That was the amount spent on the Kentucky Senate race between Mitch McConnell and Alison Grimes (59% to 37% in Campbell County), which helped to wipe out the effort by Campbell County Democrats to field one of their most impressive tickets in recent history.
In the end that money helped to complete a county GOP sweep and at the same time, dealt a blow to county Democrats.
“In 2014, Campbell County Democrats had one of the brightest and diverse tickets ever fielded in Campbell County,” said Campbell County Democrats Chair, Paul Whalen, who also said, "Our local Democratic candidates got caught in a tsunami which focused against the national Democratic Party and the President.”
For Whalen, the GOP sweep on both county and state levels throws into question the security of county services, especially in the southern end of the county. “The defeat of the 2014 Democratic ticket for county and legislative office will cost Campbell County in the long run in the development of services and opportunities in the southern part of the county as well as increased revenue from existing sources and additional revenue from Frankfort.”
Troy Sheldon, Republican Party of Kentucky, 4th District Chairman disagrees with that reasoning, instead citing conservative values of the Republican Party as the reason for the big win on Election Day.
"The results of the Republican sweep on election night within Campbell County may be surprising to some people, but when you have a slate of outstanding conservative candidates, the choice becomes very easy for the constituents of Campbell County," said Sheldon. "The Democrats may try to rationalize the Republican sweep due to additional turnout due for Senator McConnell¹s race, but the reality is, whether we had a 25, 30 or 40% turnout, the Republicans have a platform and message- "smaller government, fiscal responsibility, and economic growth -which resonates with the vast majority of Campbell County Residents."
Race by race analysis:
Steve Pendery defeated longtime colleague on Fiscal Court, Ken Rechtin (58% to 42%), for his fifth term as the county's head legislative position as Judge Executive.
Pendery defeated fellow Republican, Kevin Sell, in the May primary while Rechtin laid in waiting. Rechtin was raring to go out of the gate, issuing several challenges to Pendery to debate. Pendery responded calmly, quashing those initial attempts to get an early dialogue going, opting to debate Rechtin in three debates taking place in October.
Rechtin used that time to travel the county in his signature red tennis shoes trying to sell that his vision for the county was in stark contrast to Pendery's. Pendery's analogy that Rechtin was "like a lifeguard jumping in to save Michael Phelps before he touches" was an effective one. Pendery tried to tell a story that working with Rechtin on Fiscal Court was one of harmony and agreement, and that there was not a lot of difference between the two candidates.
It would be a difficult job for Rechtin to explain why the county was on the wrong path, while serving on its leadership board for over a decade.
Sheldon added to the analysis. "When you objectively review the success Judge Pendrey has accomplished for Campbell County over the last four years, the Constituents provided a resounding win for Steve to continue with his leadership and vision for Campbell County."
In the end, voters believed that Campbell County is trending in the right direction and gave Pendery another term to continue that trend.
Rechtin left the county commission as the sole Democrat to challenge Pendery leaving Republican Brian Painter as the only incumbent standing after the May primary. Painter beat current Highland Heights City Councilman, Rene Heinrich (60% to 39%).
Charlie "Coach" Coleman defeated Pete Garrett in the May primary and defeated Silver Grove school board member, Melanie Steidel Pelle (60% to 39%).
Tom Lampe defeated Newport developer, Mark Ramler (58% to 42%) to complete the GOP sweep. With the wins, the County Fiscal Court will be entirely Republican for the first time in recent history.
While the consensus building may seem to be a foregone conclusion, look for Coleman to be a dissenting voice more than one might expect.
Whalen worries what this might mean for the county’s political pull across the region: “(The Democratic) candidates for the Fiscal Court emphasized the need to revisit many of the ‘regional’ agreements that Campbell County had entered into in the 1940s, such as the agreement concerning SD1,” he said. “All of the members of the (Democratic) ticket support State Auditor Adam Edelen's recommendation that Campbell County have a voting member. The Republican ticket indicated by their silence they did not.”
Longtime Kentucky State Senator, Katie Stine, retired and this would have been a huge coup had the Democrats been able to fill the seat left vacant. Instead, Wil Schroder blew away the 3-way competition in the primary and rode that momentum and significant fundraising lead to a win over Fort Thomas native, Jason Steffen (62% to 38%).
In one of the more noncompetitive races on the ballot, longtime Kentucky House Representative and Fort Thomas native, Joe Fischer, handily beat Democrat Shae Hornback (74% to 26%). Hornback never posed a threat to unseating Fischer, and was likely part of the strategy of the Campbell County Democrats to fill out the county ticket.
In one of the most contentious races in the county, with many allegations being thrown by both candidates, Republican incumbent Daniel Braun held off Fort Thomas resident, Andrea Janovic (64% to 36%).
Janovic contended that Braun's lowering the assessments of commercial and residential properties were inappropriate and damaging to the county. Braun answered that the assessments go through an appeals process and that he cannot solely or arbitrarily lower assessments on his own.
This was always going to be the closest race on the ballot and that proved to be the case. Longtime Democrat, Jack Snodgrass, retired and the Republicans picked up this seat when Jim Luersen defeated Marc Muench (57% to 42%).
While the margin was not as indicative as a close race, perhaps here more than any other race, the "McConnell money" showed its power to turn out the vote.
Fort Thomas resident, Mike Jansen, easily defeated Scott Hildebrand (63% to 37%). The victory for Jansen was all but sealed with his highly contentious primary win over incumbent and Campbell County GOP Executive Chair, Jeff Kidwell.
While November's victory came a little easier, Jansen did not stop campaigning hard, perhaps sending a message to any person of any party who may attempt to challenge him in four years.
Sheldon added his thoughts on this race as well. "You will be hard pressed to find someone with Mike¹s Law Enforcement qualifications, disposition, and professionalism within the State. Campbell County¹s Sheriff¹s Department will no doubt rise amongst in statue with its peer counties in NKY and the State under Mike¹s Leadership."
County Attorney, Jailer, Coroner
Fort Thomas residents Mark Schweitzer (Coroner) and Steve Franzen (County Attorney, running unopposed) along with Jim Daley (Jailer), did not face serious threats to loses their incumbencies.
In the end, it was a good day to be a Republican in Campbell County on November 4, 2014. The margins of victory were a bit of surprise in a lot of cases, which may be attributable to the McConnell-Grimes race.
Digging deeper into the races, the races with the widest margins were a result of a better run campaign or simply a better candidate. While polls don't exist at the county level, the polls in the Senate Race mirrored the sentiment candidates were feeling in Campbell County.
Speaking to candidates in the county, when Grimes was polling close to McConnell in mid October, Republicans were feeling nervous while Democrats felt confident. If you want to point to one incident during the campaign, Grimes not acknowledging who she voted for lost her support among her biggest supporter base, the Democrat national committee stopped funding her race, and the gap widened as Election Day grew near. This essentially was the nail in the coffin for Grimes and hurt the chances of a promising Campbell County Democratic ticket.
In the end, in my view, I still feel like the Campbell County GOP would have done well regardless of what happened with the McConnell-Grimes race. I do believe, however, without that money flowing in and the Republicans outnumbering the Democrats at the polls in big numbers, the Campbell County Democrats would have picked up a few seats that the GOP now claim.