Politics & Government

Parties select candidates for state Senate seat in Southern Kentucky

FRANKFORT — State Rep. Sara Beth Gregory, R-Monticello, will face Democrat Bill Conn, a Williamsburg teacher and a first-time candidate, in a Dec. 18 special election for an open state Senate seat in Southern Kentucky.

Democratic and Republican party officials from the 16th Senate District, which includes Clinton, Cumberland, McCreary, Monroe, Wayne and Whitley counties, nominated Gregory and Conn at separate meetings late Thursday evening. Former Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville, vacated the seat after being appointed to an open circuit court judgeship by Gov. Steve Beshear.

Gregory, 30, was first elected in 2011 and won a second term on Nov. 6 as state representative for the 52nd House District, which includes McCreary and Wayne counties and a portion of Pulaski County. Conn, 29, teaches elementary school at Williamsburg Independent School District. He will turn 30, the minimum age for a state senator, on Dec. 8.

Gregory, an attorney, has said she is pursing the Senate seat in the heavily Republican district because she wants to continue working on key issues that she has tackled as a state representative.

"I am seeking the nomination for state Senate because I want to continue working to bring new jobs and development to this region, to fight the problem of drug abuse, and to protect the values of the people who live here," Gregory said in a written statement when she announced her candidacy.

Conn said he is a conservative Democrat who does not agree with President Barack Obama on many issues, including Obama's stance on the coal industry.

"I am proud to be a pro-coal, pro-life, pro-gun, pro-family Democrat," Conn said.

Senate Republicans must also elect a new leader with Williams' departure. Williams has been Senate president since 2000.

On Nov. 27, Senate Republicans will elect a new leader, who is expected to then become Senate president when lawmakers convene in early January for the 2013 legislative session. Candidates for the top spot include Senate Majority Leader Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, and Sen. Robert Leeper, an independent from Paducah.

Senate Republicans will fill other top leadership positions during their Nov. 27 meeting in the Capitol Annex.