Primary 2018: An early look at the top primary races to watch

02/13/2018 02:56 PM

The candidates have filed and there are a ton of them, 252 House candidates and 43 Senate candidates, and a ton of open seat races as both Democrats and Republicans have left office to seek other opportunities.

With the May 22 primary a few months away here is an early first glimpse at the contested primary races I think will be interesting to watch now, but there are some really interesting General Election races brewing in the background.

A couple of caveats to watch for on primary election day; the ballot will be long this year, and in some cases voters may experience some ballot fatigue and vote for the first name they see or the most recognizable name of a long list of candidates. A list of all ballot positions are available here.

In areas where an incumbent faces multiple challengers, the benefit will likely go to the incumbent as challengers are more likely to split support for ousting the incumbent.


32nd Dist. State Senate GOP Primary: held by Sen. Mike Wilson
Sen. Mike Wilson, R-Bowling Green, makes our list with a major primary challenge from two-term Magistrate Darrell Traughber in what could be a highly contested primary battle in the Warren County district. Wilson is the Senate Majority Whip, but several in leadership in the General Assembly are trying to protect their flank this election season.

The winner of the GOP primary will face Jeanie Smith, a seventh grade social studies teacher and Emerge Kentucky graduate.

38th Dist. Senate – GOP primary: held by Sen. Dan Seum
Sen. Dan Seum, R-Fairdale, has held this Bullitt and Jefferson Co. district for decades, but it’s a high ranking member of the Bullitt Co. Republican Party that is trying to unseat Seum. Paul Wesley Ham, the chairman of the Bullitt County Republican Party, will attempt to give Seum the boot in this winner-take-all primary.


3rd Dist. House – Republican primary: Open seat, Democrat held
There will be a general election for this seat which is currently held by out going Rep. Gerald Watkins, D-Paduchah, who has served philosophically conservative, particularly on social issues. There are two Republicans, Randy Bridges, who ran against Watkins in 2014, and Jodi Hoganscamp, vying to challenge Democratic candidate Martha Emmons, who is also an Emerge Kentucky graduate, in the partial McCracken Co. district.

Hoganscamp is the co-owner of Caring People Services in Paducah, she challenged Watkins in 2016, but failed to taking him out coming up with 44.6 percent of the vote. Bridges is a lifelong resident of McCracken County and a local realtor.

6th Dist. House – Republican and Democratic primary: Open seat, Democrat held
There’s a three-way Democratic primary and a two-way Republican primary in this seat that has been held by Rep. Will Coursey, D-Benton, who is seeking local office as Marshall County Judge-Executive.

There will be no geographical battles in these primaries with all of the contestants in the Democratic and Republican primary hailing from Benton. On the Democratic side, Al Cunningham, Linda Story Edwards and Drew Williams will face-off.

The Republican primary includes Randall Fox and Chris Freeland.

The district encompasses all of Lyon, all of Marshall and part of McCracken County.

17th Dist. House – Republican primary: Open seat, Republican held

Four Republican candidates are running in this open seat race to replace outgoing Rep. Jim DeCesare, R-Bowling Green, in the district that encompasses all of Butler and part of Warren County.

DeCesare is one of four lawmakers in the House who signed a secret sexual harassment settlement with a staffer. Rep. Brian Linder, who also took part in the settlement, also chose not to seek re-election. Two others who took part in the settlement, Rep. Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, is running unopposed, and Rep. Michael Meredith appears later in this list.

Warren County Republican Party Chairman David Graham, former Butler Co. candidate for Judge Executive Joey Franzell, first time candidate Steve Sheldon, the owner of Sheldon’s Express Pharmacy in Bowling Green, and Michael Wilson of Bowling Green, who is the Director of Facilities with Warren County Public Schools, are running in the GOP primary.

The winner of the primary will face Democratic candidate Malcolm Cherry, a local business owner who has sought elected office in the past, in the General Election.

