- Associated Press - Monday, May 16, 2016

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Donald Trump and Ted Cruz are the biggest draws in Kentucky’s 1st Congressional District, and neither will be on the ballot Tuesday.

That could be a problem for the four people who hope to be the Republican nominee for Congress, leaving them without a guaranteed turnout machine heading into their contentious primary.

For the first time in decades, Kentucky Republicans held a presidential caucus in early March to divide up their delegates for president. The caucus was proposed, and paid for, by U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, who wanted to run for president and re-election to his Senate seat at the same time without violating a state law banning candidates from appearing on the ballot twice in the same election.

Paul ended his presidential campaign after a disappointing showing in the Iowa caucuses, but Kentucky’s caucus went on as scheduled March 8. Trump won the most delegates, with Cruz close behind as turnout exceeded the 2012 Republican primary for president. But having already voted for president, the fear among Republican leaders is that many of those voters will stay home Tuesday.

“I do expect the turnout to be low here, and I would attribute some of that to the caucus,” Casey County Republican Party chairman William Wethington said, adding that the party has paid for an ad in the local newspaper to remind people to vote.

Kentucky’s primaries are closed, so only registered Democrats and Republicans can vote in them.

Statewide, more than 20,000 people have already voted absentee, according to the secretary of state’s office. But the race driving most of the turnout is the Democratic presidential primary between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders for president. Registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans, but both Clinton and Sanders are working to drive up turnout by running TV ads and campaigning in the state.

In the 1st Congressional District, 2,251 Democrats have already voted compared with 1,546 Republicans

For Republicans, the biggest race on the ballot is the primary in the 1st District, where Republican U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield is retiring after 22 years in office. It’s the only open federal seat on the ballot, and four people are vying for the nomination: Hickman County Attorney Jason Batts, military veteran Miles A. Caughey Jr., former state Agriculture Commissioner James Comer and former Whitfield aide Michael Pape.

Comer has raised more than $700,000, more than all of the other candidates combined. Most voters know him, because he has appeared on the ballot twice as a statewide candidate - winning the state agriculture commissioner race in 2011 and losing the Republican nomination for governor by 83 votes in 2015.

“It’s going to be a light turnout, and whoever gets the voters out will win this,” Comer said.

Pape is counting on those Republican presidential voters coming to the polls anyway. He has paid for two TV ads designed to appeal to supporters of both Trump and Cruz. In one ad, actors portraying a Cruz voter and a Trump voter arrive at the polling place at the same time only to discover they are both voting for Pape for Congress.

“There will be a lot of people that will come to vote that think they are going to vote for president that day and find out they are not,” he said.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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