After avoiding a primary since 2004, Rep. Crimm finds himself facing two GOP challengers in 33rd House District primary

05/12/2016 06:53 PM

It’s been 12 years since state Rep. Rom Crimm faced his first primary foe, but two Republicans are hoping to deny him an 11th term representing the 33rd House District in the General Assembly.

Crimm, who won his last primary in 2004 after winning 79 percent of the vote, will square off against Louisville attorney Jason Nemes and Louisville accountant Andrew Schachtner in the May 17 GOP contest.

Crimm is standing on his 20 years in the House of Representatives, particularly his work on the House Local Government Committee and on the conference committee that ultimately negotiated last year’s bill targeting heroin abuse, and says that with newly elected Gov. Matt Bevin in office, projects in his district stand better chances of becoming realities.

Part of his pitch to voters is that his entire career as a public official is open for inspection.

“I basically tell people that they can go online and find everything that I’ve done, every vote that I’ve ever made,” he said in an interview with Pure Politics. “… They can look up the subject, they can look up the bill, they can see how I voted, so they know that I’m a very conservative voter.”

But the men hoping to replace Crimm in the legislature say they’re better suited to represent the 38,604 registered voters in the district that covers parts of northeastern Jefferson County and southwestern Oldham County.

Nemes, in a break from canvassing earlier this month, said the state’s pension debt is one reason he decided to enter the political fray.

He also says Crimm, who was first elected in 1996, has simply been in office for too long.

“My opponent is a very good man, and I’ll never say anything bad about his character, but he’s been there for 20 years and he’s just not represented the area well enough in my view,” said Nemes, who has previously served as director of the Administrative Office of the Courts and chief of staff to former Kentucky Supreme Court Chief Justice Joseph Lambert. “He hasn’t been effective. He’s never stood up and spoke against the pension system. He voted to super-size his own pension.”

Crimm voted in favor House Bill 299, which allowed lawmakers to count their time in the legislature and pay in other branches of government in calculating their pension benefits, in the 2005 legislative session, but he said the legislation did not impact his pension.

Schachtner, former president of the Louisville Tea Party, mentions his background as an accountant in his interactions with voters as he knocks on doors in the district, and he took Crimm to task for co-sponsoring legislation that would amend Kentucky’s Constitution to allow local governments to add up to 1 cent to the area’s sales tax for specific projects.

If that had been passed — House Bill 2 passed the House on a 60-31 vote this year but died in the Senate — and ratified by voters, Schachtner contends that voters in the 33rd district would have undoubtedly faced increased sales taxes.

“That one is almost a guaranteed tax increase on Louisvillians because it would go to the metro council and the mayor, dominated by Democrats who are known for taxing and spending,” he said during a break while canvassing a neighborhood.

However, Crimm argues that voting for the legislation does not equate to a vote for higher taxes. That’s a topic some within the House Republican caucus debated before HB 2 went to the floor on March 11, he said.

“We talked about this for hours, for hours,” Crimm said. “Are we fooling ourselves by saying we’re not voting for a tax, and we said no, we’re not. We’re not voting for any tax. All we’re doing is giving local government that opportunity.”

Find out more, including how the March 5 Republican presidential caucus might affect the district primary, in this profile of the GOP race:

Nemes, who has loaned his campaign $50,000, holds a substantial cash advantage after collecting $88,930 for his primary bid with $69,065 left in his campaign account, according to his 15-day, pre-primary report to the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance.

Crimm followed with $12,800 raised for the election and $4,113 in cash on hand, and Schachtner reported raising $6,155 for his campaign with $4,887 left in his coffers, according to their latest KREF filings.

The winner of the May 17 primary will face Democrat Rob Walker, of Louisville, in the Nov. 8 election.

Kevin Wheatley

Kevin Wheatley is a reporter for Pure Politics. He joined cn|2 in September 2014 after five years at The State Journal in Frankfort, where he covered Kentucky government and politics. You can reach him at kevin.wheatley@charter.com or 502-792-1135 and follow him on Twitter at @KWheatley_cn2.

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