Kentucky primary election results are in. Takeaways after voting

Primary races decided Tuesday night around Kentucky have set the table for the general election in November.

While no U.S. congressional incumbents faced much of a challenge, plenty of state House and Senate races presented a closer look at key trends to watch in the coming months, with a higher-than-average turnout this fall likely with a presidential race on the ballot.

From races in Louisville to other notable wins across the commonwealth, here are a few takeaways to note as election season shifts to the fall:

Experience trumps youth… some of the time

Two candidates who ran on experience came out with resounding wins over challengers who branded their campaigns as opportunities for voters to send new voices to Frankfort.

Mary Lou Marzian will represent Democrats this fall in the race for House District 41 after landing 71% of the vote over challenger Rick Adams. Meanwhile, longtime Senate Minority Leader Gerald Neal will retain his seat after landing 55% of the vote against Attica Scott, a former representative who argued Senate District 33 needed a fresh face in office.

Adams, a 32-year-old attorney for the Kentucky Democratic Party who’s also done some legal work for The Courier Journal, had argued voters “won’t get the change that we need with old ideas from glory days past.” Marzian, who ran with the campaign slogan “experience matters,” previously served in Frankfort from 1994 through 2022, when she stepped aside after redistricting pitted her against another incumbent state representative.

Marzian is set to face Republican candidate Sara-Elizabeth Cottrell, who ran unopposed in the primary, in the general election.

Scott is a bit older than Adams at 52 but ran an energetic campaign against Neal, who has been in the Senate since 1989 and won a 10th term in Frankfort. She had said the West Louisville district needed a “different way of leading” at the Capitol, though Neal argued his bipartisan relationships are necessary when an opposing party controls the legislature.

No Republicans are seeking the seat, clearing the way for Neal to win again in November.

Still, not every older candidate was as fortunate. C. Ed Massey, a former Republican state representative in Boone County who’d touted his experience on the campaign trail, was walloped by 26-year-old challenger T.J. Roberts, who ran to his right and landed 72% of the vote.

Give me Liberty

It was a big night for the GOP’s “Liberty” wing. Those candidates, who generally run further to the right than Republican centrists, were successful in several races.

Roberts rolled in his race — he celebrated the win at an election party for U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie, who also won his primary, along with other like-minded candidates such as incumbent Reps. Savannah Maddox, Felicia Rabourn and Steven Doan. Each member of that trio won their primaries, as well.

There were other wins, too. Most notable may be the victory of Thomas Jefferson — a Jessamine County Republican who’s never held state office — over incumbent Rep. Killian Timoney, a GOP representative known for crossing party lines in some votes. Jefferson, who raised just over $14,000 to Timoney’s nearly $30,000, is set to face Lexington Democrat Adam Moore in November.

Still, in a state with 100 House seats on the ballot along with several Senate seats, some losses were inevitable. Kelcey Rock, for instance, was unable to pull off a win over incumbent Rep. Michael Meredith, an Edmonson County Republican who chairs the House’s Banking and Insurance Committee.

At least 10 candidates officially supported by the Liberty Caucus came away with wins in Tuesday’s election. Several others not included in this count ran unopposed.

An ‘uncommitted’ presidential race

While U.S. President Joe Biden handily won the Democratic nomination in Kentucky, the percentage of those who voted “uncommitted” soared compared to the commonwealth’s last presidential primary. The uncommitted parade was in line with a nationwide trend of voters using this year’s election cycle as a means of protest amid Israel’s war in Gaza.

In the 2020 primary election, 10.8% of Democratic primary voters selected the “uncommitted” option. That figure jumped to 17.8% this year, as Biden faces criticism from some Democrats across the U.S. for not doing more to stop the conflict in the Middle East. By comparison, just 3.5% of GOP voters in Kentucky chose “uncommitted,” as likely nominee Donald Trump landed about 85% of the vote.

While Biden still secured the Democratic nomination for Kentucky with more than 71%, some pro-Palestinian political organizers believe voters’ use of the uncommitted ballot option can send a key signal to the current administration, as Our Revolution executive director Joseph Geevarghese previously told USA TODAY.

“In order for Democrats to defeat Donald Trump in November, Biden must realign with his voter base and listen to the diverse, progressive voices urging him to change course in Gaza,” Geevarghese said. “And until he does, we will continue showing up, speaking out and activating Our Revolution’s 8 million grassroots members across the country to use their ballot to demand change.”

Primary elections aren’t a big deal for Kentucky’s congressmen

There was some drama in state House and Senate races. There was none in races for Kentucky’s six seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Three incumbents ran unopposed in the primaries. Three others who were on the ballot, meanwhile, cruised to wins — Louisville Democrat Morgan McGarvey landed 84% of the vote, while Northern Kentucky Republican Thomas Massie scored 76% of votes in his race and Southeastern Kentucky Republican Hal Rogers ended up with about 82% in his race.

The results aren’t surprising. McGarvey has been in office for only one term but did not face much opposition from his two challengers, while Kentucky’s five other U.S. representatives have all been in office for more than a decade and are well-heeled in their districts. They’re all likely to head into November’s election as heavy favorites against their opposition.

Always check your work

State Rep. Nima Kulkarni, a Louisville Democrat, won her primary against relatively unknown challenger William Zeitz and is currently not set to run against a Republican in November. Whether she’ll be eligible to take office, though, is another story.

Kulkarni’s eligibility is currently in the hands of the state Supreme Court, which will consider a lawsuit that claimed she should not be on the ballot due to an issue with her nomination paperwork. That chamber will hear arguments in the case next month as it reviews a court of appeals ruling earlier in May that would have removed her from the ballot.

Kulkarni isn’t the only one who’s run into similar issues in recent years. Kimberly Holloway, a Republican running in House District 2, was disqualified ahead of a 2022 run for office due to a similar issue. She’s running again in 2024 and landed a win in Tuesday’s primary over incumbent Rep. Richard Heath.

Kulkarni’s case will be heard in the state Supreme Court on June 6.

Reach The Courier Journal’s politics team at [email protected].


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