FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky voters made Republican Mitt Romney their choice for president on Tuesday, yet again snubbing President Barack Obama, who has repeatedly come up short in the state.
With 95 percent of precincts reporting, Romney had 1,027,488 votes or 60 percent, to 649,000 votes for Obama, or 38 percent.
Besides handing Romney Kentucky’s eight electoral votes, the predominately Democratic state also added two new GOP congressmen to its federal roster on Tuesday.
Obama has long been an unpopular political figure in Kentucky, having lost the state in the 2008 primary and general elections.
This year, Obama yielded Kentucky to Romney after a poor showing in the Democratic primary. Some 42 percent of Kentucky Democrats marked their ballots “uncommitted” even though Obama was the only name on the ballot.
Obama’s negatives played in favor of Republican Andy Barr, who upset Democratic U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler in the 6th District by painting Chandler as Obama’s surrogate. University of Kentucky political scientist Ernie Yanarella described an “Obama albatross” around Chandler’s neck.
“I’m afraid President Obama was a little too heavy for us in some of the rural counties,” Chandler said.
With 99 percent of precincts reporting, Barr had 151,136 votes or 51 percent, to 139,907 votes for Chandler, or 47 percent. Independent candidate Randolph Vance had 8,218 votes or 3 percent.
“One of the reasons I think I was elected was I talked about this dysfunction in Washington and the need to build a consensus and I don’t think we have a choice,” Barr said after winning. “We have no choice: we have to (work together) because the problems in this country are too great.”
Barr portrayed himself as a champion for the coal industry, criticizing the Obama administration for environmental policies that have made it more difficult to open new mines or expand existing ones. That played well among many voters in the 6th District, even though it has no coal mines.
“Andy Barr is focused on energy independence, and we need to be independent of other countries and, besides coal, we need to focus on becoming stronger in terms of energy,” said Phyllis Fuchs, 44, a Republican financial coach from Richmond.
Combined, Chandler and Barr spent some $4 million, with most going to mean-spirited TV ads that ran around-the-clock since late summer. Outside groups spent a similar amount on the race.
In other Kentucky congressional races, Republican U.S. Reps. Ed Whitfield, Brett Guthrie and Hal Rogers were re-elected on Tuesday, as was Democratic U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, who will be the last remaining Democrat in Kentucky’s federal delegation.
In the 4th District, where U.S. Rep. Geoff Davis resigned, tea party Republican Thomas Massie defeated Democrat Bill Adkins, a northern Kentucky attorney.
Massie, a tea party favorite, also won a simultaneous special election to fill the unexpired term through the remainder of this year.
Like Barr, Massie also benefited from Romney’s strong showing.
Latonia truck driver Ed Talley, 61, a lifelong Democrat who changed his registration to Republican earlier this year, voted for Romney. The deciding factor: disappointment in Obama.
“I thought the guy would shine. He’s the first black president, and everything else, but he got his chance to shine and just bombed,” Talley said.
Murray State University student Shawanta Jones said she voted for Obama. The 20-year-old Democrat said she has been impressed with president’s handling of the economy.
“I mean, I live in it, and everybody knows it’s so out of whack right now,” Jones said. “It’s starting to not only affect me, but my family.”
Voters also gave Supreme Court Justice Will T. Scott of Pikeville another term on the state’s highest court. And they ratified a constitutional amendment that makes hunting and fishing a constitutional right in the state.