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This is a study of Kentucky political parties: how they are organized and how they nominate and elect candidates. Because state politics in Kentucky is dominated by the Democratic Party, a major portion of the study is devoted to the Democratic primary candidates, campaign techniques, funding, of elections, and voting patterns.

As in other states, campaign techniques in Kentucky are changing. During the 1950s and 1960s the Democratic Party had two dominant factions, and candidates for statewide office sought factional allies among local party organizations. Now factional alignments have disappeared, and candidates for statewide office build campaign organizations from thousands of active party workers. The characteristics, motivations, and allegiances of these party activists form one major focus of this book.

Another focus is television, which has assumed ever greater importance in statewide primary campaigns. Because it is expensive, candidates who are wealthy or can raise large sums for television advertising enter the primaries with a substantial advantage, and those who use that medium most effectively are most likely to win. Two wealthy candidates who proved to be talented campaigners in person and on television were nominated by the Democrats in 1987: Wallace Wilkinson in the gubernatorial race and Brereton Jones in the race for lieutenant governor. The book features case studies of these two campaigns, which in many ways typify modern primary elections in Kentucky.

Finally, since the 1950s, the Republican Party has been highly successful in campaigns for national office in Kentucky but has been unable to elect a governor since 1967. This study provides some answers to two questions: What is wrong with the Republican Party in Kentucky? And why are so many Kentuckians voting Republican in national races and Democratic in state races?

Penny M. Miller is assistant professor of political science at Temple University.

Malcolm E. Jewell is professor of political science at the University of Kentucky.

Publication Date



The University Press of Kentucky

Place of Publication

Lexington, KY






Kentucky, Kentucky politics, Kentucky elections


American Politics

Political Parties and Primaries in Kentucky
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