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Math Teacher Defeats Republican Leader In Statehouse Primary


A high school teacher has defeated Kentucky’s House majority leader in a Republican primary election, signaling the newfound voting power of teachers after lawmakers made changes to state worker pension benefits this year.

Travis Brenda is a 19-year teacher at Rockcastle County High School and won the 71st district GOP primary by just 123 votes.

During the campaign, Brenda attacked Rep. Jonathan Shell for helping craft the pension bill and tax reform package that passed into law this spring.

Shell was a rising star in the Republican Party. The 30 year-old helped recruit Republican candidates for House races in 2016, when the GOP took control of the chamber for the first time in nearly a century.

Brenda will face Democrat Mary Renfro of Berea in the general election.

More Teachers Advance

There are 40 educators running for the legislature this year. Of the 16 that had contested primary elections on Tuesday, seven have advanced to the general election.

Linda Story Edwards, a retired Marshall County teacher, will face Republican radio station and newspaper owner Chris Freeland in the general election for House District 6.

Ohio County Schools Superintendent Scott Lewis will face Democrat Elizabeth Belcher in the general election for House District 14.

Western Kentucky University history professor Patti Minter won a five-way primary. In the House District 20 general election she’ll face 28-year-old Republican Benjamin Lawson, an insurance salesman.

Retired Grayson County social studies teacher Tom Williamson will face Republican Rep. Jim DuPlessis in the general election for the 25th district.

Pyschology professor Lisa Wilner, a member of the Jefferson County Public Schools Board of Education, will face Republican Donna Lawlor in the 35th House District.

Owen County social studies teacher Jenny Urie will face Republican state Rep. Phillip Pratt in the general election for the 62nd House District.

Incumbents Defeated

Besides Rep. Jonathan Shell, there are three incumbent Republicans and one Democrat who lost races on Tuesday.

Republican Rep. Wesley Morgan of Richmond fell to businesswoman Deanna Frazier in the 81st district primary. Frazier will face Democrat Morgan Eaves in the general election.

Morgan was the first representative to call for former Republican House Speaker Jeff Hoover to resign last year mid a sexual harassment scandal and said he reported the scandal to the FBI.

Republican Rep. Tim Couch of Hyden lost to Leslie County Clerk James Lewis in the 90th district primary. No Democrat filed to run for the district.

Republican Rep. Lynn Bechler of Marion was defeated by Fred Stubblefield in the 4th district Republican primary. Stubblefield is an officer with the Republican Party of Kentucky and in the general election will face Democrat Abigail Barnes, an attorney from Livingston County.

Democratic Rep. Dennis Horlander, who has represented the 40th House district since 1996, lost to Nima Kulkarni, an immigration and employment law attorney from Louisville. Kulkarni will face Republican Joshua Neubert in the general election.

No Marriage License Showdown

In one of the only county clerk primary races to ever get national attention, the man who was denied a marriage license by Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis will not get to challenge her in the general election this year.

David Ermold lost the four-way Democratic primary for Rowan County Clerk to Elwood Caudill, even though he raised over $200,000 for his campaign with donations coming in from across the country.

Ermold, an English professor at the University of Pikeville, sued Davis when she refused to issue marriage licenses in the wake of the Supreme Court’s landmark same-sex marriage ruling.

Other Notable Races

Charles Booker has emerged as the victor in the crowded seven-way Democratic primary in the 43rd District seat held by retiring Democratic state Rep. Darryl Owens of Louisville.

Booker will face Republican Everett Corley, who two years ago attempted to block the removal of a Confederate monument from near University of Louisville’s campus.

Republican incumbent Michael Meredith of Oakland has won the GOP nomination for House district 19, even though he was one of four GOP lawmakers who signed a secret sexual harassment settlement with a former staffer last year.

The Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission dismissed a complaint against Meredith last month. He’ll face Democratic challenger Bill Fishback in the general election.

This story has been updated. 

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