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2023 Primary Election Preview

Renee Shaw hosts a 2023 Primary Election preview. Guests: Amy Wickliffe, Republican strategist and partner with McCarthy Strategic Solutions government relations; Jonathan Miller, a Democrat, former state treasurer and attorney with Frost Brown Todd; Mike Ward, political consultant and former Democratic Congressman; and Tres Watson, Republican political consultant and founder of Capitol Reins PR.
Season 30 Episode 13 Length 56:34 Premiere: 05/15/23

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.

Political Observers Discuss Republican Primary for Governor and Other Key Races

Ahead of today’s primary elections, KET’s Kentucky Tonight assembled a panel of political experts to discuss key races on the ballot and how the outcomes could impact the general election this fall.

The guests were Jonathan Miller, an attorney with Frost Brown Todd, and a former Democratic Kentucky Treasurer; Mike Ward, Democratic political consultant and former Congressman from Kentucky’s 3rd district; Tres Watson, Republican political consultant and founder of Capitol Reins PR; and Amy Wickliffe, Republican strategist and partner with McCarthy Strategic Solutions government relations firm.

Republican Primary for Governor

A dozen Republican contenders are vying for the nomination for governor in what has turned out to be one of the most expensive primary races in state history. Polling has current Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron with a double-digit lead over his nearest rivals: former U.S. Ambassador to Canada Kelly Craft, and current state Commissioner of Agriculture Ryan Quarles. Cameron and Craft have peppered the airwaves with various attacks against the other, while promoting their own accomplishments and conservative values.

Wickliffe says she expects Cameron to win, but she is also curious to see how well Craft turns out voters in western Kentucky, where she is backed by 1st district Congressman James Comer. She says joint campaign appearances by Craft and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz last weekend along with a late endorsement from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis could also boost Craft’s numbers.

Another factor at play for Cameron, according to Wickliffe, is how well former attorney Eric Deters performs with voters in his native northern Kentucky. And then there’s the weather. With storms forecast for today, Wickliffe says that could drive turnout even lower than the predicted 10 percent of eligible voters.

“When you have historically low turnout, it’s going to come down to whose base is going to actually go to the polls,” says Wickliffe.

Though he’s unlikely to win, Deters could have an impact on who does emerge victorious, according to Watson. He says Deters, who has run as anti-establishment candidate fully supporting former President Donald Trump, could pull anywhere between 8 and 14 percent of the final vote. Watson says another X factor is recent voter registration trends in the commonwealth. The GOP now holds a slight lead in registrations, and Watson wants to see if communities that once had strong Democratic turnout maintain similar levels of participation now that many of those voters have switched to the Republican Party.

Even though voters may be focused on so-called kitchen table issues, the campaigns have targeted social issues like school policies on sex education and transgender youth. Watson says the candidates are hitting topics they believe will drive their voters to the polls.

“Primaries are guided a lot by the base voters because you can talk all you want (but) unless you win, you’re just a guy on a mountain yelling,” says Watson. “So you’ve got to win... You’ve got to give the people who are going to show up to vote what they want to hear.”

The fight for Kentucky’s strong base of supporters for former President Trump has pushed the Republican gubernatorial field even farther to the right, according to Miller. That includes promises by the leading candidates to fire Kentucky Education Commissioner Jason Glass for being, as they contend, too “woke.”

That criticism of Glass may excite primary voters, but Miller says it may also turn off general election voters who are more interested in student academic performance and teacher pay. While Cameron and Craft have gained more of the headlines, Miller says Quarles has focused on discussing local issues and building strong grassroots support.

“Ryan Quarles has been running a campaign that’s more suited to the general election,” says Miller. “He perhaps would, among those folks, be the strongest general election candidate but I don’t think that’s what this primary base wanted.”

