Most Interesting Primary Races to Watch in KY (updated)

Kentuckians will make their way to the polls next week to select the nominees for their party for a bevy of high-profile contests.

Here is an updated look at some of the most anticipated races this election season.

Louisville Mayoral Election

The Democratic nomination for Louisville mayor has been heating up as front-runner Craig Greenberg has been piling on the ads in the final week of campaigning. Jefferson Circuit Court Clerk David Nicholson has turned up the pressure in the final weeks, announcing high-profile endorsements in Louisville. Greenberg has a slew of endorsements of his own.

Greenberg has raised more than $1.4 million for the race so far and has entered the final two weeks with $203,000 left in the bank – using his resources in the final push to the May 17 primary. Nicholson has raised roughly half of what Greenberg has brought in with $626,596 raised in the campaign, according to his 15-day pre-primary report with the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance. He enters the end of the race with just $8,000 left in campaign reserves. Shameka Parrish Wright, and Tim Findley Jr., has also raised money for the Democratic primary.

There is an undercurrent of racial tension that filters through the race as the city struggles to regain its footing after the death of Breonna Taylor and a fragmented police department. The top issue in the Louisville Mayoral primary is gun violence in the city and an almost unspoken sentiment of who is fit to lead a city that struggles to put itself back together for all of its citizens.

Louisville Congressional Race – KY 3

Eight-term U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Louisville, announced he was stepping down from his seat last year. Yarmuth has endorsed state Senate Minority Floor Leader Morgan McGarvey to replace him in Congress.

McGarvey has scooped up all of the prominent endorsements in the Democratic primary race against state Rep. Attica Scott. The Congressional race taking place in the 3rd Congressional District of Louisville will also be affected by the same racial tension as the mayoral race. However, Scott, may not have been the right Black activist to throw her hat in the ring for the race. Despite Scott’s attempts to pass legislation in the name of Taylor in the state Capitol, Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, has not endorsed Scott in the race, last year calling her a “fraud.”

The Courier-Journal’s Morgan Watkins took a sharp look at the race beyond the headlines that is worth a read on how the race has unfolded.

As of late April, McGarvey had raised $1.5 million for the primary election. He entered the final weeks of the campaign with $468,000 in cash on hand. Scott has raised $236,000 for the race and entered the final weeks with $40,000 on hand. Whoever emerges will face the winner of the GOP primary in the heavily Democratic district.

Northern Kentucky(ish) Congressional Race – KY 4

U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie has drawn three Republican challengers this primary season. Massie, who has held the seat since 2012, is being attacked from the right by Claire Wirth, a Republican from Oldham County, who is tying herself to former President Donald Trump, and garnering attention with gun giveaways to campaign donors. Also challenging for the seat is Republican Alyssa McDowell, who rushed the stage at the GOP gubernatorial watch party on Election Day in 2019 to call the race for Gov. Matt Bevin.

A lesser known Republican from Corinth, Kentucky, George Washington has also filed to run in the 4th District Congressional Race.

Massie has released several internal polls showing a commanding lead in the race, but the attacks have been flying for months in the far-right leaning district.

Top State Senate Primary Races

In Frankfort, the top Senate primary to watch is taking place near Lexington in the 22nd District where newly-elected Sen. Donald Douglas, R-Nicholasville, will take on a “Liberty” candidate. Douglas was elected in Nov. of 2021, during a special election to fill the unexpired term of state Sen. Tom Buford who passed away while in office.

The state Senate played with the maps during redistricting and accidentally drew the freshman a challenge from the far-right wing of the party. Republican Andrew Cooperrider was seeking to run for the state Senate in the 12th District before GOP lawmakers redrew the maps for their favored candidate. Douglas has support from establishment Republicans, but he does not benefit from his short stint with incumbency. The race is reportedly neck-and-neck, and has turned ugly of late. Cooperrider, a coffee-shop owner that refused to close for in-person dining early in the pandemic, has prominence on the Trump-portion of the GOP as he attempted to impeach Gov. Andy Beshear, D-Kentucky.

20th Senate Dist. – OPEN SEATGOP PRIMARY- Sen. Paul Hornback, R-Shelbyville, retired and the district shifted away from Shelby County during the redistricting process. Phyllis Sparks, a Republican activist and Vice Chair of the Boone Co. Republican Party, Calen Studler, the chair of the Franklin Co. GOP, Mike Templeman, a Republican and retired coal executive from Frankfort, Kentucky, who ran for Congress in 2010, and Gex “Jay” Williams who last held office in 1998, filed for the race. The newly created vacant 20th Senate District seat includes Franklin, Owen, Carroll, Gallatin, and part of Boone and Kenton County.

