First, The Basics
Polls open on Tuesday, May 21 in Jefferson County at 6 a.m. and close at 6 p.m. You can view your sample primary ballot on the Jefferson County Clerk’s website, and you should double-check your polling place because many have changed from where they were in November.
If you’re wondering if you’re registered to vote in Kentucky you can check on the Secretary of State’s website. Only people registered as either Republicans or Democrats are eligible to cast a ballot; Independents can’t vote in Kentucky partisan primary elections.
Acceptable forms of identification include a drivers license, credit card, social security card, personal acquaintance of an Election Officer, any other identification with both your picture and signature or any U.S. government-issued ID card (for a full list of options, click here).
Tune in Tuesday night at 7:00 p.m. to 89.3 WFPL (or listen online here) for an election night special; we’ll talk about the issues at play during this year’s gubernatorial primary and look forward to the general election. We’ll also take your calls; you can reach the studio at 502-814-TALK.
Click on your party affiliation to see more information about who’s on your ballot.
The Democratic Ballot
Adam Edelen is a businessman from Lexington who previously served as state auditor, before he lost re-election in 2015. He’s running as a progressive: he wants Kentucky to invest in renewable energy, decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana and he supports abortion rights. His running mate is Gill Holland, a Louisville businessman and real estate developer. (Disclosure: Holland is also a board member of Louisville Public Media; per LPM policy he is on leave from the board for the entirety of the campaign.)
Geoff Young is a retired engineer, and a perennial candidate in Kentucky. He’s run for U.S. Congress, U.S. Senate and governor in the past, but has never made it past a primary. Young advocates for legalizing marijuana, defending abortion rights, increasing taxes on the wealthy and strengthening unions. He has also filed numerous lawsuits against both the state Democratic party and a slew of the state’s top Democratic figures. Young’s running mate is Josh French, a machinist from Elizabethtown.
Rocky Adkins is a longtime state representative from eastern Kentucky — he’s been in the legislature since 1987 — and was the majority floor leader until Republicans won control of the chamber two years ago. He’s more conservative than some of his opponents on issues including abortion. His running mate is Stephanie Horne, an attorney and former Jefferson County Board of Education member.
Andy Beshear is currently Kentucky’s Attorney General, and in that position has sued Gov. Matt Bevin several times. He’s the son of former Gov. Steve Beshear, and says he wants to legalize casino gambling to generate revenue for Kentucky’s ailing pension systems, rescind Bevin’s proposed Medicaid work requirement, keep charter schools from opening up and push to legalize medical marijuana. His running mate is Jacqueline Coleman, an assistant principal from Mercer County.
Secretary of State
The election to be Kentucky’s next chief elections officer is open; current Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes has already served two terms and can’t seek a third. There are four Democrats trying to replace her: Heather French Henry, Geoff Sebesta, Jason Belcher and Jason Griffith.
Heather French Henry is a former Miss America and served as commissioner of Kentucky’s Department of Veterans Affairs under former Gov. Steve Beshear. She stayed in the office under Republican Gov. Matt Bevin, but in a deputy commissioner role. She is married to former Lieutenant Governor Steve Henry.
Geoff Sebesta is a comic book artist from Winchester who has previously worked on political campaigns, including those for perennial Democratic candidate Geoff Young, who is running for governor this year.
Jason Griffith is a band director at Letcher County High School and owner of an information technology business that produces license plate reading software.
This seat is open, due to current Attorney General Andy Beshear running for governor. Former House Speaker Greg Stumbo is the only Democrat running for Attorney General; as such, he’s assured of the nomination and you won’t see his name or the category on the primary ballot.
Stumbo previously served as attorney general from 2004 until 2008 and launched an investigation into Republican Gov. Ernie Fletcher’s hiring practices, which led to a scandal that assisted in Fletcher’s downfall.
Auditor of Public Accounts
There are three Democrats vying to take on current Republican Auditor Mike Harmon, who is running unopposed for his party’s nomination: Sheri Donahue, Chris Tobe and Kelsey Hayes Coots. A fourth candidate, Drew Curtis, withdrew from the election but his name will still appear on the ballot.
Sheri Donahue is a retired Naval engineer from Louisville and president emeritus of InfraGard National Members Alliance, a non-profit that coordinates between U.S. businesses and the FBI. She ran for the state Senate in 2018, but lost to incumbent Republican Julie Raque Adams.
Chris Tobe is a financial consultant and former member of the Kentucky Retirement Systems Board of Trustees, the pension system for most of the state’s public employees. Tobe brought attention to questionable investment practices on the KRS board and was a witness for the Securities and Exchange Commission’s investigation into the agency’s practices. He is the author of a 2013 book called “Kentucky Fried Pensions.”
Kelsey Hayes Coots is a public school teacher from Louisville and organizer of the Kentucky 120 United activist group that has opposed education and pension policies pushed by Republicans in the state legislature.
There are two Democrats running for Treasurer: Michael Bowman and Josh Mers. The winner of the primary will go up against current state Treasurer, Republican Allison Ball, who is running unopposed for the Republican nomination.
Michael Bowman is a branch manager for U.S. Bank in Louisville. He has worked as a legislative assistant with Louisville Metro Council. He lost a race for Jefferson County clerk in 2018.
