- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 25, 2014

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - While Kentucky’s expensive U.S. Senate race is dominating the airwaves, a quieter fundraising battle is shaping up over control of the state House of Representatives.

Democrats have a 54-46 majority in the state House of Representatives. Republicans have not had a majority since 1920.

AmeriGOP, a Republican group focusing on state House races, announced Wednesday that it has hired a former member of Mitt Romney’s campaign staff to lead its fundraising and operations. Bowling Green native Kathryn Breiwa was the Romney campaign’s deputy director for external affairs, working out of the campaign’s Boston headquarters to supervise 150 interns and handle security clearances for guests and donors.

In Kentucky, Breiwa will focus on raising money to promote GOP candidates in state House races this fall. AmeriGOP Chairman Richard Knock said he hopes to raise $500,000 for the fall elections. It cost about $150,000 to run a week’s worth of TV ads in Louisville, the state’s most expensive market, according to Mike Ward, a former congressman who is now a political consultant.

With the U.S. Senate race expected to dominate the airwaves, Knock says AmeriGOP could use the money on direct mail, phone calls and one-on-one interviews with voters. He said he’d like to target voters who live in in and around the state’s second congressional district, which includes portions of western and central Kentucky.

“I think we’re in awfully good shape this year. I think that the state of Kentucky in so many aspects has been mismanaged,” he said, referring to Democrats who control the state House of Representatives and five of the six constitutional offices. Republicans control the state Senate.

Meanwhile, Kentucky Family Values, a Democratic political action committee, is entering its fourth year to defend Democrats against what the group’s consultant expects to be a lot of out-of-state money from GOP donors.

“We’re planning to be very active. We have coalition partners that represent tens of thousands of Kentuckians,” said Dave Contarino, a Democratic political strategist and Kentucky Family Values’ consultant.

Contarino said Democrats can point to the state’s expanded Medicaid program and pay increases for public school teachers as examples of why Democrats need to keep control of state government.

“It’s even doubly important that Democratic values and family values endure at the legislative level because the legislature is given great power by the constitution,” he said.

University of Kentucky political science professor Stephen Voss said TV ads usually aren’t very effective for lower level offices, especially by challengers trying to knock off incumbents.

“But if a group were able to give challenger serious funds so that they could realistically put up a fight against an incumbent using the sorts of ads that work in all legislative districts, that really could make a difference,” he said.

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