Stories about Kentucky

Two incumbents defeated in Kentucky state legislative primaries so far

On June 23, 2020, voters across Kentucky cast their ballots in the state’s legislative primaries.

In total, there were six party primaries for state Senate seats and 32 primaries in the state House. By partisan affiliation, there were 13 Democratic primaries and 25 Republican primaries for a total of 38, a decrease from the 51 primaries held in 2018. Overall, the total number of major party candidates seeking state legislative offices in Kentucky has decreased from 289 in 2018 to 242 this year. Democrats experienced a greater decrease in candidates, down from 150 in 2018 to 106 in 2020. There were 136 Republican candidates this year, down from 139 in 2018.

Seventeen incumbents are not seeking re-election in 2020, three in the Senate and 14 in the House. In the Senate, one incumbent was defeated, so of the 19 seats up for election, 15 will feature an incumbent in the general election. One incumbent was also defeated in the House with one race remaining too close to call as of July 2. This means that of the 100 seats up this year, at least 84 will feature incumbents in the general election.

Incumbents defeated in the primary:

• Sen. Albert Robinson (R), Senate District 21
• Rep. Les Yates (R), House District 73

As of July 2, the primary between first-term incumbent Rep. R. Travis Brenda (R) and Josh Bray (R) remained too close to call. On July 1, Brenda officially requested a canvas of the vote after initial results showed Bray with 50.2 percent of the vote to Brenda’s 49.8 percent, a 30-vote margin.

Heading into the general election, Republicans hold a 29-9 majority in the Senate and a 61-37 majority in the House. In Kentucky, a simple majority of votes in each chamber is required to override a gubernatorial veto. In 2019, Andy Beshear (D) was elected governor, making Kentucky one of the 14 states with divided government. General election winners will be responsible for redrawing district lines after the 2020 census. In Kentucky, the legislature is responsible for drafting congressional and state legislative district plans, both of which are subject to gubernatorial veto.

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McGrath wins Democratic primary for U.S. Senate in Kentucky

Amy McGrath won the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate in Kentucky and will face Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) in the Nov. 3 general election.

With 99% of precincts reporting, McGrath had 45% of the vote to state Rep. Charles Booker’s 43%. Eight other candidates were on the ballot. The race was called Tuesday, a week following the election, as counties finished counting absentee ballots.

McGrath had raised $41 million as of June 3—more than any other U.S. Senate candidate nationally. The Senate candidate with the second-highest total was McConnell with $33 million. Two other Senate candidates nationally had raised more than $20 million; Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) with $31 million and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) with $21 million.

Among McGrath’s Democratic primary opponents, Charles Booker raised the second-highest amount of $793,000.

McGrath describes herself as progressive on some issues and conservative on others. She supports improving the Affordable Care Act and gradually increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour. Booker ran as a progressive, backing Medicare for All, an immediate minimum wage increase to $15 an hour, and a universal basic income.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, VoteVets, and more than a dozen unions were among McGrath’s endorsers. Booker’s endorsers included Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), the Working Families Party, and the Sunrise Movement.

McConnell was first elected in 1984. Kentucky last elected a Democrat to the Senate in 1992.

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Voters decide state-level races in Kentucky, New York, South Carolina

On June 23, 2020, Kentucky and New York held primaries for state-level offices, and South Carolina held state legislative primary runoff elections. Candidates competed to advance to the general election scheduled for November 3, 2020.

In Kentucky, 19 state Senate seats and all 100 state House seats were on the ballot, along with one state supreme court seat and one state intermediate appellate court seat. 104 incumbents filed for re-election.

A special general election was held in District 26 of the Kentucky State Senate. The seat became vacant when Ernie Harris (R) retired from the legislature on April 15, 2020.

In New York, 63 state Senate seats and all 150 state Assembly seats were on the ballot, and 179 incumbents filed for re-election.