Regardless of who secures the GOP gubernatorial nomination, Ward says the big winner will be incumbent Gov. Steve Beshear. He says the Democrat, who has only token opposition, will not have to unite his party or cater to a small faction of it to win votes in the fall campaign. But the Republican victor, he says will face an uphill battle

“You’ll end up with a Republican nominee who is supported in the election by what turns out to be about 5 to 8 percent of all the Republicans in the state,” says Ward. “That’s not the way to go into November.”

Some pundits have wondered whether the intense fight between Craft and Cameron could allow Quarles or another Republican to sneak through to victory. Ward says that tactic worked for Wallace Wilkinson, who won the Democratic nomination in 1987, and Matt Bevin, who received the GOP nod in 2015. But unlike those candidates, Ward says Quarles doesn’t have the financial resources to win a split-ticket race.

Down-Ballot Contests

Several other statewide races have generated more interest than expected. Incumbent Secretary of State Michael Adams faces two primary challengers: Stephen Knipper of Independence and Allen Maricle of Lebanon Junction.

Adams has run on his accomplishments to increase the number of days of in-person voting, improve access to absentee ballots, and tighten election security. Wickliffe says that race comes down to the achievements of Adams versus the conspiracy theories touted by the other candidates.

Ward says if Adams loses, that will improve the chances for Buddy Wheatley in November. The former state representative from Covington is running unopposed in the Democratic primary for Secretary of State.

The Republican primary for state Treasurer is a hotly contested three-way race among Lexington businessman Andrew Cooperrider, Garrard County Attorney Mark Metcalf, and former Deputy Treasurer O.J. Oleka.

Wickliffe says Oleka has experience doing the job under outgoing Treasurer Allison Ball, but she says Metcalfe has better name recognition thanks to being active in Republican state politics for decades. Watson says if there’s an upset in this race, it could go to Metcalfe.

In the contest for Commissioner of Agriculture, Ward says economic development consultant Sierra Enlow of Hodgenville should easily defeat sustainability advocate Mikael Malone of Winchester.

The Republican primary for commissioner has seen attacks and counterattacks between current state Rep. Richard Heath of Mayfield and former state Rep. Jonathan Shell of Lancaster.

Wickliffe says Shell had an early edge in the race thanks to his prolific fundraising skills. But she says Heath, who narrowly lost the GOP primary for commissioner in 2015, shouldn’t be counted out. Watson says he thinks Shell will win the race based on his higher name recognition among party faithful.

Impacts on the Fall Campaign

Regardless of who wins the Republican nomination for governor, Miller and Ward say Andy Beshear should be well positioned for reelection in November. Ward says with the GOP swinging so far to the right, that clears a path for Beshear to run in the political center.

Miller says Kentuckians appreciate how Beshear has unified the state through the COVID-19 pandemic and multiple natural disasters. Even when they disagree with his policies, Miller says voters see Beshear as a person of faith and compassion.

“This is not a federal race where people are more focused on the (political) party,” says Miller. “They’re focused on a governor that they can personally identify with.”

Voters do want a more connection with their governors, according to Wickliffe and Watson, but they say Kentuckians also expect a leader who can deliver. Wickliffe says people want to like their governor, but when they don’t, they are willing to vote that person out of office, which she says was the case with former Gov. Bevin.

Watson acknowledges Beshear has high approval ratings now, but he contends that will change once the Democrat enters the fall campaign and faces a barrage of political ads criticizing his leadership.

“There’s a real story to be written about unemployment insurance, the bulldozing and removal of debris from houses in east Kentucky, the juvenile justice system,” says Watson. “There’s one string that rolls through all of it, which is Andy Beshear is a weak leader.”

Renee Shaw will host live results and candidate speeches starting at 7 p.m. ET Tuesday on KET. Al Cross, Bob Babbage, Trey Grayson, Morgan Eaves and Scott Jennings will provide analysis.

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Connections host Renee Shaw smiling in a gray suit along with the show logo and a "Check Schedule" button.Connections host Renee Shaw smiling in a gray suit along with the show logo and a "Check Schedule" button.

