Veteran Kentucky lawmaker Richard Heath, who chaired a House committee, loses in Republican primary (2024)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Republican state Rep. Richard Heath, who twice ran for statewide office and was a leading voice on agricultural issues as a committee chairman, lost his reelection bid in Kentucky’s GOP primary.

The veteran lawmaker was among the few incumbents unable to fend off challenges Tuesday.

State Rep. Killian Timoney, a centrist Republican, was defeated by Thomas Jefferson, who outflanked the incumbent with hardline stands on social issues. It was one of several primary clashes pitting different factions within the GOP — the Bluegrass State’s dominant political party.

Republican state Sen. Adrienne Southworth, who had her own clashes with the Senate’s GOP leaders during her first term, lagged behind two challengers in a race that was too early to call.

Other incumbents turned back challenges in what generally was a low-turnout primary.

“I don’t really see any big narrative to draw from yesterday’s elections,” said Republican Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer, who is leaving the Senate at the end of the year after deciding not to seek reelection. “To me, it’s pretty much status quo.”


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Republicans will look to maintain or build on their supermajorities in both legislative chambers in the November general election while Democrats hope to capitalize on the popularity of their party’s state leader — Gov. Andy Beshear, who won reelection last year. Republican-held seats in districts carried by Beshear will be a key focus for Democrats as they try to whittle away at the GOP’s dominance.

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“Kentucky Democrats are offering a different vision — one that levels the playing field for working families and moves our commonwealth forward — and we will make sure that our candidates are equipped to win,” said Jonathan Levin, communications director for the state Democratic Party.

Republicans have their own standard-bearer in former President Donald Trump, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee this year. It was Trump’s coattails that helped propel Republicans into the majority in the Kentucky House after the 2016 election, consolidating the GOP’s control of the legislature.

Most incumbent lawmakers defeated their challengers in Tuesday’s primary.

One exception was in western Kentucky, where Heath was unseated by Kimberly Holloway in the GOP primary. With no Democrat running in the district, Holloway has a clear path in November.

Heath served for more than a decade in the House and was a key policymaker on rural issues as chairman of the House Agriculture Committee. He ran for state agriculture commissioner twice, losing both times in the primary.

With several races viewed as toss-ups heading into Tuesday’s primary, Heath’s defeat was the only surprise, said Republican strategist Tres Watson.

Timoney, a two-term lawmaker from central Kentucky, was trounced by Jefferson, who was backed by socially conservative groups. Timoney voted against 2023 legislation that banned gender-affirming medical care for transgender young people. Jefferson and groups backing him slammed Timoney for the vote.

“Rep. Timoney bravely stood to protect transgender kids — our most vulnerable youth — and refused to play politics with their lives,” said Chris Hartman, executive director of the Fairness Campaign, an LGBTQ+ advocacy organization. “His opponent shamefully and predictably used them as political pawns to score cheap points on election night.”

Jefferson will face Democrat Adam Moore in what looms as a high-profile race in the fall.

Voters settled several hotly contested GOP House primaries in northern Kentucky. Former state Rep. C. Ed Massey lost his comeback bid in his race against T.J. Roberts, who staked out more hard-right stands in his lopsided victory. Roberts will face Democrat Peggy Houston-Nienaber in the November election.

Suburban legislative districts are shaping up as key battlegrounds in the fight for legislative seats.

GOP Rep. Kimberly Poore Moser narrowly defeated challenger Karen Campbell and will face Democrat Heather Crabbe in November in another northern Kentucky district. Moser chairs the House Health Services Committee and championed legislation to improve health care for expectant and new mothers.

Meanwhile, state Sen. Gerald Neal, the top-ranking Senate Democrat, won his primary, defeating former state Rep. Attica Scott and another challenger. No Republican is running in the Louisville district.

Former longtime state Rep. Mary Lou Marzian won the Democratic primary in a Louisville House district. Marzian will face Republican Sara-Elizabeth Cottrell in the general election.

Democratic state Rep. Nima Kulkarni easily outdistanced her primary election challenger in a Louisville district that has no GOP candidate, but the incumbent still faces a legal battle. The Kentucky Supreme Court is set to hear arguments next month over a lawsuit claiming Kulkarni was ineligible to be on the ballot due to a paperwork issue when she filed for reelection.

Veteran Kentucky lawmaker Richard Heath, who chaired a House committee, loses in Republican primary (2024)
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