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Previewing Kentucky's 2022 Primary Election

Renee Shaw previews Kentucky's 2022 primary election with guests Colmon Elridge, chair of the Kentucky Democratic Party; Tres Watson, Republican strategist and founder of Capitol Reins PR; Morgan Eaves, former member of the Beshear administration and government relations professional and strategist; and Anne-Tyler Morgan, attorney and member of McBrayer PLLC.
Season 29 Episode 18 Length 56:33 Premiere: 05/16/22


Kentucky Tonight

KET’s Kentucky Tonight, hosted by Renee Shaw, brings together an expert panel for in-depth analysis on 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. Often aired live, viewers are encouraged to participate by submitting questions real-time via email, Twitter or KET’s online form.
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.

Viewers with questions and comments may send e-mail 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 1-800-494-7605.

After 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 Moderator and Director of Public Affairs for Kentucky Educational Television, currently serving as host of KET’s Kentucky Tonight, Connections, election coverage, Legislative Update and KET Forums.

Since joining KET in 1997, Shaw has produced numerous KET public affairs series and specials, including KET’s nationally recognized legislative coverage. Under her leadership, KET has expanded its portfolio of public affairs content to include Kentucky Supreme Court coverage, town hall-style forums, and multi-platform program initiatives around issues such as opioid addiction and youth mental health.  

As an award-winning journalist, Shaw has earned top awards from the Ohio Valley Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, earning two regional Emmy awards, and an award from the Kentucky Associated Press for political coverage of the state legislature. She was inducted into the Kentucky Civil Rights Hall of Fame in 2017. 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; earned the Anthony Lewis Media Award from the Kentucky Department of Public Advocacy for her work on criminal justice reform in 2014; and, in 2015, received the Green Dot Award for her coverage of domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking.  

In 2018, KET earned a national media award from Mental Health America for its multi-dimensional content on the opioid epidemic shepherded by Shaw. That same year, she co-produced and moderated a six-part series on youth mental health that was awarded first place in educational content by NETA, the National Educational Telecommunications Association. In 2019, Shaw was recognized by The Kentucky Gazette as one of the 50 most notable women in Kentucky politics and government. In addition, Renee was awarded the Charles W. Anderson Laureate Award by the Kentucky Personnel Cabinet which recognizes individuals who have made significant contributions in addressing socio-economic issues.

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

Party Operatives and Political Pundits Forecast Election Results and Trends for the Fall Campaigns

The top race in the 2022 primary elections Kentucky is the contest for the U.S. Senate. Republican incumbent Sen. Rand Paul faces five challengers on the GOP side, while Democrats have fielded four candidates.

Paul, who is seeking his third term in Washington, goes into his campaign with a significant fundraising advantage. Republican strategist Tres Watson says the senator also enjoys high favorability among Kentucky voters, even with those who disagree with him on policy.

“He consistently polls as one of the most popular politicians in the state,” says Watson. “You have to run a very well-oiled machine to knock him off and I just don’t think we’re going to see that this year.”

Paul’s libertarian stances are also influencing down-ballot races, according to attorney and GOP operative Anne-Tyler Morgan.

“His message of ‘get the government off my back’ whether you like it or not is playing extremely well in Kentucky right now,” says Morgan. “We have a number of candidates from the county level through the state legislature who are running exactly on that message.”

Democrats contend Paul is vulnerable because of his iconoclastic approach to politics.

“People understand that he is not representative of who we are as Kentuckians,” says Kentucky Democratic Party Chair Colmon Elridge. “He’s not representative of the compassion, he’s not representative of the values that we have.”

The leading contender in the Democratic primary is Charles Booker of Louisville. The former state representative made a late surge in the 2020 Democratic primary for U.S. Senate as a result of his high profile during the protests over the police-involved death of Breonna Taylor that spring. He eventually lost that contest to former Marine Corps fighter pilot Amy McGrath.

Democratic strategist Morgan Eaves says Booker has faced some fundraising challenges this year, but she contends he can an inspirational candidate for Kentucky voters.

“I think he has a unifying message,” says Eaves. “Now more than ever, Kentuckians and folks across the country are looking for someone that’s going to be a unifier, that’s going to promote consensus building, and not stoke division.”

Given the long-shot status of any Democratic candidate in the race, Watson says he doubts national Democratic groups will direct much money to Booker’s campaign in favor of funding races that may be more winnable. But Elridge contends that the Democratic National Committee is eager to help defeat Paul in November.

3rd Congressional District

After a decade and a half in Washington, 3rd district Congressman John Yarmuth is stepping down at the end of this term. The Louisville Democrat has served as the chair of the House Budget Committee and sponsored the American Rescue Plan Act.

