Kentucky's 2016 election season is set

01/27/2016 12:52 AM

Filing day has officially drawn to a close with 220 candidates seeking election to the state House, 35 to the state Senate, 10 seeking election to the U.S. Senate , and 20 candidates seeking election to the U.S. House of Representatives.

The surprise of the day came from the withdrawal of candidacy from Rep. Leslie Combs, D-Pikeville, and the long waited for moment with the addition of a top tier Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in Lexington Mayor Jim Gray.

Other candidates in the House and Senate were surprised as they drew challenges, and in some cases unexpected primary races.

Open seat races

There are 11 open seat races in the House and one open seat race in the Senate.

Four of the open House seat races feature candidates from the upcoming March 8 special election. Those districts include: 8th, 54th, 61st and 98th districts to replace lawmakers who have moved on before the session started. But not everyone in the list escapes primary challenges to face in May.

There are also seven open seats to replace retiring lawmakers. The districts include: the 23rd, 46th, 48th, 58th, 64th, 70th and 94th House districts. In all Representatives Johnny Bell, D-Glasgow; Rep. Larry Clark, D-Louisville; Rep. Bob Deweese, R-Louisville; Rep. Brad Montell, R-Shelbyville, Rep. Tom Kerr, R-Taylor Mill, Rep. Mike Denham, D-Maysville; and Rep. Leslie Combs, D-Pikeville, will all be retiring from the legislature at the end of the session.

Fighting it out in the 23rd House District to replace Bell are Democrats Danny Basil and Joe Trigg. Basil is a lawyer from Glasgow, and Trigg is a Glasgow City Councilman.

The winner of the Democratic primary will face the winner of the Republican primary between Steve Riley and Freddie Wilkerson, both of Glasgow. Riley is retired school principal, and Wilkerson is retired from the Kentucky Army National Guard as well as an ROTC instructor at Barren County High School — the same school that Riley retired from last year, according to the Glasgow Daily Times.

The district includes Barren County and part of Warren County.

In the 46th district Clark’s endorsed successor Alan Gentry, a self-employed businessman and entrepreneur, will face Allen Schuler in the Democratic primary. Two Republicans Eric Crump and Bill Dudley filed paperwork to seek the GOP nomination.

In the 48th House district to replace DeWeese there is a Democratic primary featuring Maria Sorolis and Steven Sturdevan. The winner of the primary will face Republican Ken Fleming in the general election.

The 58th district features a GOP primary to replace Montell. Kendall Law and Rob Rothenburger of Shelbyville filed for the nomination. The winner of that contest will face Democratic candidate Cyndi Powell Skellie.

The 64th House district features a primary for both Democrats and Republicans.

Democrats Larry Varney of Cold Springs and Lucas Deaton of Independence will face each other in a primary for the nomination. On Tuesday, Republican Sean Fitzgerald of Independence and Kimberly Poore Moser of Taylor Mill filed for the seat. The district feature parts of Campbell and Kenton counties.

In the 70th House District John Sims of Flemingsburg is the lone Democrat to file for the open race to replace Rep. Denham. Sims is a Fleming County Magistrate. Earlier this month Republicans Robert Boone of Maysville, James Johnson of Brooksville and John VanMeter of Maysville filed for the office.

Seeking to replace Rep. Combs in the 94th House District are three Democrats who filed on Tuesday. Third generation Pikesville pharmacist Joel Thornbury, Angie Hatton of Whitesburg and Ira Edsel Branham of Pikeville will face off in a primary race.

There’s a two way GOP primary in the district between Wesley Doughman of Isom who filed earlier in the month and Colin Fultz of Thorton who filed on Tuesday.

Primary battles

Several high profile lawmakers will find themselves fending off challengers from within their own party.

One of the last primary battles to take shape on Tuesday was for the 33rd Senate District seat which has been held by Sen. Gerald Neal, D-Louisville, for the past 26 years.

Three Democrats, including Neal, will seek election to the post. Filing for the seat on Tuesday was Joan “Toni” Stringer and Charles Booker of Louisville.

Booker told Pure Politics that he’s running because of the need for investment in the district. He added that he respects the seat and admires Neal, but thinks it is time for a change in vision in the district.

There are three other Senate incumbents facing primary challengers those include: Sen. John Schickel a Republican from of Union, Sen. Albert Robinson a Republican from London, and Sen. Ray Jones a Democrat from Pikeville.

In the House there are 13 incumbents facing primary challengers. The seven Republican Representatives facing challengers are Russell Webber of Shepherdsville, Ron Crimm of Louisville, David Floyd of Bardstown, Kim King of Harrodsburg, Adam Koenig of Erlanger, Jonathan Shell of Lancaster and Donna Mayfield of Winchester.

The six Democrats facing challengers from their own party includes Representatives Tom Riner of Lousiville, Darryl Owens of Louisville, Linda Belcher of Shepherdsville, Fitz Steele of Hazard, Chris Harris of Forest Hills and Greg Stumbo of Prestonsburg.

Democrats on defense in the House

The GOP is taking the kitchen sink approach to flipping the House. The latest attempt at gaining power features 91 Republicans filing for 100 offices.

Speaking to reporters following Gov. Matt Bevin’s budget address, House Speaker Greg Stumbo said that Democrats tried the approach before and did not find success. Instead, Stumbo said Democrats “are more laser like” in their approach.

Majority status has eluded the Republican Party in the lower chamber since 1921.

Escaping challenges

There are also the lucky few in the House and Senate who get to avoid the primary and general election by avoiding a challenger on filing day.

In the House 17 Republicans including Minority Floor Leader Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, escaped filing day without a challenge. Democrats weren’t that lucky with only eight Democrats going uncontested. Most Democrats escaping challengers lived in highly Democratic districts in Louisville and Lexington.

In the Senate there are nine unopposed elections.

A full review of the candidate filings is available on the Secretary of State’s website.

Correction: An earlier version of this article initially failed to list the 48th and 58th District races as open seats.

About Nick Storm

Nick Storm is the Anchor and Managing Editor of Pure Politics, the only nightly program dedicated to Kentucky politics. Nick covers all of the political heavyweights and his investigative work brings to light issues that might otherwise go unnoticed, like the connection between the high profile Steubenville, Ohio rape and a Kentucky hacker whose push for further investigation could put him in federal prison. Nick is also working on a feature length bio documentary Outlaw Poet: A documentary on Ron Whitehead. Follow Nick on Twitter @NickStorm_cn2. Nick can be reached at 502-792-1107 or



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