Voting begins, election features US Senate race

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Voting began Tuesday in Kentucky where a moderate number of voters were expected to take part in one of the most closely watched races in the country, with Democrat Jack Conway and Republican Rand Paul vying to become the state’s new U.S. senator.

Also up for grabs are all six of Kentucky’s congressional seats, along with mayoral offices in Louisville and Lexington, 19 state senate seats, 100 state house seats, and local races by the score. Polls opened at 6 a.m.

“We expect to see moderate turnout on election day and encourage voters to plan accordingly,” said Les Fugate, spokesman for the secretary of state’s office. “It is our hope that last minute campaigning by the candidates will push turnout above our predicted turnout of 48 percent.”

Races for commonwealth’s attorney, circuit and district court judgeships and one Supreme Court judgeship are also on the ballot.

Voters may encounter lines at some polling places, Fugate warned, especially in counties not yet using the new eScan digital technology.

There were about 10 voters in line when the polls at Lay Elementary School in Barbourville opened.

William Ray Baker, 51, said he voted for Paul in the U.S. Senate race because of Paul’s views on abortion. Baker, who is a miner, said that was his key issue.

“I made the decision to vote for Rand Paul quite a while ago and it was a set decision. I’ve always registered as a Republican and the tea party movement and TV ads and media didn’t influence my vote,” he said.

In more than 45 of Kentucky’s 120 counties, voters get their first chance to use the digital scan voting system, designed to make tabulating faster on election night.

The National Weather Service forecast calls for clear skies across the state on Election Day, with highs in the low 60s.

Paul, 47, a Bowling Green ophthalmologist, ran as a tea party favorite after he pulled off an upset in the May primary over the GOP’s hand-picked candidate, Secretary of State Trey Grayson. Paul is the son of Republican U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, one of the country’s leading Libertarians. The younger Paul has never held office.

Conway, 41, the state’s attorney general and a Louisville lawyer, is looking for his first election to an office in Washington. A rising star in the state’s Democratic party, he lost to then-Republican 3rd District congresswoman Anne Northup in 2002 in a hard-fought race.

Paul and Conway are vying for the seat to be vacated by Republican U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning, 79, who is retiring after two terms.

Almost 2.9 million Kentuckians are registered to vote, according to the secretary of state’s office.

Registered Democrats total 1.6 million, while Republicans total 1.1 million, according to state records. Almost 194,000 voters are registered as “other.”

More than half — 53 percent — of registered voters in Kentucky are female, while 47 percent are male, according to state records.