State legislative special elections in New York were scheduled to take place in one state Senate district and three state Assembly districts. On April 24, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo canceled the special elections. Those seats will remain vacant until the general election on November 3.

South Carolina held primary runoffs for races in which a candidate did not receive a majority of votes in the primary election, which took place on June 9. Eleven races were on the primary runoff ballot, including eight state House seats and three state Senate seats.

Kentucky and New York’s statewide primaries were the 24th and 25th to take place in the 2020 election cycle. Virginia also held a statewide primary for congressional offices. The next statewide primaries are on June 30, 2020, in Colorado, Utah, and Oklahoma.

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Massie defeats challenger McMurtry in KY-04

Incumbent Thomas Massie defeated challenger Todd McMurtry in the Republican primary for Kentucky’s 4th Congressional District. As of 9:30 p.m. Eastern Time, Massie had received 88.2% of the vote to McMurtry’s 11.8%. McMurtry was Massie’s first primary challenger since he was elected in 2012. Election forecasters project Massie is a solid favorite to defeat the Democratic nominee in November.

Kentucky and New York to hold state legislative and judicial primaries

Kentucky and New York are holding regularly scheduled primaries for state-level offices on June 23.

In Kentucky, there are primaries being held for 19 state Senate seats, all 100 state House seats, one state supreme court seat, and one state intermediate appellate court seat. A special general election is being held in District 26 of the Kentucky State Senate.

In New York, primaries are taking place in all 63 state Senate seats and all 150 state Assembly seats. State legislative special elections in New York were also originally scheduled to take place in one state Senate district and three state Assembly districts, but Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) canceled the special elections on April 24. Those seats will remain vacant until the general election on November 3.

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3 states holding primaries for 42 congressional seats on June 23

Three states are holding primaries on June 23, 2020. Forty-two congressional seats will be on the ballot, including two U.S. Senate seats and 40 U.S. House seats.

The following seats will be on the ballot in Kentucky:
• 1 U.S. Senate seat
• 6 U.S. House seats

The following seats will be on the ballot in New York:
• 27 U.S. House seats

The following seats will be on the ballot in Virginia:
• 1 U.S. Senate seat
• 7 U.S. House seats

Four of Virginia’s 11 U.S. House seats—Districts 7, 8, 9, and 10—are not on the ballot because they are either holding conventions instead of primaries or their primaries were canceled due to lack of opposition.

Entering the November 2020 general election, the U.S. Senate has 45 Democrats, 53 Republicans, and two independents who caucus with the Democratic Party. Thirty-five of the 100 U.S. Senate seats are up for election, including two seats up for special election. A majority in the chamber requires 51 seats. The U.S. House of Representatives has 233 Democrats, 197 Republicans, one Libertarian, and four vacancies. All 435 U.S. House seats are up for election. A majority in the chamber requires 218 seats.

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Special election to be held June 23 for Kentucky Senate seat

A special election is being held on June 23 for District 26 of the Kentucky State Senate. Karen Berg (D) and Bill Ferko (R) are running in the special election. Party county executive committees choose nominees for state legislative special elections in Kentucky.

The seat became vacant when Ernie Harris (R) retired from the legislature on April 15. Harris had represented the district since 1995. He last won re-election in 2018, defeating Berg in the general election with 51.8 percent of the vote.

Heading into the special election, Republicans have a 28-9 majority in the Kentucky Senate with one vacancy. Kentucky has a divided government, and no political party holds a state government trifecta. A trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and majorities in both state legislative chambers.

Regularly scheduled elections are being held in odd-numbered Kentucky State Senate districts in 2020. A primary is being held on June 23. The general election will be held on November 3.

As of June, 47 state legislative special elections have been scheduled for 2020 in 24 states. Between 2011 and 2019, an average of 77 special elections took place each year.