Season 30 Episodes

Reviewing the 2024 General Assembly

S30 E44 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 04/15/24

Final Negotiations on the State Budget

S30 E43 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 03/25/24

School Safety

S30 E42 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 03/11/24

Early Childhood Education

S30 E41 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 02/26/24

Abortion Legislation

S30 E40 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 02/19/24

School Choice and Education Issues

S30 E39 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 02/12/24

State Budget Discussion

S30 E38 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 02/05/24

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) in Higher Education

S30 E37 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 01/29/24

Safer Kentucky Act

S30 E36 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 01/22/24

Legislative Priorities in the 2024 General Assembly

S30 E35 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 01/08/24

Governor Andy Beshear's Budget Address

S30 E34 Length 56:36 Premiere Date 12/18/23

2024 Legislative Preview: Part Two

S30 E33 Length 56:35 Premiere Date 12/04/23

2024 Legislative Preview

S30 E32 Length 56:35 Premiere Date 11/20/23

Analysts Discuss What to Expect on Election Day 2023

S30 E31 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 11/06/23

Candidate Conversations: Lieutenant Governor

S30 E30 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 10/30/23

Candidate Conversations: Governor

S30 E29 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 10/23/23

Political Analysts Forecast the 2023 General Election

S30 E28 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 10/17/23

Secretary of State; Commissioner of Agriculture

S30 E27 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 10/09/23

Auditor of Public Accounts; State Treasurer

S30 E26 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 10/02/23

Kentucky's Economy, Jobs and Taxes

S30 E25 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 09/25/23

Higher Education in Kentucky

S30 E24 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 09/18/23

Kentucky's Health Care Challenges

S30 E23 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 09/11/23

Education Issues in Kentucky

S30 E22 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 08/21/23

Fancy Farm Preview and Kentucky Politics

S30 E21 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 07/31/23

Kentucky's Energy Needs

S30 E20 Length 56:35 Premiere Date 07/17/23

Artificial Intelligence

S30 E19 Length 56:35 Premiere Date 07/10/23

Jobs, Inflation and the Economy

S30 E18 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 06/26/23

SB 150 and LGBTQ Issues

S30 E17 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 06/19/23

Horse Racing Safety

S30 E16 Length 56:35 Premiere Date 06/12/23

A Discussion of Gun Laws

S30 E15 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 06/05/23

Recapping The 2023 Kentucky Primary

S30 E14 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 05/22/23

2023 Primary Election Preview

S30 E13 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 05/15/23

Republican Candidate for Secretary of State

S30 E12 Length 15:00 Premiere Date 05/08/23

Republican Candidates for Governor

S30 E11 Length 1:29:20 Premiere Date 05/01/23

Candidates for Treasurer and Commissioner of Agriculture

S30 E10 Length 1:15:06 Premiere Date 04/24/23

Challenges Facing Kentucky Schools

S30 E9 Length 56:35 Premiere Date 04/17/23

Policy Analysts Recap the 2023 General Assembly

S30 E8 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 04/10/23

Recap of the 2023 Kentucky General Assembly

S30 E7 Length 56:35 Premiere Date 04/03/23

Kentucky Legislation on LGBTQ+ Youth

S30 E6 Length 56:35 Premiere Date 03/20/23

Student Discipline Legislation

S30 E5 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 03/13/23

Gambling Proposals in the Kentucky General Assembly

S30 E4 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 02/27/23

Kentucky's Teacher Shortage

S30 E3 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 02/20/23

Exploring Local Government Issues

S30 E2 Length 56:35 Premiere Date 02/13/23

Child Abuse and Neglect in Kentucky

S30 E1 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 02/06/23

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Primary Election 2024 - S31 E6

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Candidate Conversations: Dana Edwards and Shauna Rudd - S31 E5

  • Wednesday May 8, 2024 1:00 am ET on KET
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Housing and Homelessness - S31 E4

  • Wednesday May 1, 2024 1:00 am ET on KET
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Review of the 2024 Kentucky Lawmaking Session - S31 E3

  • Wednesday April 24, 2024 5:00 am ET on KET
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