October 23, 2020 6:00am

Members predict Kentucky elections, rate governor and attorney general on key issues

McConnell or McGrath? Barr or Hicks? How have Beshear and Cameron handled their biggest challenges?

Photo of Tom Eblen
Lexington, KY Correspondent

Last month, the Lexington Power Poll asked members who they planned to vote for in Kentucky’s U.S. Senate and 6th District congressional races. This month, we asked who they thought would win. The result?  Most members think the candidates they will vote for will lose.

Meanwhile, poll members have very different views on how two of Kentucky’s rising political stars — Gov. Andy Beshear and Attorney General Daniel Cameron — have performed in the biggest challenges they have faced during their first year in office.

Power Poll isn’t a scientific poll. But because it asks questions of a large group of metro Lexington’s public officials, community leaders and influencers, it offers insights into the opinions of many of the people who run Central Kentucky. 

This month’s poll drew responses from 101 of  271 active members, or 37 percent. (Only members who respond to at least one survey over several months remain active and continue to receive emails about monthly polls on local and state issues.)

The 6th District congressional race pits incumbent Republican Andy Barr, a lawyer, against Josh Hicks, a lawyer, former police officer and Marine Corps veteran. Last month, 71 percent of Power Poll members who responded said they would vote for Hicks, while only 25 percent planned to vote for Barr. 

But in this month’s poll, 66 people (65 percent) said they thought Barr would win, while only 29 percent (29 people) thought Hicks would win. Six people (6 percent) had no opinion.

This race is thought to be close, although there has been little polling reported. Barr seems to think it is close, because he has released a barrage of attack ads against Hicks, many of which make false or misleading claims.  

Power Poll members expected Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to be re-elected to a seventh six-year term over Democratic challenger Amy McGrath, a retired Marine fighter pilot who unsuccessfully challenged Barr’s re-election two years ago. 

Seventy-six members (75 percent) predicted McConnell will win, while 20 members (20 percent) thought McGrath will win. Five members (5 percent) didn’t know.

Polling in the Senate race has shown McConnell with a comfortable lead. This week’s Mason-Dixon poll, which has a good track record of predicting recent Kentucky elections, showed McConnell ahead statewide by 9 percentage points.

But in last month’s Power Poll, 74 percent of members said they planned to vote for McGrath, while only 23 percent said they planned to vote for McConnell.

One way to look at the difference between this month’s and last month’s Power Poll results is that there are more politically progressive people in Lexington and some surrounding areas than in other 6th District counties and Kentucky as a whole. Power Poll members also tend to be more educated and affluent than the general population.

This month’s Power Poll also asked members to rate the performance of Beshear, a Democrat and the son of former Gov. Steve Beshear, and Cameron, a Republican and McConnell protégé. 

Beshear and Cameron were elected last November, and each has faced one issue that has defined his tenure so far. Decisions by both men have been controversial — resulting in protests and even threats against them. Yet both men remain popular, according to this week’s Mason-Dixon poll.

With Beshear, the big issue has been his response to COVID-19. Since the coronavirus pandemic began in the spring, Beshear has taken a cautious, science-based approach to public health and has conducted daily, televised briefings that have urged Kentuckians to do whatever they can to avoid spreading the virus. 

Many people have responded well to Beshear’s approach, and they give him credit for Kentucky having lower infection rates than many surrounding states. But some Republicans, including legislative leaders, have complained that Beshear’s actions have been excessive and dictatorial. Cameron has challenged some of Beshear’s actions in court, so far unsuccessfully.

What do Power Poll members think? They overwhelmingly approve of Beshear’s performance. Forty-five members (45 percent) said the governor has done an “excellent” job, while 36 members (36 percent) thought it was “very good” and another 15 (15 percent) rated it as “good”.  Three members (3 percent) thought Beshear has done a fair job with COVID-19, while two (2 percent) judged him “not very good.” Nobody thought he had done a “terrible” job, and everyone had an opinion.

Cameron’s defining issue has been his investigation into the killing of Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old Black woman who was fatally shot in her apartment by Louisville police shortly after midnight on March 13 as part of an investigation into illegal drug dealing. 

Cameron oversaw a lengthy investigation that resulted in no charges against the police officers who planned and oversaw the raid or were responsible for Taylor’s death. That has outraged police critics. An anonymous grand juror went to court seeking the right to speak, and when a judge allowed it, he said Cameron never gave grand jurors an opportunity to consider homicide charges.

Asked about Cameron’s performance in the Breonna Taylor case, only four members (4 percent) thought he has done an excellent job. Eight people (8 percent) rated his work as “very good” and another six (6 percent) said it was good. Nine members (9 percent) rated it as fair. However, 29 people (29 percent) said Cameron’s performance was “not very good” and the largest group — 45 people (45 percent) — rated it as “terrible”. Everyone had an opinion.

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About Power Poll: Power Poll asks questions of the most powerful, influential people in U.S. cities. It is not a scientific survey. But because the people responding to the surveys comprise the leadership structure of their cities, the results afford a fascinating glimpse into the thoughts, opinions, and beliefs of those in a position to make change. Power Poll is distinctly nonpartisan.

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