Low Turnout, Few Surprises In Primary Election

May 23, 2012

FRANKFORT, Ky. - As Kentucky Secretary of State Allison Lundergan Grimes predicted, most registered voters opted not to cast a ballot on Tuesday.  Races that were decided held few surprises as well. 

Here's a roundup of results:

Mitt Romney easily won the Kentucky Republican presidential primary, inching closer to the GOP nomination for president. A total of 75 delegates were at stake in Kentucky and Arkansas. Romney started the day with 992 delegates _ 152 shy of the 1,144 needed to claim the nomination.

On the Democratic side, 58% of the party faithful cast a ballot for incumbent Barack Obama, while 42% checked the "uncommitted" box instead.

Republican Andy Barr has earned the right to a rematch against Democratic U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler in this fall's general election by besting his GOP opponents in Tuesday's 6th District primary.

Barr lost a squeaker to Chandler two years ago and has been planning the sequel ever since. He swamped fellow Republicans Patrick Kelly and Curtis Kenimer on Tuesday.

In other fall congressional races, Republican incumbent Ed Whitfield will face Democrat Charles Hatchett in the 1st District. Republican incumbent Brett Guthrie will face Democrat David Lynn Williams in the 2nd. Democratic incumbent John Yarmuth will face Republican Brooks Wicker in the 3rd. Republican nominee Thomas Massie will face Democrat Bill Adkins in the 4th. And Republican incumbent Hal Rogers will face Democrat Kenneth Stepp in the 5th.

A trio of Republican state senators fended off spirited tea party challengers in Tuesday's primary election, while a House member who switched party affiliation after winning two years ago lost his bid for another term.

State Rep. Wade Hurt, a former Republican, lost the Democratic nomination to Jeff Donohue in the 37th District in Louisville.

Two years ago, Donohue was disqualified from the election after a judge found problems with his candidate filing.

As a result, Hurt won without opposition as a Republican that year, then switched his affiliation to the Democrats who control the House. He said at the time that the district would be better represented by a Democrat.

Hurt was the only incumbent state lawmaker to lose in Tuesday's election.

Fewer than one-third of the legislative seats up for election this year appeared on primary election ballots. Democrats hold 59 of the 100 seats in the House. In the Senate, Republicans hold a 22-15 advantage over Democrats, with one independent who caucuses with the GOP.

Three Republican lawmakers who lead Senate committees turned aside challenges from tea party enthusiasts.

Sen. David Givens of Greensburg defeated former Metcalfe County Judge-Executive Don Butler in a closely watched race in south-central Kentucky. Givens, seen as an up-and-coming lawmaker, outlasted bruising attacks against his voting record and business interests.

Givens said Tuesday night that 9th District voters were inundated with calls that were orchestrated by his opponent and that attacked him. Givens condemned the strategy as "more like poison tea."

"Their tactics completely backfired," Givens said.

Butler criticized Givens for voting to increase tobacco and alcohol taxes in 2009. Givens said those attacks overlooked his efforts to try to shrink the size of state government.

Givens, who is chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, does not have a Democratic opponent in November.

Two other GOP senators who defeated tea party enthusiasts were John Schickel of Union and Damon Thayer of Georgetown.

Schickel defeated aerospace worker Joshua Turner in a northern Kentucky primary. Schickel is chairman of the Senate Licensing, Occupations and Administrative Regulations Committee.

Thayer defeated Ricky Hostetler in a central Kentucky district. Thayer, who has served in the Senate since 2003, is chairman of the Senate State and Local Government Committee.

Thayer was at the heart of this year's debate over expanded gambling. He sponsored legislation that would have allowed Kentucky voters to decide whether to open the state to casinos.

Thayer said Kentucky's horse racing industry needs casino revenues to boost race purses to compete with other states. His proposed constitutional amendment was defeated in the Senate.

Meanwhile, four House committee chairmen also fended off challengers in Democratic primaries. The House chairmen who won were Jim Gooch of Providence, Carl Rollins of Midway, Tom McKee of Cynthiana and Tanya Pullin of South Shore.

Gooch leads the Natural Resources and Environment Committee; Rollins heads the Education Committee; McKee the Agriculture and Small Business Committee; and Pullin the Veterans, Military Affairs and Public Safety Committee.

Meanwhile, Rep. John Arnold of Sturgis defeated Democratic challenger Jim Murphy in a western Kentucky district.

Arnold, a member of the powerful House Appropriations and Revenue Committee, had been unable to wage an aggressive campaign after undergoing heart surgery earlier in the spring.

Among other lawmakers advancing to the general election were Democratic Sen. Denise Harper Angel of Louisville and Democratic Reps. Jimmie Lee of Elizabethtown, Jim Glenn of Owensboro, Reginald Meeks of Louisville and John Short of Hindman.

Republicans winning their primary contests included Reps. Bob DeWeese of Louisville, Addia Wuchner of northern Kentucky, Stan Lee of Lexington, David Floyd of Bardstown and Marie Rader of McKee. Wuchner's opponents included tea party leader Cathy Flaig.

Republican Rep. Regina Bunch of Williamsburg, who won a special election late last year to serve the remainder of her husband's term, won her primary contest in a southern Kentucky district. Her husband, Dwayne Bunch, resigned in October because of a head injury he suffered trying to break up a fight at Whitley County High School, where he was a teacher.

In the 15th Senate District in southern Kentucky, Chris Girdler won a hard-fought GOP primary to replace retiring Republican Sen. Vernie McGaha. Girdler has been aide to U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers.

In another race for an open seat, attorney Morgan McGarvey won a crowded Democratic race to succeed longtime Sen. Tim Shaughnessy of Louisville. No Republican filed for the seat.

In Lexington, one incumbent, a former councilwoman and several newcomers will be moving on to Urban County council races this fall thanks to their primary victories. 

In the second district, Shevawn Akers and Brannon Dunn advance to take on each other for the honor of replacing the outgoing Tom Blues.  Lisa Sanden did not make the cut.

In the third district, incumbent Diane Lawless will face Stephanie Spires.  The two top vote-getters advanced past Rock Daniels and Daniel Cooper.

In Council district number 9 former Councilwoman Jennifer Mossotti and Bill Polyniak advance to the general election.  The two are vying for the seat currently held by Jay McChord who chose not to run this year.