19th Dist. House Republican and Democratic primary: Republican held

The 19th district is GOP held, but falls into a list that has become a theme throughout this report as Rep. Michael Meredith, R-Bowling Green, attempts to hold his seat amid revelations about the secret sexual harassment settlement with a female House staffer.

Meredith, R-Oakland, has held the seat encompassing Edmonson and part of Warren County since 2012, and he’s in for a fight in the primary against former two-term Bowling Green city commissioner Brian Strow. Strow is a professor of economics at Western Kentucky University.

There are two Democratic candidates in the district pretty evenly split between Democrats and Republicans according to voter registration data, according to statistics from the Secretary of State’s office. Daniel Wayne Johnson of Bowling Green and Jacob Moore of Brownville will face off in the primary to represent the Democratic Party.

20th Dist. House Democratic and Republican primary: Open seat, Democrat held

There’s a five-way Democratic primary to replace former House Speaker Jody Richards, D-Bowling Green, in the western Kentucky district. This Democratic primary will be interesting, and there are some top-tier contenders seeking to replace the 40-year incumbent.

Two elected officials will appear in the Democratic field, Bowling Green City Commissioner Brian “Slim” Nash and former Bowling Green Mayor Eldon John Renaud. Rounding out the five-person primary is Rick DuBose, a former WKU assistant vice president for alumni relations who is now retired, Patti Minter an Emrge Kentucky graduate and professor at WKU, and Ashlea Shepherd Porter, an attorney.

On the Republican side of the aisle three from the GOP are seeking their Republican Party nomination. Todd Alcott, JROTC instructor at Warren East High School, faces Troy Brooks, a former attorney and business consultant, and Benjamin Lawson, who works in the insurance industry with Van Meter Insurance.

35th Dist. House Democratic primary: Open seat, Democrat held
There is an extremely high likelihood that whoever becomes the Democratic nominee in this solidly Democratic district will go on to become the state Representative in November. This primary is the result of Rep. Jim Wayne, D-Louisivlle, exit from the General Assembly at the end of the year.

Three-Democrats will face each other in the primary. Union organizer Richard Becker faces Democratic campaign consultant Jack Walker, who has served the Kentucky Democratic Party State Central Executive Committee, and Lisa Willner the Jefferson County Public Schools board vice chair.

The winner of the primary will face Republican Donna Lawlor.

43rd Dist. House Democratic primary: Open seat, Democrat held
The largest primary of the season is taking place in Louisville as seven Democrats have crowded the field to replace Rep. Darryl Owens, D-Louisville, who is retiring after 13 years in Frankfort.

Phil Baker and Charles Booker, two former candidates from the 2016 primary election field, make the list of those seeking to replace Owens. Booker primaried mentor Sen. Gerald Neal, D-Louisville, in 2016, and Baker competed in a three-way primary for the 41st House Dist. seat, losing to current Rep. Attica Scott.

The Democratic field also includes: Jackson Andrews, Dre Dawson, Mark Mitchell, Kathleen Parks, and Pamela Stevenson.

Two Republicans also filed to compete in the race: Evertt Corley, who Insider Louisville reports “is known for his opposition to removing Confederate statues and calling UofL professor Dr. Ricky Jones a “damn dirty black bastard.” Republican Denise Raine is also running in the GOP primary.

88th Dist. Democratic and Republican primary: Open seat, Republican held
With the surprise announcement from Rep. Robert Benvenuti, R-Lexington, created a three-way Democratic and Republican primary.

On the GOP side of the aisle, former Rep. Bill Farmer, who was the defacto tax man for the Republicans in the House from 2003 to 2012, when he stepped down will try and rejoin the legislature. Farmer faces Ashley Boggs Bruggeman who serves on the Humanities Council and Jennifer McVay Martin a Lexington lawyer who has navigated the political fray before challenging Judge Kathy Stein for Fayette County Family Court.

