Third District Race Follows National Political Sentiment

by scrosby on October 30, 2008

Two years ago, the race for Kentucky’s Third District congressional seat was a tight one, with Democrat John Yarmuth unseating Republican incumbent Anne Northup. As was the case in 2006, their rematch this year is dominated by local concerns about national policies. WFPL’s Stephanie Sanders reports.

I could spend a lot time reciting the candidates’ positions on local issues, like the Ohio River Bridges Project or a new VA Hospital. But University of Louisville political science professor Jasmine Farrier says that would probably not matter to many voters – and it didn’t two years ago, when Yarmuth captured the seat that had been held by Northup for ten years.

“2006 was not really about Louisville,” says Farrier, “it was about the nation.”

Farrier says Yarmuth rode a wave of voter frustration with Republicans in Washington and discontent over the Iraq war to Capitol Hill. The freshman Congressman says timing was everything, and the Third District congressional race was at the top of the ballot in Louisville.

“Two years ago, if you were really mad about the direction of the country, there was only one race you could express yourself in,” says Yarmuth.

This time, it’s the nation’s financial crisis that has grabbed voter attention. And Jasmine Farrier says it’s yet another hurdle for Northup to overcome.

“She’s a member of a party that is on the outs for a lot of reasons,” says Farrier, “many of which are out of her control.”

A Survey USA poll released last week has Yarmuth leading the race by 16 points. U-of-L’s Jasmine Farrier believes that’s not a reflection of Northup’s stances on issues or the way she’s run her campaign. It’s about the national political atmosphere.

“It seems that it’s not the right time for Northup to be poised for winning back her seat,” Farrier says.

But Anne Northup says she’s not discouraged by the polling.

“We have people that are very enthusiastic and they think the message we have right now about what we can do for Louisville, what’s at stake, what the opportunities are, that they’ll choose to send me back,” says Northup.

The two candidates are taking different approaches in their campaign ads. A sampling of spots posted on Yarmuth’s website finds no mention of his opponent; they focus instead on his first term accomplishments.

Over on Anne Northup’s website… her ads are about… John Yarmuth, including his vote for the financial rescue bill, which she opposes.

U of L’s Jasmine Farrier says it will be an uphill battle this year for Northup in a district that has about twice as many democrats as republicans. She says if Yarmuth holds on to win Tuesday, don’t rule out yet another rematch with Northup.

“The most important time to react against a new President is two years after he’s elected,” says Farrier. “So if Northup wanted to take back that seat from Yarmuth, the best time would be when the Republican party is surging again forward towards a majority.”

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