built a grassroots organization unlike anything the state has ever seen. Grimes credits her husband and family, and the Democratic governors who supported her. She says the journey, the fight for the commonwealth, was worth it, despite the loss. She says she hopes that Congress got the message that lawmakers need to increase the minimum wage increase, close the gender gap, and bring good-paying jobs back to Kentucky. Grimes pledges to keep her political organization in tact and continue to fight for a brighter and better future. She thanks Kentuckians who voted today and says she will continue to work for them.
Early reports are that state Senate Minority Floor Leader R. J. Palmer, a Democrat, may have lost his reelection bid. That’s the 28th Senatorial District in Clark, Montgomery, and Fayette Counties. His opponent is Dr. Ralph Alvarado.
Sen. Rand Paul now speaking at McConnell election night event. He calls for an end to the war on Kentucky jobs. He says the Obama administration has forced health care reform on the country, increased the debt, and trampled civil liberties. He says the effort to rebuild America begins tonight… Pledges to make America competitive again by bringing corporate profits and jobs back home by cutting business taxes… Paul says he wants to approve the Keystone Pipeline and put Kentucky coal miners back to work. And he wants to repeal “every last vestige of Obamacare.” Paul says the U.S. Senate, under McConnell’s leadership, will send the president “bill after bill until he wearies of it.” Paul proclaims that if the president rejects the will of the people, then they will rise up in 2016 and restore our heritage by electing a “lover of liberty who will restore the values of our founding fathers.” The senator says Kentucky and the country have witnessed a great victory by electing someone who will stand up to President Obama. He concludes by calling McConnell a champion of Kentucky and “my friend.”
Bowling Green Republican Rep. Brett Guthrie is reelected in Kentucky’ss 2nd Congressional District. He says he looks forward to McConnell as Senate leader because now Congress will get bills to the president’s desk.
Al Cross says Obama has been bad for the Democratic brand in the state, and that many Democrats will be glad to be rid of him. Many Democrats in the state have lost their tie to the party and are Democrats in name only, according to Cross.
In Lexington, Mayor Jim Gray has won reelection. In the 6th Congressional District, Rep. Andy Barr is ahead of Elisabeth Jensen by about 13 points with 61 percent of precincts reporting.
Jennifer Moore says it’s been difficult for Grimes when President Obama’s approval ratings are lower than McConnell’s. What we’ve seen is the result of a very nasty, expensive campaign where lots of dark money was being spent on behalf of McConnell, Moore says. The real question is was the election for sale. The answer is yes, Moore says. She asks what does that say about our political landscape and our elections now.
Al Cross follows-up by saying McConnell and his friends “bought the election, and we don’t know who a lot of those friends are.” Largely because of Sen. McConnell, we have a wild west of campaign financing, Cross contends.
Ellen Williams argues that McConnell had no other choice than to outspend Grimes because so many people around the country wanted him defeated.
Mike Wynn of the Courier-Journal is at Grimes headquarters in Lexington where he says the crowd is very quiet. He reports that people there weren’t really surprised by the outcome. He says there is no time scheduled yet for Grimes to give a concession speech.
Al Cross says Grimes came into the race with “a rather thin record” as a public official. When voters looked at her they didn’t see anything more than a Democrat who opposes Obama, Cross says. He contends Grimes’ downhill slide with voters begin when she refused to answer the question of whether or not she voted for President Obama.
The Courier-Journal‘s James Carroll says the early call of the Senate race caught McConnell supporters at his Louisville headquarters by surprise. He says the Democrats were counting on a ground game they thought would help carry them to victory. Carroll believes the biggest factor in the race was President Obama’s very low approval ratings, and that it was too difficult for Grimes to separate herself from her fellow Democrat. He says McConnell wants reforms to make the Senate work better while also being confrontational with the Obama White House, especially on coal and health care issues.
The Panel reports that the Associated Press has called the U.S. Senate race for Sen. McConnell. Al Cross says the early call of that contest could mean a large margin for the incumbent, and could be good news for down-ticket Republicans.
And we’re live on KET and streaming online at KET.org/election.
Polls are closed in the state’s eastern time zone. KET will begin reporting returns after polls in western Kentucky close at 7 p.m.
At 8 p.m., KET’s live coverage begins. Bill Goodman and Renee Shaw will host with analysis from Al Cross, director of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues at the University of Kentucky and former political writer for the Louisville Courier-Journal; Jennifer Moore, founder of Emerge Kentucky and former chair of the Kentucky Democratic Party; and Ellen Williams, former chair of the Republican Party of Kentucky.
Refresh this blog and follow @BillKET or @KYTonightKET on Twitter for updates throughout the evening.