On the Democratic side of the aisle chairman of Lexington Fairness Josh Mers has filed for the open seat. Mers faces Cherlynn Stevenson, a retiree and former school teacher and Gail Swanson, a psychology professor at Bluegrass Community & Technical College in Lexington.

90th Dist. Republican primary: Republican held, winner-take-all
Republican Rep. Tim Couch, of Hyden, will be facing off against Derek Lewis, of London, a small business owner, president of the Hyden-Leslie Chamber of Commerce, as well as a member of the ARH Regional Board, Trails of Leslie County, Housing Development Alliance, and the Leslie County Community Foundation.

Couch has held the district which encompasses all of Clay, Leslie and part of Laurel County since 2003.

This list will be updated as the May 22 primary approaches.

Nick Storm

Nick Storm is the Anchor and Managing Editor of Pure Politics available exclusively on Spectrum News. Pure Politics is 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 his coverage of the backlog of DNA rape kits waiting to be tested in Kentucky. Nick is also working on a feature length bio documentary Outlaw Poet: A documentary on Ron Whitehead. Pure Politics airs weeknight at 7 and 11:30 on Spectrum News. Follow Nick on Twitter @NStorm_Politics. Nick can be reached at 502-792-1107 or



  • Honest Parley wrote on February 14, 2018 10:49 AM :

    What is most interesting in the issue of the 2018 primaries is what is not included in Mr. Storm’s analysis. The most important long-term issues do not involve which candidate prevails, but rather the number of Kentuckians who will have no right to help decide who represents them in the state legislature because of Kentucky’s archaic closed primary system. Kentucky is one of nine states with closed primaries. What this means to Kentuckians is of profound importance, and worthy of Mr. Storm’s attention, to say the least.

    Consider the facts: according to voter registration statistics readily available from the Secretary of State’s website, in the upcoming primaries, thousands of Kentuckians will be denied the right to choose who represents them.

    In the 17th State House District, the race will be decided in the Republican primary, meaning that 12,968 registered Democrats, 1,391 registered as “other,” 880 independents, 79 Libertarians, 21 Green Party members, 1 Constitutional Party member and 1 Socialist Worker Party member will have no voice in deciding who represents them in the state House of Representatives.

    In the 90th district, the race will also be decided in the Republican Primary, leaving 4,777 Democrats, 646 “others,” 405 Independents, 33 Libertarians, 12 Greens, 2 Constitutional Partiers and 1 Reform Party member with no voice in who represents them in the state House of Representatives.

    In the 38th state Senate district, the race will also be decided in the Republican Primary. 43,546 Democrats, 6,147 “others,” 2,395 Independents, 232 Libertarians, 41 Greens, 20 Constitutional Partiers, 1 Reform, and 1 Socialist Workers party member are disenfranchised from deciding who their next state senator will be.

    All told in state legislative primary elections and in primary elections for the federal House of Representatives, 181,270 “others,” 87,383 Independents, 7896 Libertarians, 1752 Greens, 474 Constitutional Partiers, 88 Reform Partiers and 112 Socialist Worker Partiers – all Kentucky citizens, will be without a voice in any primary election in the Commonwealth.

    Combine these numbers with the number of convicted felons who are stripped of their civil rights and disenfranchised, 312,046 or 9.14% of the state’s population (which ranks Kentucky third highest in the nation, by the way), 493,316 Kentuckians are institutionally disenfranchised from deciding who represents them in Congress, the state House and the state Senate.

    Of course none of this matters to most who are not among the disenfranchised, the 3,038,895 Kentuckians who identify as members of two increasingly polarized and wholly ineffective political parties. And remember, the US Constitution guarantees us the freedom of association, meaning that we should not have to associate with political parties that are not even mentioned in the Constitution in order to practice our constitutional civil rights.

  • Geoff Young for Congress wrote on February 14, 2018 11:06 AM :

    When are you going to interview me for an article about the “Democratic” primary for the US House of Representatives against Andy Barr? All 5 of my “Democratic” opponents are virulently pro-war, as is Barr himself.(859) 278-4966

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