In one of this spring's hottest statehouse races, Republicans in south-central Kentucky's 16th Senate district ousted incumbent Sara Beth Gregory of Monticello on Tuesday.
Max Wise, 38, a former FBI intelligence analyst who teaches political science at Campbellsville University, beat Gregory to win a four-year Senate term. There is no Democratic candidate in the Nov. 4 election.
"It's just overwhelming," Wise said. "Any time a challenger can knock off an incumbent, it just shows the hard work and perseverance that goes into it."
Gregory, 31, has been a senator since she won a special election in 2012 to replace Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville, who took a judgeship. She was considered a rising star and a potential member of Senate leadership.
The race divided Republicans in the rural district, which includes Clinton, Cumberland, McCreary, Wayne, Adair, Russell and Taylor counties.
Wise criticized Gregory for leaving the Senate floor in February to avoid voting on a Republican-backed bill to create medical-review panels in malpractice cases. Gregory said she abstained to avoid a conflict of interest because her law firm handles malpractice lawsuits. She accused Wise of misleading voters by "mudslinging."
Despite their personal disputes, both candidates were conservatives who opposed a raise in the minimum wage, abortion, same-sex marriage, gun control and the federal Affordable Care Act. They both personally opposed the legalization of casino gambling, although Wise said he would put the issue on the ballot for voters to decide, while Gregory would not.
In other contested state Senate primaries:
■ Danny Carroll of Paducah won the Republican nomination in Western Kentucky's 2nd district. He'll face Democrat Jeff Parker in the fall.
■ Will Cox Jr. of Madisonville won the Democratic nomination in Western Kentucky's 6th district. He'll face Republican C.B. Embry Jr.
■ Sen. Paul Hornback of Shelbyville won the Republican nomination in the 20th district, east of Jefferson County. There is no Democrat.
■ Wil Schroder II of Wilder won the Republican nomination in Northern Kentucky's 24th district. The Democrat is Jason Michael Steffen of Southgate.
■ Sen. Dan Seum of Fairdale won the Republican nomination in the 38th district in Jefferson and Bullitt counties. There is no Democrat.