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Previewing the 2024 Primary Election

Renee Shaw hosts a discussion about the 2024 primary election. Guests: Morgan Eaves, executive director of the Kentucky Democratic Party; Tres Watson, Republican strategist and founder of Capitol Reins PR; Jared Smith, Democratic strategist and partner at Piper/Smith; and Iris Wilbur Glick, Republican consultant and founder of IW Strategies.
Season 31 Episode 4 Length 56:33 Premiere: 05/20/24

About

Kentucky Tonight

KET’s Kentucky Tonight, hosted by Renee Shaw, brings together an expert panel for in-depth analysis of major issues facing the Commonwealth.

This weekly program features comprehensive discussions with lawmakers, stakeholders and policy leaders that are moderated by award-winning journalist Renee Shaw.

For nearly three decades, Kentucky Tonight has been a source for complete and balanced coverage of the most urgent and important public affairs developments in the state of Kentucky.

Often aired live, viewers are encouraged to participate by submitting questions in real-time via email, Twitter or KET’s online form. Viewers with questions and comments may send an email to kytonight@ket.org or use the contact form. All messages should include first and last name and town or county. The phone number for viewer calls during the program is 800-494-7605.

After the broadcast, Kentucky Tonight programs are available on KET.org and via podcast (iTunes or Android). Files are normally accessible within 24 hours after the television broadcast.

Kentucky Tonight was awarded a 1997 regional Emmy by the Ohio Valley Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. The series was also honored with a 1995 regional Emmy nomination.

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Renee Shaw is the Director of Public Affairs and Moderator at KET, currently serving as host of KET’s weeknight public affairs program Kentucky Edition, the signature public policy discussion series Kentucky Tonight, the weekly interview series Connections, Election coverage and KET Forums.

Since 2001, Renee has been the producing force behind KET’s legislative coverage that has been recognized by the Kentucky Associated Press and the National Educational Telecommunications Association. Under her leadership, KET has expanded its portfolio of public affairs content to include a daily news and information program, Kentucky Supreme Court coverage, townhall-style forums, and multi-platform program initiatives around issues such as opioid addiction and youth mental health.  

Renee has also earned top awards from the Ohio Valley Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (NATAS), with three regional Emmy awards. In 2023, she was inducted into the Silver Circle of the NATAS, one of the industry’s highest honors recognizing television professionals with distinguished service in broadcast journalism for 25 years or more.  

Already an inductee into the Kentucky Civil Rights Hall of Fame (2017), Renee expands her hall of fame status with induction into Western Kentucky University’s Hall of Distinguished Alumni in November of 2023.  

In February of 2023, Renee graced the front cover of Kentucky Living magazine with a centerfold story on her 25 years of service at KET and even longer commitment to public media journalism. 

In addition to honors from various educational, civic, and community organizations, Renee has earned top honors from the Associated Press and has twice been recognized by Mental Health America for her years-long dedication to examining issues of mental health and opioid addiction.  

In 2022, she was honored with Women Leading Kentucky’s Governor Martha Layne Collins Leadership Award recognizing her trailblazing path and inspiring dedication to elevating important issues across Kentucky.   

In 2018, she co-produced and moderated a 6-part series on youth mental health that was awarded first place in educational content by NETA, the National Educational Telecommunications Association. 

She has been honored by the AKA Beta Gamma Omega Chapter with a Coretta Scott King Spirit of Ivy Award; earned the state media award from the Kentucky Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution in 2019; named a Charles W. Anderson Laureate by the Kentucky Personnel Cabinet in 2019 honoring her significant contributions in addressing socio-economic issues; and was recognized as a “Kentucky Trailblazer” by the University of Kentucky Martin School of Public Policy and Administration during the Wendell H. Ford Lecture Series in 2019. That same year, Shaw was named by The Kentucky Gazette’s inaugural recognition of the 50 most notable women in Kentucky politics and government.  

Renee was bestowed the 2021 Berea College Service Award and was named “Unapologetic Woman of the Year” in 2021 by the Community Action Council.   

