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National Politics

Renee Shaw and guests discuss national politics and how they impact Kentucky. Guests: Ellen Williams, a Republican strategist and owner of a consulting and government relations firm; Mike Ward, a former Congressman and Democratic strategist; Anne Cizmar, Ph.D., a government professor at Eastern Kentucky University; and Steve Voss, Ph.D., a political science professor at the University of Kentucky.
Season 29 Episode 40 Length 56:34 Premiere: 12/05/22


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 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 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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The Kentucky Tonight podcast features each episode’s audio for listening.

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 Analysts Discuss How the Upcoming U.S. Congress Will Impact Kentucky

With voting completed in the Georgia Senate run-off, the 2022 election season is finally coming to an end.

But don’t worry, the 2023 and 2024 seasons are already underway as politicians and pundits prepare for statewide races in Kentucky next year and national elections the following year. Plus, there’s a lame-duck Congress to navigate before Republicans take control of the U.S. House of Representatives in January.

Incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock’s apparent victory in Georgia gives Democrats a 51-49 advantage in the Senate. University of Kentucky political science Professor Stephen Voss says that means Democrats will get more of their members on committees, and they will get to set the rules for the chamber.

Although Sen. Mitch McConnell will not become majority leader as he had hoped, Voss says the Kentuckian will still wield significant power because Senate operations depend on the minority and majority leaders working together.

“A minority leader has a lot more power in the U.S. Senate than in the House of Representatives,” says Voss.

McConnell will continue as leader of Republicans in the Senate after easily defeating a challenge by Florida Sen. Rick Scott. GOP strategist Ellen Williams says McConnell will be “laser-focused” on legislating during the final days of the lame-duck session. She says much work remains on issues like defense spending, electoral reform, and keeping the government open.

What Kentucky’s senior senator won’t do, according to Williams, is get drawn into a confrontation with former President Donald Trump over his controversial statements about the 2020 election or his recent dinner with Kanye West and white nationalist Nick Fuentes.

“Mitch McConnell, if nothing, is about timing, focus, discipline,” says Williams. “He could make a lot of headlines by getting into verbal warfare with Donald Trump, but it serves no purpose and it divides his caucus because he has quite a few members that are big Trump supporters.”

But the reluctance of Republican leaders to directly rebuke the former president is a critical failure, according to Democratic strategist Mike Ward. He says it was Republican leaders in the Senate who forced former President Richard Nixon to resign at the height of the Watergate scandal. Now, Ward says, McConnell and other Republicans must stand up to the threats to democracy and civility posed by Trump.

“Mitch McConnell loves being called the leader,” says Ward. “Well, there are times in our lives when you have to lead, even if it’s a risk, even if you take the chance of losing an election, and this is the time to be the leader.”

New Roles for Kentuckians in the House

Republicans did manage to swing the House, where California Congressman Kevin McCarthy is poised to become speaker in January – if he can secure the requisite 218 votes among a GOP caucus that will number 222 members ranging from moderates to Trump-supporting election deniers.

“There was some talk that perhaps they would have to come up with a compromise candidate with Democrats,” says Eastern Kentucky University government Professor Anne Cizmar. “I think, though, that is very distasteful to the Republicans in House.”

Kentucky 1st district Congressman James Comer is in line to chair the House Oversight and Reform Committee. The Republican has pledged to investigate the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, actions of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Myorkas, and President Joe Biden’s family business dealings, including possible influence peddling by the president’s son, Hunter.

“James Comer is going to do a great job on this committee... He’s going to be focused, he’ll be disciplined as well, and he’s a fighter,” says Williams. “He’s going to hold the administration accountable and try to maintain some transparency in some of these big dealings that go on so that they’re not swept under the rug.”

But some question whether Comer’s investigations will gain traction with Americans more worried about inflation, the job market, and crime.

“I think all these oversight hearings are the inside the beltway stuff that most people just don’t care about,” says Voss.

“He will appeal to a particular audience with the type of investigations he has announced,” adds Cizmar. “An audience that is perhaps very conservative, an audience of people who have been talking about Hunter for the entirety of the last two-and-a-half years, but I don’t think that’s what average Americans have been talking about.”