24TH Senate Dist. – OPEN SEAT – GOP PRIMARY – A fresh face will grace Frankfort after 2022 with this district up for grabs in an open seat election after the retirement of Sen. Wil Schroder, R-Wilder. There are three Republicans vying for their party’s nomination including Shelley “Funke” Frommeyer, Jessica Neal, of Cold Springs, and Chris Robinson, of Alexandria, Kentucky. A Democrat has filed for the seat forcing a General Election in this Republican heavy district.


4th District House REPUBLICAN PRIMARY: Hopkins County will stand alone in the newly drawn House District. Three Republicans are vying for the nomination. First-time candidate Bobby Girvin, of Madisonville, faces retired Madisonville Police Chief Wade Williams, and U.S. Army veteran David Sharp, who dropped out of a challenge against Congressman James Comer, in the GOP primary race. On the Democratic side, Hopkins County Attorney Byron Hobgood has also filed for the seat, ensuring a General Election contest.

8th District House REPUBLICAN PRIMARY: Rep. Walker Thomas, R-Hopkinsville, will be defending his seat against current Caldwell County Judge-Executive Larry Curling, R-Princeton. Curling recently spoke to local radio station WHOP about the race. Democratic candidate Pam Dossett, who ran against Thomas in 2020 is again seeking the seat in the General Election.

12th District House REPUBLICAN PRIMARY: Two incumbent lawmakers will face each other in this newly formed district which includes Crittenden, Union, Webster, and McLean County. Rep. Lynn Bechler, R-Marion, in Crittenden County, has been in the legislature since 2014 and he will face Democrat turned Republican Rep. Jim Gooch, of Providence, Kentucky, in Webster County. Gooch has been in the House of Representatives since 1996, he switch party allegiance in late 2015, joining the GOP in their quest to control the state House. Gooch currently represents part of Hopkins and Daviess and all of Webster and McLean County. Bechler currently represents Cladwell, part of Christian, Crittenden, and Livingston County.

18th District House REPUBLICAN PRIMARY: One of the youngest legislators in the General Assembly, will have a primary challenger from the far right of the party. Rep. Samara Heavrin, R-Leitchfield, has been in the legislature since winning a special election in 2019 to replace Rep. Tim Moore. In this election she will face Jacob Clark, an inventor and an ordained Baptist minister who has held services at the Grayson County Detention Center for the last three years. According to LEO Weekly Clark “posted “A warning for Governor Andy Beshear” video on his Facebook, saying that “God may strike” Beshear “down” for his attempts to stop churchgoers from attending in-person services at the height of the pandemic.”

21ST District House REPUBLICAN PRIMARY – OPEN SEAT: Five Republicans are vying to replace outgoing Rep. Bart Rowland, of Tompkinsville, who has held the seat since the special election of 2012. Amy Neighbors, a retired nursing home administrator from Edmonton, has outraised her competition and has good ballot position in the 5-way primary race. She also has the endorsement of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce. Former Tompkinsville Assistant Police Chief James “Jimmy” Carter has raised and spent nearly $10,000 on the race. Carter has the endorsement of the Kentucky State FOP, and is focusing on drugs and infrastructure in the election. Terry David Dubree, a Tomkinsville cattle farmer, is also running in the GOP primary, his KREF report shows he has not raised any money for the campaign. Joshua “Wes” Ellis a lifelong farmer from Columbia has raised and spent $6,800 on the election. Daniel Glass, an engineer, raised $1,500.

24th District House REPUBLICAN PRIMARY: Incumbent Rep. Brandon Reed, R-Hodgenville, has two GOP candidates challenging him for the seat he has held since 2018. Republican Courtney Gilbert, Of Hodgenville, filed for the seat on the day of the filing deadline. Gilbert is the sister of state Sen. Adrienne (Gilbert) Southworth, R-Lawrenceburg. She served as the youth chair for the LaRue County Republican Party from 2008 to 2017, according to the LaRue County HeraldRobert Hickman, of Hardyville, Kentucky, in Hart Co., is a Republican newcomer and self-proclaimed outsider. Hickman is a former truck driver and construction worker who previously lived in Michigan and the “Atlantic area,” where he lived for 25 years and worked in commercial real estate and management.

25th House District REPUBLICAN PRIMARY – With the retirement of Republican Rep. Jim DuPlessis at the end of his current term the 25th House District is an open seat. There are three Republicans filed for the race. Elizabethtown Republican Bill Bennett filed for the race, he previously served two terms on the Elizabethtown City Council, according to the News-Enterprise, he was fired by JCPS in January after an altercation with a student. Steve Bratcher, a former constable and current director of technical training at Elizabethtown Community and Technical College.

30th District House DEMOCRATIC PRIMARY: The longest-serving House member in the history of the Kentucky General Assembly again faces a primary challenge in this Louisville district. Rep. Tom Burch, who will be 91-years old in July, was first elected to a single term in 1972 serving until 1975 and then returning to Frankfort in 1979 where he has comfortably stayed since that time. Burch will face Daniel Grossberg, who ran against Burch in 2020, and Neal Turpin, who has served as an associate city planner in Clarksville, Indiana. He is also an adjunct professor at the University of Louisville where he teaches Public Administration and Policy in the Department of Political Science. Turpin campaigned for Burch in the 2020 election, even appearing in videos endorsing the incumbent.

