By RONNIE ELLIS / CNHI News Service
The race for the 21st state Senate District seat vacated by Republican Tom Jensen is set.
The district’s Democrats Tuesday night nominated Amie Hacker, 34, a Laurel County businesswoman to oppose Republican Albert Robinson, 73, a Laurel County realtor, who previously held the seat for 10 years before losing a 2004 primary race to Jensen.
Jensen was unopposed for re-election but withdrew to run for a vacated circuit judgeship in Laurel and Knox counties.
Hacker was the only Democrat seeking the nomination. She said she’s excited about an opportunity to represent the 21st district and work to improve their lives.
“I just hope the voters realize I’m just an average Joe who wants to make a difference in their lives,” Hacker said. “It’s a short campaign, but as many doors as I can knock on, and as many people as I can see, I’ll do it. I’m a hard worker.”
State Senate Minority Leader R.J. Palmer, D-Winchester, said Wednesday he thinks Hacker is “a credible candidate” even in a heavily Republican district. He said Hacker has a background in fundraising and she and her husband, Tracy, are related to and known by many Republicans who will support her.
“I think she can make this a competitive race,” Palmer said.
Robinson said Hacker is “a fine lady, but unless she’s a conservative, it’s going to be hard to win in this district.”
The 21st covers Laurel, Estill, Jackson, Menifee and Powell counties. Republicans outnumber registered Democrats 46,085 to 26,675 with 3,271 registered as independent or other.
Hacker acknowledges she faces “an uphill battle” as a Democrat but she said several Republicans have offered her support, including financial backing. She said she will remind voters that Robinson authored a controversial amendment while in the Senate to boost lawmaker pensions.
“Yes, I’m going to let his record and his past experience speak for itself,” she said. “I think everybody will have a clear picture of the choice voters have.”
Robinson anticipates the retirement amendment will be an issue, but he bristles when it’s always mentioned in news stories about him, claiming that the amendment “was pre-approved” by legislative leaders and lawmakers who voted for it knew what was in it.
He said if people understood “the whole package” of legislation he sponsored on state employee retirement systems, they would see the bills would have saved taxpayers “billions over 20 years.”
“One of the reasons I’m running is to set the record straight, but I’ll do that after the election,” Robinson said. Robinson declined to explain now how the legislation would have saved tax money, saying it is “nothing you can put into one section or sentence.”
He said it’s just as important for voters to remember he was also a key supporter of the marriage amendment which defines marriage in Kentucky as between one woman and one man.
Hacker said party officials have said “they’ll be available for anything I need. They think I have a really good chance of winning this thing.”
Palmer confirmed party officials are eager to help Hacker, sensing a rare opportunity to steal a senate seat in a Republican stronghold because of Robinson’s controversial record.
Robinson said he will remind Republican voters that the Republican senate majority will draw new Senate districts and the existing 21st seat could be eliminated if it is represented by a Democrat.
Hacker isn’t worried about raising money. She said she’s previously manned phone banks seeking contributions for a home manufacturing group’s annual conference and isn’t intimidated asking people for money.
“I’m really good with people and I think people know when I ask for money, it’s for a good cause,” she said. Some offers of financial support have already come in.
“We’ve had some Republicans and a few businesses offer me money already,” Hacker said. “There’s a lot of Republicans down here who don’t want to vote for (Robinson).”
RONNIE ELLIS writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow CNHI News Service stories on Twitter at www.twitter.com/cnhifrankfort.
By RONNIE ELLIS / CNHI News Service
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