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A guide to the May 17 primary election in Kentucky

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. U.S.
Democrat Charles Booker speaks to a group of supporters following his victory in the Kentucky primary in Louisville, Ky., Tuesday, May 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)

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.


Republican incumbent Rand Paul won his party's nomination as he pursues a third term, defeating five little-known challengers in the Kentucky primary. Paul has made a name for himself as a national voice for a libertarian-leaning philosophy based on limited government and restrained spending.

Former state lawmaker Charles Booker of Louisville defeated three opponents 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.

Booker faces a daunting task in trying to unseat Paul. Kentucky has tilted decidedly toward the GOP and Paul holds a commanding fundraising advantage over his Democratic challenger. Kentucky has not elected a Democrat to the U.S. Senate since Wendell Ford in 1992.

Paul ran against Arnold Blankenship of Ashland, Val Fredrick of Murray, Paul Hamilton of Nicholasville, Tami Steinfield of Marion and perennial candidate John Schiess. Running against Booker were Ruth Gao and Joshua Blanton Sr., of Louisville and John Merrill from McKee.


Sen. Morgan McGarvey defeated Rep. Attica Scott on Tuesday for the Democratic nomination in the Louisville-area 3rd District, where the only Democrat representing Kentucky in Congress, Rep. John Yarmuth, is retiring.

The two progressive state legislators share many of 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 agreed on many progressive issues, including Medicare for All and 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.

Meanwhile, Republican incumbent Rep. Hal Rogers won his primary Tuesday against four challengers in the 5th District and will face Democrat Conor Halbleib, who ran unopposed, in the fall. Rogers has held the seat since the early 1980s. Halbleib is a law school student.

Republican incumbent Thomas Massie defeated three opponents in the 4th District and will face Democrat Matthew Lehman in November. Lehman ran unopposed.

Massie won the endorsement of former President Donald Trump leading up to the primary. Trump referred to the libertarian-minded congressman as a “Conservative Warrior” and a “first-rate Defender of the Constitution.” Two years ago, Trump denounced Massie as a “third rate Grandstander” for trying to stall a sweeping $2.2 trillion coronavirus aid package.

Republican incumbent Andy Barr won his primary race against Derek Petteys in the 6th District. Barr is seeking his sixth term in the district dominated by Lexington.

Incumbent Brett Guthrie, who was first elected to Congress in 2008, won the Republican nomination in Kentucky’s 2nd District. Guthrie is the top Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Health Subcommittee.


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.


Louisville mayoral candidate Craig Greenberg defeated seven other Democrats to win the party's nomination.

The race attracted national headlines earlier this year when a man drew a gun and shot at Greenberg in his campaign office.

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.

The Democratic primary included Jefferson County Circuit Clerk David Nicholson, community activist Shameka Parrish-Wright and pastor Tim Findley Jr.

The four Republicans in the race 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.


Kentuckians had 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 ballot requests were due on May 3.

Polls were open on Tuesday from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. local time.

Dylan Lovan, The Associated Press