36th District House REPUBLICAN PRIMARY: This Louisville Republican primary is an open seat election created through the retirement of Rep. Jerry Miller. Republican John Hodgson, who served in the Bevin administration as an operations manager, has filed for the primary and spent the summer of 2021 securing GOP endorsements. David Hoswer has also put his hat in the ring for the GOP primary, he is a former Fire Chief of the Lydon Fire Department. Richard Crawford also filed for the seat in January.

43rd District House DEMOCRATIC PRIMARY: Incumbent Rep. Pam Stevenson, of Louisville, will have to defend her left flank this election season. Robert LeVertis Ball has filed for the seat, Ball is a community activist and public school teacher, who is seeking to unseat the first-term lawmaker.

50th District House REPUBLICAN PRIMARY: House Majority Whip Chad McCoy dropped out of his re-election contest setting the stage for a new face in Frankfort. Nelson County Republican Chairman Trey Bradley faces U.S. Air Force veteran Candy Hawks-Massaroni who had been targeting McCoy early in the primary calling him out of touch with the average conservative of Nelson County.

55th District House REPUBLICAN PRIMARY: Rep. Kim King, R-Harrodsburg, will face a challenger from the far right-wing of the party. Tony Wheatley, of Salvisa, was called an insurrectionist and accused by Gov. Andy Beshear as an organizer of two armed rallies in 2020 at the state Capitol, including a rally that hanged Beshear in effigy. Wheatley tells Kentucky Fried Politics he was not the organizer of the rally, and he cut down the hanging effigy of Beshear. “I actually cut it down because it was in bad taste,” he wrote to KFP. “Just because the governor said it doesn’t make it truth.”

59th District House REPUBLICAN PRIMARY: House Speaker David Osborne has pulled a Republican challenger for the seat he has held since 2006. Osborne raised a mountain of cash, toppling six-figures for the re-election against Bridgette Ehly, who has raised less than $10,000. Ehly is trying the far-right talking points, accusing Osborne and others of following the CDC mandates “instead of leading.” She has also promoted Sen. Adrienne Southworth’s election integrity tour, that has been slammed as misinformation.

60th District House REPUBLICAN PRIMARY: Longtime Northern Kentucky Rep. Sal Santoro, of Union, is also facing a GOP challenger this year. Marianne Proctor, a realtor and former speech pathologist, is running as a political outsider frustrated with politics and taxation.

61st District House REPUBLICAN PRIMARY: Rep. Savannah Maddox has her eyes on the gubernatorial primary next year, but she will first have to face a primary and a general election. Jarrod Lynkins, of Walton, is running against the incumbent in the GOP primary. Lynkins is a Marine Corps combat veteran that holds many similar policy positions as Maddox.

66th District House REPUBLICAN PRIMARY: Constitutional conservative Steve Rawlings is targeting Republican incumbent Rep. Ed Massey. Rawlings, an attorney and author, has raised $34,000 for the election. Outside money is supporting Massey, and he has raised almost $69,000 for the election.

68th District House REPUBLICAN PRIMARY OPEN SEAT: The are three Republicans vying for the nomination to replace outgoing Rep. Joe Fischer, who held the seat since 1999. Mike Clines, the former superintendent of Catholic schools in the Covington diocese, has taken another common refrain amongst conservatives against CDC advice during the pandemic. Mirna Eads a nurse from Fort Thomas, and Paul Kloeker, who serves on the Cold Springs council is also running for the seat.

69th District House REPUBLICAN PRIMARY: Rep. Adam Koenig is defending his right flank against Steven Doan of Erlanger. Doan is an Erlanger city councilman and touts his endorsement from U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie.

79th District House DEMOCRATIC PRIMARY:  Chad Aull, who has been endorsed by outgoing Rep. Susan Westrom, and Justin Bramhall an LGBTQ candidate, who previously filed in 2020 will compete in the Lexington based district. Bramhall has turned to celebrities to get his message out to voters.

91st District House REPUBLICAN PRIMARY: Rep. Bill Wesley, of Ravenna, is fighting to stay in the legislature after just one term. Darrell Billings, the President of a car dealership, is making headway in the campaign, as some in the community have turned on Wesley. Congressman Andy Barr and Congressman James Comer’s PAC’s are supporting Billings. KFP first reported on Wesley’s checkered past earlier this year.

97th District House REPUBLICAN PRIMARY: Two GOP incumbents are facing off in this newly formed district. Rep. Norma Kirk McCormick and Rep. Bobby McCool are a victim of the Republican redistricting plan. With no Democrats filing whoever wins the contest will represent the district next year.