FRANKFORT, Ky. - In the spirit of Halloween, one TV ad airing in Kentucky shows a kid wearing a mask of U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler while trick-or-treating.
"I wanted to be something really scary," the child says in the spot paid for by Chandler's Republican challenger, Lexington attorney Andy Barr.
It's the latest attack in a mean-spirited congressional race that coincides with a heated Supreme Court contest, dozens of nasty legislative races and topped with a decidedly unfriendly presidential matchup.
The result is revved-up voters.
"We believe we will see a record number of voters cast ballots in this election," said Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, Kentucky's chief election officer.
Grimes said Tuesday legislative races seem to be generating the most enthusiasm among Kentucky voters, but the other races with round-the-clock TV ads also have heightened interest.
Early absentee voting is on par with the 2008 presidential election, when about 64 percent of Kentucky's 3 million voters turned out. Absentee voting is one of the chief indicators of interest in any given election and therefore an indicator of what turnout might be on Nov. 6.
As of Tuesday, Grimes some 73,000 voters had cast absentee ballots or were in the process of doing so.
Chandler and Barr have hurled insults at one another since late summer in stump speeches and TV ads. But Chandler said Monday he's backing off the attacks, opting to go positive for the final week of the race. Barr still is running attacks, including the Halloween spoof that started Monday.
Chandler is drawing on the popularity of his late grandfather, Happy Chandler, in his newest TV spot that's expected to begin airing on Tuesday. Happy Chandler served as governor, U.S. senator and commissioner of Major League Baseball.
"That tradition inspires me every day to improve the lives of our people," Ben Chandler said in the ad.
Chandler and Barr shared a stage Monday night for the first time this year where they wrangled over a litany of issues, including the federal bailout of the U.S. auto industry in 2009.
Chandler credited the bailout, which he supported, with saving thousands of jobs in a state that's home to Toyota, Ford and General Motors manufacturing plants. Barr said the bailout was unnecessary, saying bankruptcy would have been the better alternative and that government should loosen its grip on private industry.
Kentucky is one of the nation's leading auto producers with manufacturing plants in Bowling Green, Georgetown and Louisville, plus supply plants in small towns across the state. The auto plants and their suppliers employ nearly 70,000 Kentuckians.
Chandler and Barr are in a rematch for the 6th District seat. Barr lost by less than 700 votes in the first go-around two years ago.
Their race is the most competitive congressional matchup in Kentucky. U.S. Reps. Hal Rogers, Ed Whitfield, Brett Guthrie and John Yarmuth face no serious threats in the Nov. 6 election. And in Kentucky's 4th District, where U.S. Rep. Geoff Davis resigned, tea party Republican Thomas Massie is expected to dominate in his race against Democrat Bill Adkins, a northern Kentucky attorney.
In eastern Kentucky, Supreme Court Justice Will T. Scott and challenger Court of Appeals Judge Janet Stumbo are in a heated race replete with TV ads bemoaning past legal decisions.
The Kentucky Judicial Campaign Conduct Committee found Monday that both Scott and Stumbo have engaged and false and misleading advertising.
Kentucky voters also will cast ballots in 47 state House races and 10 state Senate races, plus local-level races.
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