f kentuckyAlmost every US citizen over the age of 25 has the right to become a member of the House of Representatives. But, only two or three people usually run in an election. Why is that? In today’s elections, the influence of the media and parties have caused many more factors than just the formal constrains to influence who runs for office. The “recruitment funnel” is a way of describing the process in which we select candidates to run for public office. This idea is one in which many different concepts are combined to form one solid idea. In this paper, I will show different facets of the funnel and the effects of each by examining a particular region of the United States.
The region that I will examine consists of the first, second, third, and fourth districts of Kentucky. These regions are diverse not only between them, but inside of the boundaries of each. For example, the 4th district “has some of the most Democratic counties in America, like Elliot County (65%-21% for Bill Clinton), and some of the most Republican territory in Kentucky, like Oldham County(57%-34% for Bob Dole).” The districts vary in economic status as well, ranging from coal mining towns to rich suburbs. But each district has its own story and its own vastly different constituents.
The Kentucky first has traditionally been a democratic district. This is due mainly to little economic growth in the region and to the low wages of its residents. In fact the region has only had 1 republican since the creation of the district in 1912. However democratic they are, the district is still very conservative, and likes conservative democrats. The area of this district runs from the west most part of the state, bordering the Mississippi and the Ohio, and covers almost a third of the state. From 1974 till 1990, Dem. Carroll Hubbard held the seat and ran unopposed for 7 of those terms. In the ’74 primary, Hubbard beat out well-established Rep. Stubblefield in the primary 51-49. Hubbard then went on to hold the office reasonably unchallenged until a scandal involving the House bank. After that term, Hubbard was defeated in the primary 45-48 by an unlikely Tom Barrlow. Since the redistricting of the 90’s the district has become more Republican. In the 1994 election, the republican candidate, and current Rep., Republican Edward Whitfield won 70% of the votes in the counties added by redistricting, to pull off a 51-49 victory.
The second district has very similar voting patterns to those of the first. The T-shaped section of Kentucky has also been a historically conservative democratic district. This district is a very rural area, going form Bluegrass country in the north, down to the Bowling Green local, and up to the rural outskirts of Frankfort.The boundaries of the Kentucky 2nd include people who still claim loyalties, to the north and to the south almost equally, from the Civil War. Conservative democrats appeal to this region for this reason of mixed loyalties.Former Rep. William H. Natcher held the Kentucky 2nd seat from 1952 until 1994, and was one of the House’s “most hard-working and conscientious members” a fact which kept him in office for so long. He has managed to stay in office for so long while spending over 10,000 dollars twice in his campaigning. Natcher was also a prominent member of the appropriations committee for most of his tenure. In March of 1994, however, William Natcher died, forcing a special election. The Democrats thought this would be an easy victory. But, locally, the constituents had become more and more conservative. Along with that, Ron, Lewis, the Republican candidate, had begun his campaigning earlier than his Democratic candidate, Joe Prather. Both of these factors led to the Republican take over of a district that had in the hands of a Democrat for over 40 years.
The city of Louisville and a few of its suburbs make up the 3rd congressional district of Kentucky. This district has a tradition of being slightly Republican at the poles. This stems from it consisting of anti-slavery residents at a time when Kentucky was a slave state. The voters do tend to slant towards the democratic side quite often, making it hard for any representative to feel safe in office. The current Rep., Anne Northrop, has been in office since 1996, but only won by 1,299 votes in 96, and 7,825 in 98. In 1970, Romano Mazzloi, a man who held the seat for over 20 years, won with a margin of only 211 votes. After that election however, he managed to increase his margin of victory quite significantly, a surprising fact considering how marginal the district was historically.
“The 4th congressional district of Kentucky is a geographical oddity”; actually, this quote is an understatement. The area in this district is a strip of land on the Ohio River consisting of Louisville suburbs and stretching up towards Cincinnati. These suburban areas tend to vote Republican. In the middle of these rich suburban areas are counties, which “still look like they’re in the 19th century.” Half of the districts votes come from the three counties across the river from Cincinnati. And these have become very Republican in the 90’s, but still remain possible swing areas. Ken Lucas currently holds the seat of this district in the House. He is a conservative Democrat who ran for his position on what he called a “common sense conservative” platform. He appeared to be an underdog at the start of campaigning, but a series of scandals led to the demise of his competitor.