Two Democratic state lawmakers are vying to succeed Yarmuth in Congress: Sen. Morgan McGarvey and Rep. Attica Scott. Elridge says either candidate will be strongly positioned to win in November and continue to fight for the values Yarmuth championed.

“Both are progressive in terms of a host of issues,” says Elridge. “Where they differ… there’s not a lot of daylight there.”

Nine candidates are competing in the Republican primary for the district that comprises nearly all of Jefferson County.

“It shows a lot of energy on the Republican Party’s part that there are a number of candidates running in the primary in the 3rd District who are out there willing to fight the liberal federal agenda,” says Morgan.

State Legislative Races

All 100 seats in the Kentucky House of Representatives and half of the seats in the state Senate are up for election this year. But only about half of these races have candidates from both parties actually competing in them, while a number of incumbents have primary challengers.

In the 22nd state Senatorial District, which includes Garrard and Jessamine Counties and part of Fayette County, Republican incumbent and Lexington physician Donald Douglas is facing Andrew Cooperrider, a Lexington coffee shop owner who opposed Gov. Andy Beshear’s COVID lockdowns and sought to have the governor impeached.

Watson describes this as a “strange election.” Douglas, though technically the incumbent, only arrived in Frankfort in January after winning a special election to replace Sen. Tom Buford, who died unexpectedly last year. Meanwhile, Cooperrider had been campaigning for another state Senate seat when redistricting moved him into the 22nd Senatorial District.

“They’re not very separate on the issues, it’s just Cooperrider is attempting to make this into a Frankfort-versus-us-type thing,” says Watson. “Honestly it’s anybody’s guess what’s going to happen there.”

The contest is also drawing significant money. Watson says Cooperrider has out-fundraised Douglas, but Morgan says Republican political action committee GOPAC has jumped in to spend $120,000 on behalf of Douglas.

“Outside groups have spent for both of these candidates,” says Morgan. “Cooperrider has been a very present candidate, he’s been at a lot of local meetings… while Sen. Douglas has been in the General Assembly session.”

The only Democrat in that race is Chuck Eddy, a Lexington salesman who ran as a Republican candidate for Congress in 2018 and 2020.

In the House, popular Republican incumbents Samara Heavrin of Leitchfield, Adam Koenig of Erlanger, C. Ed Massey of Hebron, and Sal Santoro of Union are also facing primary challenges.

“The fact that they have opponents is just a symbol of the fact that our party is growing in power and number, and more people want to run against them,” says Morgan. “But they’re all conservatives running against conservatives.”

On the Democratic side, incumbent Rep. Pamela Stevenson of the 43rd state House District in Louisville has her own primary challenge from Robert LeVertis Bell. Stevenson, an attorney and retired U.S. Air Force officer, is seeking a second term in Frankfort. Bell is a middle school English teacher, community activist, and a self-described “democratic socialist.”

“Rep. Stevenson is a great legislator [and] a great candidate, she has the support of most of her colleagues in the Democratic House caucus,” says Eaves. “But I think Mr. Bell, the party would embrace him and support him if he’s ultimately the victor.”

There is no Republican running in that district this year, so the Democratic primary will determine who occupies that seat come January.

What’s Ahead for Both Parties

The Democratic and Republican Parties in the commonwealth face very different issues going forward. Establishment Republicans are up against a rising tide of challengers from the far-right fringes of the GOP, while Democrats continue to struggle to field candidates and win local, state, and federal races in an increasingly red state.

“My party absolutely needs to do better in building a bench,” says Elridge.

The party chair says Democrats of his generation have simply not been as active or engaged in politics as they should be. Eaves says finding good candidates has been hard in an era of hyper-partisan politics and negative attack ads.

“It’s very difficult to recruit people of character and of integrity when they know that’s what they’re going to be faced with,” says Eaves.

Watson says it can take negative ads or making “aggressive contrasts” to get people to change their voting behaviors. He says he’s concerned about the rise of outside groups funding ads for or against an incumbent candidate based on a single vote that individual has made.

“That’s a dangerous game to play because you’re going to end up electing somebody who you don’t necessarily agree with on a whole lot of stuff just because you’re mad about one vote,” says Watson. “I don’t think it’s good for party, it’s not good for the state to boil everybody down to just one issue.”

Watson describes himself as a mainstream Republican who is not “entirely pleased” with the direction of the national GOP. But he also says politicians must make compromises sometimes to be able to get into office or stay in office so they can be the “sensible voice” in policymaking discussions.

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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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