In 2015, she received the Green Dot Award for her coverage of domestic violence, sexual assault & human trafficking. In 2014, Renee was awarded the Anthony Lewis Media Award from the KY Department of Public Advocacy for her work on criminal justice reform. Two Kentucky governors, Republican Ernie Fletcher and Democrat Andy Beshear, have commissioned Renee as a Kentucky Colonel for noteworthy accomplishments and service to community, state, and nation.  

A former adjunct media writing professor at Georgetown College, Renee traveled to Cambodia in 2003 to help train emerging journalists on reporting on critical health issues as part of an exchange program at Western Kentucky University. And, she has enterprised stories for national media outlets, the PBS NewsHour and Public News Service.  

Shaw is a 2007 graduate of Leadership Kentucky, a board member of CASA of Lexington, and a longtime member of the Frankfort/Lexington Chapter of The Links Incorporated, an international, not-for-profit organization of women of color committed to volunteer service. She has served on the boards of the Kentucky Historical Society, Lexington Minority Business Expo, and the Board of Governors for the Ohio Valley Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. 

Host Renee Shaw smiling in a green dress with a KET set behind her.

Panelists Discuss Key Races to Watch in Legislative Districts

With turnout in today’s primary elections expected to be as low as 10 to 15 percent, key state legislative races could be decided by a few hundred – or even a few dozen – votes. That’s left a number of popular incumbents in both the Republican and Democratic parties facing serious challenges just to make it to the November elections this year.

Kentucky Tonight previewed the more hotly contested primaries for the state Senate and House of Representatives on the ballot today. Host Renee Shaw spoke with Kentucky Democratic Party Executive Director Morgan Eaves, Republican consultant Iris Wilbur Glick, Democratic strategist Jared Smith, and Republican strategist Tres Watson.

A big storyline in this year’s primaries is whether so-called Liberty Republicans can continue to unseat traditional Republicans. Members of the more conservative faction stunned Republican leaders in the 2022 primaries by defeating three popular GOP incumbents who chaired legislative committees in Frankfort.

Watson, who has a political action committee that supports what he calls traditional, pro-business, small-government Republicans, says the Liberty faction is an odd mixture of far-right social conservatives with Libertarian leanings and a streak of populism. They also tend to reject compromise, say Watson and Glick,

“We have some candidates and some incumbents that… they’d rather prove a point than get something done,” says Glick.

“There’s room for discontent and there’s room for debate,” says Watson. “But when you’re opposing some of the signature pieces of legislation from your party in a given session, you’re going to make enemies in leadership.”

Some voters may cheer an iconoclastic lawmaker who wants shake things up in Frankfort, but Smith says they also need to evaluate what those Liberty representatives and senators have actually accomplished for their constituents.

“How much blacktop did they get for their districts? What economic development did they do?” asks Smith. “They don’t do anything because they don’t stand for anything. They just go there and rant and rave.”

While several Liberty candidates are on the ballot today, Watson doesn’t think enough will be elected to cause a change in Republican leadership in the House and Senate. But Eaves says even in small numbers, Liberty legislators can cause headaches for House Speaker David Osborne and Senate President Robert Stivers.

“The more Liberty folks win (today), the more you will see that disruption for the sake of disruption,” says Eaves. “They just want to be angry about something.”

Races to Watch

House District 30: The Democratic primary sees first-term Incumbent Rep. Daniel Grossberg squaring off against Mitra Subedi, an immigrant from Bhutan who teaches at Louisville’s Fern Creek High School. Smith says Subedi is popular in the community, and that Grossberg is taking the primary challenge seriously. He says Gov. Andy Beshear has endorsed Grossberg in this race to represent the central Jefferson County district.

