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Ky. House, last southern legislative body under Democrats' control, just fell to GOP

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Posted at 9:57 PM, Nov 08, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-08 21:57:34-05

Republicans have won a majority in the Kentucky House of Representatives, the last legislative chamber in the South that was still controlled by Democrats.

Democrats held a 53-47 majority heading into Election Day, but Republicans picked up enough seats to give them their first majority since 1920.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo was among the Democratic incumbents to be unseated. Stumbo lost to Republican Larry Brown in eastern Kentucky.

The defeat came as Democrats were fighting to maintain their majority in the state House, the only legislative chamber in the South that Republicans do not control.

Stumbo was first elected to the House in 1980. A lawyer, he was the state attorney general from 2004 to 2007 and the running mate for Bruce Lunsford's campaign for governor in 2007.

Brown, also an attorney, lost to Stumbo in 2008. His campaign focused on reforming the state pension system.

The victory gives Republicans control of every Southern state legislature. Democrats dominated the South for decades, relying on the votes of working-class whites. But that began to change following the civil rights movement.

Kentucky Democrats were able to resist the trend for years because of their strength in the state's mountainous coal region and the large population of union workers. But Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's popularity in Kentucky, particularly in coal communities, was too much for Democrats to overcome.