FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky Republicans and Democrats wrapped up candidate recruitment for this year's election on Tuesday and set their sights on settling a crowded ballot, topped by a high-profile U.S. Senate race and the struggle for control of the state House of Representatives.
As the candidate filing deadline passed, both sides sounded ready to press their case to voters, who will endure a blizzard of campaign ads, speeches, yard signs and canvassing in coming months.
All 100 state House seats are on the November ballot, as well as half the 38 state Senate seats. All six U.S. House incumbents from Kentucky drew challengers.
Rounding out the long ballot will be contests for judgeships as well as city and county offices.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's pursuit of a sixth term will garner the most attention.
McConnell drew four GOP challengers in the May 20 primary, including Louisville businessman Matt Bevin. The Democratic front-runner is Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, who has three opponents in the primary.
State Democratic Party Chairman Daniel Logsdon said Tuesday that McConnell finds himself "historically unpopular," making him a prime candidate to be ousted by Democrats.
Republicans said they hope to capitalize on President Barack Obama's unpopularity in the state, which will be a major theme in the Senate race.
"Kentucky voters are going to be asking themselves a very basic questions when they go to vote in November: Do they want it to be easier to more difficult for Barack Obama to enact his agenda," said Kentucky GOP Chairman Steve Robertson.
Down the ballot, the fight for control of the state House will dominate much of the parties' attention.
Democrats hold a 54-46 advantage in the House, but Republicans are mounting a strong challenge to take control, which would complete their hold on the General Assembly. The GOP is in firm control of the Senate.
House Speaker Greg Stumbo said Tuesday that won't happen, predicting Democrats will pick up as many as seven seats in the November election to solidify their historic dominance in the chamber.
"McConnell is going to be a real drag for most of their candidates," Stumbo said. "A lot of the candidates they've recruited, that we know about, are radicals. They have radical, right-wing agendas."
House GOP Floor Leader Jeff Hoover said Republican House candidates will focus on themes of change and fiscal restraint. The GOP also will try to tie Democrats running for the statehouse to Obama's policies, especially the health care overhaul.
Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear is a staunch supporter of the health-care law, and he received a White House invitation to attend the president's State of the Union speech Tuesday night.
Beshear has championed Kentucky's state-run website — an outgrowth of the federal law — that has enrolled more than 182,000 people for health coverage. Republicans are critical of the initiative.
"Steve Beshear's unilateral actions to move this forward in Kentucky are going to hurt Alison Grimes, it's going to hurt Greg Stumbo's dwindling House majority," Robertson said.
Stumbo said Beshear remains popular in Kentucky and can boost Democratic candidates.
One key battleground will be western Kentucky, where Republicans have picked up House seats in the region that used to be a Democratic stronghold.
Democrats lined up candidates to challenge a handful of first-term Republican incumbents in the area.
Meanwhile, Republicans found challengers to more than two dozen Democratic incumbents statewide.
The large number of candidates will set up about two dozen contested primaries for House seats in the May 20 primary.
Overall, more than 4,700 candidates filed for local, state and federal offices ahead of Tuesday's deadline.