Republican challenger Ralph Alvarado turned the table on state Sen. R.J. Palmer II from their 2010 race, narrowly defeating the incumbent for the 28th District seat to culminate a bruising and expensive race, according to unofficial totals.
Palmer had defeated Alvarado four years ago.
Alvarado, a Winchester physician, succeeded with a strategy that took advantage of President Barack Obama's deep unpopularity in Kentucky, running television ads that described Palmer as an "Obama liberal."
Palmer "went running to be Obama's delegate for re-election" despite "a slumping economy, the Obamacare disaster and a war on coal taking 700 jobs from his hometown," the ad said.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Lexington Herald-Leader
Palmer rejected the characterization, saying he was a delegate to the 2012 Democratic convention at the state party's request, and that it was not accurate to call him a liberal.
The two fought over an ad by Palmer that Alvarado said defamed him by implying that he illegally sold $3,000 worth of pain medicine to a drug defendant.
Alvarado sued to block Palmer from airing the ad, which the incumbent defended.
A judge said that there were "clearly issues" with how Palmer's campaign edited courtroom video for the ad, but that he couldn't block Palmer from airing it.
Alvarado reported spending $237,304 as of Oct. 20. Information on Palmer's spending as of that date was not available.
Palmer, a financial adviser from Winchester, has been a state lawmaker since 1999 and is the minority floor leader in the Senate.
The district is made up of Clark and Montgomery counties and part of Fayette County.