House District 40: The Democratic primary features incumbent Rep. Nima Kulkarni against William Zeitz in the district comprising a portion of western Jefferson County. But the status of Kulkarni’s candidacy remains uncertain following a legal challenge filed by the man Kulkarni defeated to win the seat in 2018. Former state Rep. Dennis Horlander, a fellow Democrat, questions the validity of Kulkarni’s candidacy papers, saying one of the witnesses who signed her form was not a registered Democrat. The Kentucky Court of Appeals recently disqualified Kulkarni from the race, but the Kentucky Supreme Court intervened on Monday to say Kulkarni could remain on today’s ballot. However, the outcome of the race cannot be certified until the court decides the case sometime this summer. Smith says that creates a situation that is unfair for the candidates and voters. Regardless of the outcome of the case, he predicts Kulkarni will easily secure more votes than Zeitz.

House District 41: Current state Rep. Josie Raymond, Democrat, is leaving the House to run for Louisville Metro Council. The Democratic primary for the seat in central Jefferson County features Raymond’s predecessor, Mary Lou Marzian against Rick Adams. Marzian, who previously spent 28 years in the House, has name recognition and money, but Smith says she’s not spending any of it. He says Adams is a lawyer for the Kentucky Democratic Party who has fought to defend Louisville’s Fairness Ordinance.

House District 45: The Republican primary features incumbent Rep. Killian Timoney against Thomas Jefferson, who is associated with the Liberty wing of the GOP. The 45th includes portions of Fayette and Jessamine Counties. Timoney, a moderate Republican, drew the ire of some fellow Republicans for his vote against Senate Bill 150 from 2023 on transgender students. He also proposed legislation to ban slot-like machines called gray games. Watson, whose political action committee supports Timoney, says if Jefferson wins the primary, the largely suburban district could be at risk of flipping to the Democrats in November.

House District 47: The Republican primary pits incumbent Rep. Felicia Rabourn against Mark Gilkison in a district comprises Carroll, Henry, Owen, and Trimble Counties. Watson says Rabourn angered fellow Republicans by voting against this year’s Safer Kentucky Act and for not voting at all for the new state budget. She also proposed rule changes that would have made it easier for more liberal bills to come to a vote. Watson says Gilkison, a Bedford businessman, has run a strong campaign, has outraised Rabourn, and is benefitting from outside spending in the race.

House District 60: This Republican primary pits first-term Rep. Marianne Proctor against Christopher Pavese, a Navy veteran and electrical engineer. Watson says at issue in this race is the state’s Certificate of Need law which regulates the placement of health care facilities. He also says old political feuds in the Boone County district are also a dynamic in the contest.

House District 64: This Republican primary sees incumbent Rep. Kim Moser against realtor Karen Campbell. Watson says the challenge to the popular House Health Services Committee chair stems largely from lingering anger over COVID protocols and vaccination policies enacted by St. Elizabeth Healthcare in the Kenton County district.

House District 66: Incumbent Republican Rep. Steve Rawlings is leaving the Boone County district to run for the state Senate. Seeking to succeed him is former state Rep. C. Ed Massey and Liberty candidate T.J. Roberts. Glick says the race has gotten very personal with little discussion about critical issues for northern Kentucky like jobs, business attraction, and education. She says Boone County struggles with GOP turnout in primaries, which could favor the Liberty candidate. Watson describes the context as “a complete trainwreck” with no way of knowing who might win. Roberts has also faced allegations of antisemitism, which he denies.

House District 76: The race to succeed the state’s longest serving House member, Rep. Ruth Ann Palumbo of Lexington, features her son in the Democratic primary. Jamie Palumbo faces social worker Joshua Buckman and non-profit executive Anne Donworth. Smith says the campaign finance report for this race show contributions from a number of Democratic luminaries including former Gov. Steve Beshear, former Lexington Mayor and current state Transportation Secretary Jim Gray, and former state legislator Ernesto Scorsone. Smith says he expects Jamie Palumbo to succeed his mother in the central Fayette County district.