Comer may not have total control over what the oversight panel investigates, says Ward who is a former Congressman from Kentucky’s 3rd district. He says far-right members of the GOP caucus may force a Speaker McCarthy and Comer to examine specious claims for strictly partisan purposes. Plus, Ward argues Comer’s work will provide a good distraction from moves by Republicans to try to cut Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare benefits.

“This is to their advantage to have a committee that will bring up just the biggest red herrings in the world to avoid talking about what they’re doing with the other hand,” says Ward.

But Republicans aren’t the only ones who use investigations to try to drive political narratives. Voss says Democrats hoped the Select Committee on the January 6 attack would give their party an advantage in the midterm elections. That group has done important work, he says, but he also contends it failed to do much to motivate voters this year.

Kentucky’s Congressional delegation will feature a new member next year. State Sen Morgan McGarvey, a Democrat from Louisville, will succeed retiring 3rd District Rep. John Yarmuth in Washington.

Ward says McGarvey’s experience working with Republican supermajorities in Frankfort to pass 18 bills will serve him well when he faces the new GOP majority in the U.S. House. He says McGarvey will also have good opportunities to bond with Democratic leaders who no longer have to focus on chairing House committees.

“Morgan, as John Yarmuth before him, takes the view that he is Kentucky’s Democratic congressman and needs to watch out for the entire state,” says Ward. “Kentucky has plenty of problems and we need to work together to solve those problems, and that’s the kind of guy Congressman McGarvey will be.”

State Politics

Kentuckians now have less than a month to file to run for statewide constitutional offices in 2023. Gov. Andy Beshear, a Democrat, officially announced is bid for reelection this week, while the Republican gubernatorial field has swelled to a dozen contenders.

Voss says Trump-minded voters in the GOP primary will be able to select from a woman who worked for the former president (Ambassador Kelly Craft), a man who gained his endorsement (Attorney General Daniel Cameron), and several who hope to emulate his far-right pugilistic political style (including state Rep. Savannah Maddox and retired northern Kentucky attorney Eric Deters). Other announced candidates include Auditor Mike Harmon, Somerset Mayor Alan Keck, and Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles.

“Who knows how that vote ultimately gets subdivided with that many candidates in the race,” says Voss. “When you can win the nomination for a major office with a fairly small percentage of the vote of the small percentage of your society that turned out, it’s not really democracy at that point.”

In the hotly contested GOP gubernatorial primary in 2015, only 13 percent of registered Republicans went to the polls, according to Williams. That race saw businessman Matt Bevin win the nomination by just 83 votes. Now some pundits believe the former governor is considering a second bid for office.

“How does he not run with such a scattered field, knowing he just has to get a simple plurality,” says Ward.

Cizmar says she expects Beshear to tout his connections to President Biden and the projects and federal aid he’s secured with the help of the Democrat’s administration. She says she’s curious to see if Republicans nationalize the race by tying Beshear to Biden since they can no longer use outgoing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi or former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as “bogeywomen.”

“I definitely think it will get this national flavor, but I’m actually curious as well to see what that will look like from the Republican side,” says Cizmar. “They don’t have maybe some of the traditional foils that they can use in the election.”

Williams says Republicans hope Beshear “cozies up” with Biden, arguing that it’s GOP policies that have boosted the state’s economy in recent years. But she also acknowledges that Kentucky’s off-year gubernatorial election is often seen as a bellwether for presidential elections the following year.

“If Andy Beshear should win, does that bode well for a Democrat in the White House?” says Williams. “I think the stakes are really, really high for the governorship next year for Republicans to win.”

A number of familiar faces have already announced for other statewide offices, including current Kentucky Treasurer Allison Ball for auditor, former Deputy Treasurer OJ Oleka for treasurer, former state Rep. Jonathan Shell of Lancaster for Agriculture Commissioner, and former U.S. Attorney Russell Coleman for attorney general.

On the Democratic side, state Rep. Pamela Stevenson of Louisville announced late last month that she will run for attorney general. Candidates have until 4 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 6 to file for statewide office.

As those campaigns swing into full gear, state lawmakers will convene in Frankfort for the 2023 General Assembly. Williams says the Republican supermajorities will make tax policy a top agenda item for the 30-day session

“The first vote that you’re going to see taken by both House and Senate members in the General Assembly is to drop the personal income tax rate a half a percent,” says Williams. “I think people will like that.”

