LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Candidates in Kentucky's May 17 primary are hoping for the chance to earn their party’s nominations in federal, state and local races.
In his pursuit of a third Senate term, Rand Paul has made a name for himself as a national voice for a libertarian-leaning philosophy based on limited government and restrained spending. Paul has drawn five little-known Republican challengers in the Kentucky May primary.
Former state lawmaker Charles Booker of Louisville is the clear frontrunner on the Democratic side. Booker gained attention for his racial and economic justice message amid nationwide protests over the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other Black Americans in encounters with police. Booker barely lost the Democratic Senate primary that year to an establishment-backed rival.
Paul has amassed a huge fundraising advantage and is heavily favored to win reelection in November. Kentucky has not elected a Democrat to the U.S. Senate since Wendell Ford in 1992.
Paul is running against Republicans Arnold Blankenship of Ashland, Val Fredrick of Murray, Paul Hamilton of Nicholasville, Tami Steinfield of Marion and perennial candidate John Schiess. Along with Booker, the Democrats in the field are Ruth Gao and Joshua Blanton Sr., of Louisville, and John Merrill from McKee.
With the only Democrat representing Kentucky in Congress retiring, two Kentucky progressive state legislators are on the ballot for the Louisville-area 3rd district nomination.
Sen. Morgan McGarvey and Rep. Attica Scott share many of Rep. John Yarmuth’s progressive stances but come from very different backgrounds. Scott, a Black woman, is a community organizer and former Louisville metro councilwoman. McGarvey, a white attorney, is a top-ranking Democrat in the Republican-dominated Kentucky Senate.
The 3rd District remained intact under the GOP’s new redistricting plan and is far more diverse than other parts of Kentucky. It covers most of Jefferson County, where white residents make up nearly two-thirds of the district’s population and black residents account for around 20%, according to census figures.
McGarvey and Scott agree on many progressive issues, including Medicare for All, decriminalizing marijuana, and both want to see Congress pass more laws to fight climate change. They also want universal pre-K and to legalize both medical and recreational marijuana use.
Two pairs of Republican state lawmakers will compete for the same House seat after redistricting landed them in the same new district.
State Reps. Jim Gooch Jr. and Lynn Bechler are running against each other in the primary for a newly drawn western Kentucky district. Gooch is chair of the House Natural Resources and Energy Committee, and Bechler is a member of the influential House Appropriations and Revenue Committee and presides over a budget review subcommittee.
In the other primary pitting two state lawmakers against one another, Reps. Norma Kirk-McCormick and Bobby McCool are facing off in a new eastern Kentucky district.
Among the incumbents facing primary challenges are three prominent House members from northern Kentucky — Reps. C. Ed Massey, Sal Santoro and Adam Koenig. In central Kentucky, Republican Rep. Kim King and GOP Sen. Donald Douglas drew opponents.
In the state Senate, 19 seats are on the ballot this year. In more than a half-dozen districts, a lone Republican is running unopposed, while in two more districts only GOP candidates are competing.
The race for Louisville Mayor attracted national headlines earlier this year when a man drew a gun and shot at one of the Democratic candidates in his campaign office.
Louisville mayoral candidate Craig Greenberg was shaken but not harmed in the Feb. 14 shooting, though a bullet came so close it damaged his sweater. A local social justice activist has been charged in the attempted shooting.
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer is ending his third four-year term as mayor.
Greenberg is one of eight in the Democratic primary, which includes Jefferson County Circuit Clerk David Nicholson, community activist Shameka Parrish-Wright and pastor Tim Findley Jr.
The four Republicans are led by Jeffersontown Mayor Bill Dieruf, though a Republican has not held the mayor's office in Kentucky's largest city in several decades.
Lexington also has a mayor's race, with four candidates including incumbent Linda Gorton on the ballot. Its ballot is nonpartisan, with the two top vote-getters slated to face off in a general election.
VOTING IN KENTUCKY
Kentuckians have four ways to cast their ballot in the 2022 May primaries.
Three days of early voting for the primary election got underway Thursday at designated polling places across Kentucky. The state also allowed excused absentee early voting from May 4 to 6 and May 9 to 11.
Mail-in absentee ballots were due on May 3.
Polls will be open on the day of the May 17 primary from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. local time.
Dylan Lovan, The Associated Press