Senate District 1: In far western Kentucky, two-term incumbent Sen. Jason Howell faces a challenge from former state Rep. Lynn Beckler, who lost his House seat to redistricting. The unique feature of this Republican primary, according to Watson, is that Howell, who was first elected in 2021, has never faced a primary or general election opponent until now.

Senate District 7: Redistricting is also playing a role in the Republican primary for the district that now represents Anderson, Henry, and Shelby Counties as well as part of Jefferson County. Incumbent Adrienne Southworth of Lawrenceburg is facing two retired Navy SEALS from Shelby County: farmer and businessman Ed Gallrein, and businessowner and Liberty candidate Aaron Reed. Glick says Southworth, who has rankled Republican leadership, is the victim of “severe redistricting,” which left her with only her home county in her new district. With Shelby County being the most-populous county in the new district, Glick says Southworth is very vulnerable. Watson says Gallrein has spent heavily on his campaign, including making commercial buys on Lexington television. Watson also says he sees little chance for a Southworth victory in this primary.

Senate District 33: This West Louisville district sees former state Rep. Attica Scott challenging long-time incumbent Sen. Gerald Neal in the Democratic primary. Smith describes Scott as the “polar opposite” of the reserved Neal. He says the incumbent has done a great job for his district, but that he faces a tough challenge from Scott who is also a former Louisville Metro Council member. He says voters could see the age difference between the veteran Neal and the younger Scott as an opportunity for a changing of the political guard.

KET will have live results and analysis tonight starting at 8 p.m. Follow all the vote tallies at KET.org/election.

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Season 31 Episodes

Previewing the 2024 Primary Election

S31 E4 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 05/20/24

Candidate Conversations: Dana Edwards and Shauna Rudd

S31 E3 Length 28:01 Premiere Date 05/06/24

Housing and Homelessness

S31 E2 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 04/29/24

Lawmakers Recap the 2024 General Assembly

S31 E1 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 04/22/24

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Kentucky Tonight - S31 E7

  • Monday June 10, 2024 8:00 pm ET on KET
  • Monday June 10, 2024 7:00 pm CT on KET
  • Tuesday June 11, 2024 8:00 am ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday June 11, 2024 7:00 am CT on KETKY
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Kentucky Tonight - S31 E8

  • Monday June 17, 2024 8:00 pm ET on KET
  • Monday June 17, 2024 7:00 pm CT on KET
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  • Tuesday June 18, 2024 8:30 pm ET on KETKY
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  • Wednesday June 19, 2024 1:00 am ET on KET
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Kentucky Tonight - S31 E6

  • Wednesday May 22, 2024 2:00 am ET on KET
  • Wednesday May 22, 2024 1:00 am CT on KET
  • Tuesday May 21, 2024 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday May 21, 2024 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
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  • Monday May 20, 2024 8:00 pm ET on KET
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Candidate Conversations: Dana Edwards and Shauna Rudd - S31 E5

  • Wednesday May 8, 2024 1:00 am ET on KET
  • Wednesday May 8, 2024 12:00 am CT on KET
  • Tuesday May 7, 2024 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday May 7, 2024 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
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  • Monday May 6, 2024 7:00 pm CT on KET

Housing and Homelessness - S31 E4

  • Wednesday May 1, 2024 1:00 am ET on KET
  • Wednesday May 1, 2024 12:00 am CT on KET
  • Tuesday April 30, 2024 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday April 30, 2024 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Tuesday April 30, 2024 1:00 pm ET on KETKY
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  • Tuesday April 30, 2024 5:01 am CT on KETKY
  • Monday April 29, 2024 8:00 pm ET on KET
  • Monday April 29, 2024 7:00 pm CT on KET

Review of the 2024 Kentucky Lawmaking Session - S31 E3

  • Wednesday April 24, 2024 5:00 am ET on KET
  • Wednesday April 24, 2024 4:00 am CT on KET
  • Wednesday April 24, 2024 1:30 am ET on KET
  • Wednesday April 24, 2024 12:30 am CT on KET
  • Tuesday April 23, 2024 9:00 pm ET on KETKY
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