Northern Kentucky House committee chairmen lose primaries; Rep. Burch ousted in Louisville

Three Republican House committee chairmen from Northern Kentucky lost their seats to challengers in the primary election Tuesday, while a 24-term incumbent in Louisville lost his Democratic primary to an opponent half his age.

Reps. Adam Koenig, Ed Massey and Sal Santoro were all defeated by candidates from the small-government "liberty" movement, who fielded challengers to a number of Republican incumbents in that region and Central Kentucky.

In House District 69, Koenig lost 54% to 46% to challenger Steven Doan, who received financial support and independent expenditures from several liberty groups, along with endorsements from ideologically aligned U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie and state Rep. Savannah Maddox — who is considering a run for governor next year.

Rep. Adam Koenig, R-Erlanger
Rep. Adam Koenig, R-Erlanger

Koenig — an eight-term incumbent from Erlanger — is the chairman of the House Licensing and Occupations committee and the lead proponent of a bill to legalize, regulate and tax sports gaming in Kentucky.

More: Kentucky state Sen. Morgan McGarvey wins Democratic primary for Rep. John Yarmuth's seat

In House District 66, Rep. Ed Massey — the Republican chairman of the House Judiciary committee from Hebron — lost 69% to 31% to primary challenger Steve Rawlings.

Massey faced a barrage of critical ads from the Commonwealth Educational Opportunities PAC over his votes against impeaching Gov. Andy Beshear because of his pandemic orders and two school choice bills in the past two sessions — including one to create a funding stream for charter schools and mandate the creation of a new charter school in his Northern Kentucky region.

Rep. Sal Santoro, an eight-term incumbent and chairman of the transportation budget committee, lost 52% to 48% to challenger Marianne Proctor, despite his campaign raising more than $122,000, much of which was from road contractors.

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Santoro had unsuccessfully championed a bill to modernize or increase Kentucky's gas tax and vehicle fees to beef up state road revenues, which was opposed by small-government groups.

Not all liberty challengers to Republican incumbents were successful, as two candidates who petitioned to impeach Beshear in 2021 lost their primary races.

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In House District 55, six-term Rep. Kim King, R-Harrodsburg, won 54% to 46% over Tony Wheatley — the founder and president of conservative advocacy group Constitutional Kentucky, who was one of three to petition to impeach Beshear and run for the legislature against a GOP incumbent.

King — a social conservative who in 2020 spoke at one of the first large rallies outside the Capitol in Frankfort to protest Beshear's pandemic rules — faced criticism from anti-mandate activists for being one of the unanimous votes in the special impeachment committee against referring the petition to the full House.

King also fended off negative advertisements from the Commonwealth Educational Opportunities PAC for opposing a legislative measure that would have prohibited private employers from requiring their employees be vaccinated against COVID-19, calling such governmental restrictions akin to "tyranny."

Tony Clark, another impeachment petitioner, lost 57% to 43% to Rep. Samara Heavin, R-Leitchfield, in House District 18, while the third impeachment petitioner — Andrew Cooperrider — lost a high-profile and expensive race in the Senate.

Louisville Democratic incumbents hold on

The longest-serving member of the Kentucky General Assembly will not return to Frankfort next year, as 24-term, 90-year-old Rep. Tom Burch, D-Louisville, lost 45-42% to primary challenger Daniel Grossberg.

The Democratic primary race for House District 30 served as a rematch between Burch and Grossberg, who also ran in 2020 and lost by 18 percentage points.

Grossberg had loaned his campaign more than $100,000, criticizing Burch for missing many votes during the 2022 legislative session when he missed two weeks with an illness.

Rep. Tom Burch speaks against SB 205, JCPS superintendent authority, during House session in the State Capitol in Frankfort on Tuesday, March 12, 2019.
Rep. Tom Burch speaks against SB 205, JCPS superintendent authority, during House session in the State Capitol in Frankfort on Tuesday, March 12, 2019.

Burch faced criticism from some Jewish groups over the wording of one mailer highlighting Grossberg's loan to his campaign, which stated: "Don't let them buy our district."

More: Republican Bill Dieruf, Democrat Craig Greenberg win Louisville mayoral primary elections

In House District 43, first-term Rep. Pamela Stevenson, D-Louisville, held on to win 53% to 47% over primary challenger Robert Levertis Bell, a leader in the Louisville chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America who criticized the incumbent for supporting a new TIF initiative in the majority-Black area of West Louisville.

Stevenson supported and voted for the creation of the West End Opportunity Partnership, designed to spur economic development projects and reinvestment in the area, but Bell's campaign criticized it as "a scam to extract value from our communities."

Rep. Pamela Stevenson, D-Louisville, speaks in support of House Bill 136, a bill relating to medical cannabis, in the House.
Rep. Pamela Stevenson, D-Louisville, speaks in support of House Bill 136, a bill relating to medical cannabis, in the House.

A Republican candidate did not file in either race to face Grossberg or Stevenson in the general election.

In the Democratic primary for House District 34 to replace the retiring longtime Rep. Mary Lou Marzian, D-Louisville, nonprofit director Sarah Stalker won 61% to 39% over Jefferson County Public Schools policymaker Jonathan Lowe. With no Republican opponent in the general election, she will be assured the seat in Frankfort next year.

In the Democratic primary for House District 31, local AFSCME chapter president Sue Foster won 64% to 36% against progressive minister Derek Penwell of Douglass Boulevard Christian Church.

Louisville House open GOP races

In the high-spending three-way GOP primary to replace the retiring Rep. Jerry Miller in southeast Louisville's House District 36, Massie-endorsed John Hodgson won with 48% of the vote, trailed by David Howser with 35% and Richard Crawford with 17%.

Hodgson will not face a Democratic opponent in the fall.

In the Republican primary for House District 41, Carrie McKeehan won with 45% of the vote, followed by Sara-Elizabeth Cottrell with 33% and Bryan Shepherd with 22%.

McKeehan will face incumbent Rep. Josie Raymond, D-Louisville, in the general election.

In the GOP primary for House District 31, Susan Witten won 77% to 23% over Flint Breckinridge, while Republican Emily Callaway Susan defeated Jimmy Maricle 63% to 37% in the primary for House District 37.

GOP incumbents face off against each other

In a race between two Republican legislators who were both redistricted into House District 12, 14-term incumbent Rep. Jim Gooch, R-Providence, held onto his seat with a 55% to 45% victory over five-term incumbent Rep. Lynn Bechler, R-Marion.

In another race between two other GOP incumbents forced to run against each other due to redistricting, two-term Rep. Bobby McCool, R-Van Lear, defeated first-term Rep. Norma Kirk-McCormick, R-Inez, 60% to 40%.

In a primary race that pit members of Kentucky's Republican congressional delegation on different sides, first-term incumbent Rep. Bill Wesley, R-Ravenna, won 63% to 37% over challenger Darrell Billings.

Wesley received campaign contributions from the leadership PACs of Massie and U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, while Billings received support from the PACs of U.S. Reps. Andy Barr and James Comer, along with the endorsement of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce.

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This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Northern Kentucky House GOP incumbents knocked off in primary election