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McNeill appointed to Kentucky’s intermediate appellate court until special election

Gov. Andy Beshear (D) appointed public defender Chris McNeill to the Kentucky Court of Appeals on April 22 to serve the remainder of former appellate judge Christopher Nickell’s term. Nickells resigned after he was appointed to the Kentucky Supreme Court in December 2019.

At the time of his appointment, McNeill had already declared his candidacy in the special election to fill Nickells’ former position, the Division 1 chair on the bench in the court’s 1st Appellate District. The primary in the special election is scheduled for June 23 and the special general election will take place on November 3. Pending the results of the election, McNeill will serve at least until Nickells’ term ends on January 3, 2021.

The Kentucky Court of Appeals is the intermediate appellate court in Kentucky. Prior to a 1975 amendment to the Kentucky Constitution that created the Kentucky Supreme Court, the Kentucky Court of Appeals was the only appellate court in the state. Appellate courts are defined as courts having the power to review the decisions of lower courts or tribunals. In Kentucky, the court of last resort is the Kentucky Supreme Court.

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Beshear appoints judge to Fayette County District Court

Kentucky Gov Andy Beshear (D) appointed prior Fayette County commonwealth’s attorney Melissa Moore Murphy to serve on the Fayette County District Court on April 16. Murphy was a candidate for the vacant seat on the Fayette County Court created by Judge Julie Goodman’s appointment to the Fayette County Circuit Court.

Murphy has served as a special assistant U.S. attorney for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, assistant McCracken County commonwealth’s attorney, and as an attorney with the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government’s law department. In 2018, Murphy ran for a seat on Kentucky’s 22nd District Court. She was defeated by John Tackett.

Murphy will be sworn into office and assume her place on the Fayette County district court bench on April 24, 2020. She will serve the remainder of Goodman’s term set to end at the end of the year. Murphy will need to run for re-election for her seat in Kentucky’s November election. She is currently the only candidate running for the district court’s fourth division seat.

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Kentucky voters to decide constitutional amendment changing the terms and requirements for certain judicial offices

On the last day of its legislative session, the Kentucky General Assembly certified the Terms of Judicial Offices Amendment for the November ballot. The amendment would make the following changes to the Kentucky Constitution:

  • increase the terms of circuit court clerks and commonwealth’s attorneys from six years to eight years starting in 2030;
  • increase the terms of county attorneys and district judges from four years to eight years starting in 2022; and
  • change attorney licensing requirements for district attorneys from two years to eight years beginning in 2022.

The amendment was sponsored by Republican Representatives Jason Nemes, Derek Lewis, C. Ed Massey, and House Speaker David Osborne. It was approved by the Kentucky House of Representatives on March 18, 2020, in a vote of 76-7 with 17 not voting. After suspending its legislative session for a week due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Kentucky Senate reconvened and approved the amendment in a vote of 25-7, with six not voting, before the legislature adjourned on April 15.

The legislature referred to the November ballot one other amendment—the Marsy’s Law Crime Victims Rights Amendment. The amendment would add to the Kentucky Constitution specific rights for crime victims, together known as Marsy’s Law. Kentucky voters approved a Marsy’s Law amendment in 2018 with 63 percent of the vote, but it was overturned in KACDL v. Grimes and Board of Elections. Marsy’s Law amendments have received voter approval in 13 other states.

The Kentucky State Legislature can refer statewide ballot measures, in the form of constitutional amendments, to the general election ballot in even-numbered years. Kentucky requires a 60 percent vote in each legislative chamber during one legislative session to refer a constitutional amendment to the ballot. That amounts to a minimum of 60 votes in the Kentucky House of Representatives and 23 votes in the Kentucky State Senate, assuming no vacancies. Amendments do not require the governor’s signature to be referred to the ballot.

In Kentucky, citizens do not have the power to initiate statewide initiatives or referendums, which means Kentucky’s ballot measures are finalized for 2020.

From 1995 to 2018, 10 measures appeared on statewide ballots in Kentucky. Nine were approved, and one was defeated.

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