- Associated Press - Thursday, September 8, 2016

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Some of Kentucky’s top Democrats rallied around a vulnerable House member on Thursday as he introduced a bill that would exempt some veterans groups from state property taxes.

Chuck Tackett won a special election in March, a big win for Democrats in Republican-heavy Scott County. Tackett replaced Republican Rep. Ryan Quarles, who resigned after he was elected as state Agriculture Commissioner.

But now Tackett is on the ballot again in November, when a series of elections across the state will determine which political party controls the House of Representatives. Republicans have not had a majority since 1920, meaning the Kentucky House of Representatives is the last legislative chamber in the South still controlled by Democrats.

Thursday marked the first time Tackett has filed legislation as a member of the House of Representatives. His bill, BR 110 , would amend the state’s constitution to allow some veterans groups, such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars, to be exempt from state property taxes if they also are exempt from federal income taxes.

“VFW … is a gathering place of our veterans. We’re here today because they were there when we needed them,” Tackett said. “They made America the country it is today and kept it safe.”

The state legislature is not scheduled to convene again until January. If lawmakers pass the bill, it would still need to be approved by voters in a referendum, most likely in November 2018.

Tackett made the announcement at the Frankfort VFW Post. He was joined by some of the top elected Democrats in the House, including Speaker Greg Stumbo, state Party chairwoman Rep. Sannie Overly and Rick Rand, the chairman of the powerful Appropriations and Revenue Committee.

Stumbo asked Tackett for permission to co-sponsor the bill in honor of a World War II veteran from Floyd County who died recently.

“If we’re all back and we occupy the same seats we do now, you’ll get a full and expedient hearing,” Stumbo said.

Tackett faces Republican Phillip Pratt in November, the same candidate he defeated in the special election in March. But turnout for the November general election, which will include the presidential race, is likely to be much higher than the special election in March. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is projected to win Kentucky, which could give Republicans in down ballot races a boost.

“While the goals of the bill are laudable, the press conference was clearly meant to distract the voters of Scott and Owen County from the fact Chuck Tackett violated his campaign pledge of independence and voted lockstep with Democratic House Leadership,” Pratt said in a news release.

Tackett said Trump has not had an impact on his campaign so far.

“I’m running my own race on who I am, what I have done, what I can do,” he said. “I don’t want to be someone somebody else wants me to be.”

Democrats have weathered Republican elections before. In 2014, Democrats maintained their majority in the state House of Representatives despite Republican U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell winning re-election by 15.5 percentage points.

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