Twenty-six percent of contested state executive primaries in the Commonwealth of Kentucky since 2007 have been decided by five percentage points or less, including four where the winner’s margin of victory was less than one percent of total votes cast.
All four of the races decided by less than one percent during this time were Republican primaries, and all of them were for open seats in the general election.
These four primaries decided by less than one percent were:
- in 2007, the Republican primary for state treasurer was won by Melinda Wheeler by 1,107 votes, or 0.7 percent, over Lonnie Napier. In the general election that year, Todd Hollenbach (D) won the open-seat race over Wheeler.
- in 2011, the Republican primary for secretary of state was won by Bill Johnson by 1,108 votes, or 0.8 percent, over Hilda Legg. Johnson was defeated in the open-seat contest in the general election by current Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes (D).
- in 2015, Ryan Quarles won the Republican primary for agriculture commissioner by 1,429 votes, or 0.8 percent, over Richard Heath. Quarles then defeated Jean-Marie Lawson Spann (D) in the open-seat contest that November.
- in 2015, Matt Bevin won the Republican primary for governor by 83 votes out of more than 214,000 votes cast, or 0.04 percent, over then-Agriculture Commissioner James Comer. Bevin went on to win the open-seat governor’s race over Attorney General Jack Conway (D) in November 2015.
Kentucky elects six constitutional officers every four years – governor/lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state, treasurer, auditor, and commissioner of agriculture. Over the past three election cycles (2007, 2011, and 2015), 23 primaries held during this time were contested, an average of just under eight per year. In 2019, there are nine contested primary elections in Kentucky for these offices – four Republican and five Democratic – which will take place on May 21.
Click here to see a chart showing the distribution of the margin of victory in contested Kentucky state executive primaries from 2007 to 2015.