The Tea Party In Kentucky: Apathy May Win

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Kentucky's third district is represented by Democrat John Yarmuth, a progressive elected in 2006. He has supported the stimulus, health care overhaul and financial reforms and even pushed for stronger legislation. Yarmuth has been popular in heavily Democratic Louisville, but now he's in a tight race with Republican Todd Lally, a political newcomer with Tea Party support. While voters who support Yarmuth aren't excited about the election, popular Republicans are firing up Lally supporters. WFPL's Gabe Bullard reports.

SCOTT SIMON, host:

GABE BULLARD: I'm Gabe Bullard in Louisville. This city makes up all of Kentucky's Third Congressional District and campaigning is underway even outside a football game between Trinity and St. Xavier High Schools. In the parking lot, Republican Congressional candidate Todd Lally is greeting the crowd.

Mr. TODD LALLY (Republican Congressional Candidate, Kentucky): Don't dilly dally, vote Todd Lally.

BULLARD: This is Lally's second bid for office. He's running against incumbent Democrat John Yarmuth. Outside the game, Lally plays one of his campaign ads on a computer. Mike Herp watches the video, showing Yarmuth with some fellow Democrats.

Mr. MIKE HERP: This is the same old BS you hear in Washington all the time. We need to get rid of Yarmuth 'cause he's a rubber stamp for the Pelosi-Reid agenda and elect Mr. Lally here to Congress.

BULLARD: Lally says much of his support is coming from Tea Party backers.

Mr. LALLY: And it's just people who are working hard, paying taxes. They're tired of their elected representation not listening to them. They're tired of their taxes always on the verge of going up or going up, and they want to hold these politicians accountable, and I think that's why you're seeing that uprising.

BULLARD: Lally thinks he'll be part of an anti-incumbent class swept into Congress this year, but some doubt that Tea Partiers will ultimately be much of a force in this district.

Kentucky's high-profile Senate race between Democrat Jack Conway and the Tea Party-backed Rand Paul is expected to increase turnout across the state. But in the Third District it's Democrats who may be more likely to come out in big numbers.

University of Louisville political science professor Jasmine Farrier...

Professor JASMINE FARRIER (University of Louisville): Democrats who are for Conway, who are, of course, disproportionately concentrated in Louisville -because that is Conway's base, his home - Democrats in Louisville will come out for Conway and therefore come out for Yarmuth.

BULLARD: This district, after all, is the only one in Kentucky that went for Barack Obama in 2008. Yarmuth, the Democrat, doesn't seem worried. He says it would take unprecedented Republican turnout to unseat him.

Representative JOHN YARMUTH (Democrat, Kentucky): I think it's going to be broadly based turnout. I don't think Democrats are going to stay home. And Jack's race makes sure that Democrats don't stay home, I think.

BULLARD: And unlike some other congressional Democrats, Yarmuth is not disowning policies President Obama favors, like the stimulus package.

Mr. YARMUTH: I don't think you ever get penalized for bringing resources back to your district.

BULLARD: Since August, Yarmuth has appeared in Louisville seven times to announce millions of dollars in federal grants.

For NPR News, I'm Gabe Bullard in Louisville.

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