Josh Mers is the owner of Shelter Insurance in Lexington, treasurer for the Lexington Human Rights Commission and chair of Lexington Fairness. He lost a race for state representative in 2018.
Commissioner of Agriculture
Robert Haley Conway and Joe Trigg are running for the Democratic nomination for Agriculture Commissioner.
Robert Haley Conway is a farmer from Georgetown and works on the Scott County Soil and Water Conservation Board. He is a former chair of the Scott County Board of Education.
Joe Trigg is a Glasgow City Council member, farmer and Army veteran. He previously ran for the state legislature, but lost in the Democratic primary.
The Republican Ballot
There are four Republican candidates running for Kentucky Governor: Ike Lawrence, William E. Woods, Matthew G. Bevin and Robert Goforth.
Ike Lawrence is a landlord and a perennial candidate for elected office: most recently he ran in the crowded race for mayor of Lexington last year. He’s critical of Bevin’s economic development initiatives including a suspended Enerblu plant in Pikeville, and the Braidy Industries aluminum plant planned for Greenup County. His running mate is James Anthony Rose of Lexington.
William Woods is a bus driver and realtor from Northern Kentucky. He says he doesn’t like the direction his party has been going in in recent years and has some positions that don’t sound like other Republicans in the state — he’s in favor of keeping Kentucky’s Medicaid expansion and says his party has pushed too hard on the anti-abortion issue. His running mate is Justin Miller, a teacher from Florence.
Matt Bevin is running for a second term as Kentucky’s governor. He’s fighting a low approval rating, but recently with the help of a Republican-led legislature has signed several conservative initiatives into law — a “right to work” policy, repealing the prevailing wage, charter schools, several anti-abortion measures and budgets that have cut much of state government. His running mate is different for his second election bid; he replaced current Lieutenant Gov. Jenean Hampton with state Senator Ralph Alvarado.
Robert Goforth is a pharmacist from East Bernstadt in eastern Kentucky, and a state Representative. He’s criticized Bevin’s handling of the state pension crisis and criticizes the state pension board’s use of investment management fees. His running mate is Michael Hogan, a prosecutor from Lawrence County.
You can read detailed profiles of Bevin and Woods above; the other candidates didn’t respond to an interview request. Here’s more information on where they stand on issues including school choice, abortion and climate change.
Secretary of State
There are four Republicans running for Secretary of State: Stephen L. Knipper, Carl Nett, Michael G. Adams and Andrew English.
Steve Knipper is a former Erlanger City Council member and worked as current Lt. Gov. Jenean Hampton’s chief of staff. Gov. Bevin’s administration fired him after he launched his campaign, citing a policy banning employees from running for elected office. He lost to current Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes in 2015.
Carl Nett is a former secret service agent. He generated headlines over the past year after unsuccessfully fighting to have his purported nickname “Trump” included on the primary ballot. He also tweeted an implied threat at U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth last year — a comment he later apologized for.
Michael Adams is an election lawyer who worked for the Republican Governors Association, a group that works to elect and support GOP governors. Gov. Bevin appointed him to serve on the State Board of Elections, a position he stepped down from to run for secretary of state. Adams attended Harvard Law School and worked for the U.S. Justice Department under President George W. Bush.
Andrew English is a former U.S. Navy lawyer and worked as the general counsel for Kentucky’s Justice and Public Safety Cabinet under Gov. Bevin.
Republicans are hoping to take control of the state attorney general’s office for the first time since 1947 after current Attorney General Andy Beshear announced he would run for governor.
Daniel Cameron, a former aide to Mitch McConnell and U of L football player, and state Sen. Wil Schroder are seeking the Republican nomination.
Daniel Cameron worked as an attorney for U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell from 2015 to 2017 before returning to Kentucky to work as a corporate lawyer for Frost Brown Todd in Louisville. He played football at the University of Louisville, where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in political science and a law degree.
Wil Schroder was first elected to the state Senate in 2014 representing Campbell, Pendleton and Bracken counties. He previously worked as a prosecutor in Campbell County but now practices public finance law at Dinsmore & Shohl.
Allison Ball is running for a second term as State Treasurer, and is the only Republican vying for the job. As such, she’s assured of her party’s nomination and you won’t see her name or the category on the primary ballot.
Auditor of Public Accounts
Republican Mike Harmon is running for re-election as state Auditor; because he’s uncontested, he’s assured of the nomination and you won’t see his name or the category on the primary ballot.
Commissioner of Agriculture
Ryan F. Quarles is seeking a second term as Kentucky’s Agriculture Commissioner; he’s drawn a primary challenger in hemp producer Bill Polyniak.
Ryan Quarles previously served for three terms a state representative from Georgetown. He also grew up on a tobacco and cattle farm and is a ninth generation farmer. Quarles is 35 years old and has earned three undergraduate degrees and three graduate degrees from the University of Kentucky, as well as a masters in education from Harvard University.
Bill Polyniak is a hemp farmer from Lexington who has previously worked as an engineer, packaging salesman and business owner. In 2014, Polyniak was awarded with one of the first six pilot programs to start cultivating hemp in Kentucky.