Ward contends that such a cut will only benefit the wealthiest Kentuckians, and will force Republicans to find ways to make up for the lower state tax revenues that will result.

“The vast majority of Kentuckians… they’re not going to see a change in their take-home pay,” says Ward. “But they will see a change when they buy things and have to pay a larger sales tax, which is going to be the only solution.”

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Season 29 Episodes

Medical Marijuana Legalization in Kentucky

S29 E44 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 01/30/23

Kentucky's Juvenile Justice System

S29 E43 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 01/23/23

Legislation Introduced in the 2023 General Assembly

S29 E42 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 01/09/23

2023 Legislative Session Preview

S29 E41 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 12/19/22

National Politics

S29 E40 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 12/05/22

2022 Election Preview

S29 E39 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 11/07/22

Inflation and the Economy

S29 E38 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 10/31/22

Constitutional Amendments 1 & 2

S29 E37 Length 56:36 Premiere Date 10/24/22

Candidates for U.S. House of Representatives: Part Two

S29 E36 Length 56:35 Premiere Date 10/17/22

Candidates for U.S. House of Representatives: Part One

S29 E35 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 10/10/22

U.S. Senate Candidate Charles Booker

S29 E34 Length 26:31 Premiere Date 10/03/22

Discussing Flooding's Impact on Eastern Kentucky Schools

S29 E33 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 09/26/22

COVID-19, Monkeypox and Influenza

S29 E32 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 09/12/22

Eastern Kentucky Flooding and Legislative Relief Package

S29 E31 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 08/29/22

Child Care in Kentucky

S29 E30 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 08/22/22

School Safety: Debating State Policies

S29 E29 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 08/01/22

Work, Wages and Welfare

S29 E28 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 07/25/22

50 Years of Title IX

S29 E26 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 07/18/22

The Impact of U.S. Supreme Court Decisions

S29 E24 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 07/11/22

Kentucky's Ban on Abortion

S29 E23 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 06/27/22

Discussing New Developments in the COVID-19 Pandemic

S29 E22 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 06/20/22

Reducing Opioid Addiction Rates in Kentucky

S29 E21 Length 56:36 Premiere Date 06/13/22

Mass Shootings and Gun Laws

S29 E20 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 06/06/22

Discussing the Rise in Gas Prices and Inflation

S29 E19 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 05/23/22

Previewing Kentucky's 2022 Primary Election

S29 E18 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 05/16/22

Third Congressional District Democratic Primary

S29 E17 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 05/09/22

Candidates in the 2022 Primary Election: Part Two

S29 E16 Length 58:33 Premiere Date 05/02/22

Candidates in the 2022 Primary Election: Part One

S29 E15 Length 58:40 Premiere Date 04/25/22

Lawmakers Review the 2022 General Assembly

S29 E14 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 04/18/22

Recap of the 2022 Legislative Session

S29 E13 Length 56:35 Premiere Date 04/11/22

Public Assistance and Jobless Benefits

S29 E12 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 03/28/22

Abortion Legislation in the 2022 General Assembly

S29 E11 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 03/21/22

State Budget, Taxes, and Other 2022 General Assembly Topics

S29 E10 Length 57:42 Premiere Date 03/14/22

Critical Race Theory and Approaches to Teaching History

S29 E9 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 02/28/22

2022 Legislative Session at the Midpoint

S29 E8 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 02/21/22

Name, Image and Likeness Compensation

S29 E7 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 02/14/22

Child Abuse and Neglect

S29 E6 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 02/07/22

Debating School Choice in Kentucky

S29 E5 Length 56:35 Premiere Date 02/01/22

Debating Provisions in the Proposed State Budget

S29 E4 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 01/24/22

Redistricting, State Budget, and Other Legislative Issues

S29 E3 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 01/10/22

Discussing Legislative Goals for the 2022 General Assembly

S29 E2 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 01/03/22

Previewing the 2022 Kentucky General Assembly

S29 E1 Length 56:35 Premiere Date 12/06/21

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Legislative Session Recap - S31 E2

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