- Associated Press - Monday, June 23, 2014

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Kentucky House Republicans said they worked for months to plan a fundraiser with California Congressman Kevin McCarthy. Lucky for them, they’ve finalized the event and McCarthy is now the second-most-powerful person in Congress.

The state GOP, trying to take control of the state House for the first time in nearly 100 years, said Monday that McCarthy will hold a fundraiser in Bowling Green on July 19.

“In politics timing is everything,” Kentucky House Republican Floor Leader Jeff Hoover said. “It’s very exciting that someone of such national prominence has decided that Kentucky is important and they are excited about our chances this fall.”

McCarthy was elected the new majority leader last week to replace Rep. Eric Cantor, who lost in a stunning upset to tea party favorite Dave Brat in the Virginia Republican primary. It was just a coincidence that Kentucky Republicans had already been planning a fundraiser with McCarthy, Hoover said.

This isn’t the first time McCarthy has visited the Bluegrass state. McCarthy spoke at the Jefferson County Lincoln Day dinner in 2012. U.S. Rep. Brett Guthrie is close with McCarthy and helped set up the fundraiser, spokesman Scott Jennings said.

Republicans have not controlled the state House of Representatives since 1920, when Republican Warren Harding was elected the country’s 29th president. Republicans have a majority in the state Senate and have been slowly cutting into the Democratic majority in the House. Republicans need to pick up five seats to take control of the House. But because of a few open seats, Hoover said Republicans need to win nine seats to win the majority.

“We know we have a difficult challenge. It’s always tough to unseat incumbents, which is what we have to do,” Hoover said. “We think the political climate in Kentucky, folks are not happy with state government and Democrats have controlled the Kentucky House since 1921. … We think all of that plays in our favor this November.”

Hoover said that in the coming weeks, the Republicans plan to release a list of reasons Kentucky voters should give them control of the state House of Representatives - including a vote by House Democrats to increase the state gas tax to help pay for road repairs. The tax did not become law.

Kentucky House Democrats have likened Kentucky Republicans to their national counterparts, criticizing them for the gridlock that led to the federal government shutdown last year.

“This makes it even clearer that the House Republicans want to bring more Washington-styled politics here to Kentucky, which is the last thing we need,” Democratic House Speaker Greg Stumbo said in a statement. “I feel great about our candidates, and rest assured that our caucus will be more than ready this fall.”

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