Politics & Government

Two Kentucky state House incumbents are defeated in primary


Two of the 11 state House incumbents facing party opposition Tuesday in Kentucky’s primary election went down to defeat.

Louisville lawmakers Tom Riner, a Democrat, and Ron Crimm, a Republican, lost their bids for re-election.

Riner, a Baptist pastor who has been in the House since 1982, was ousted by Attica Scott, a former member of the Louisville Metro Council, in the 41st House District. She has no opposition in the fall election.

Scott was helped by state Rep. Mary Lou Marzian, D-Louisville, and former state Rep. Eleanor Jordan, D-Louisville, who signed a direct-mail letter to voters in the district saying Riner didn’t share their values.

Riner has been criticized by some Democrats for not caucusing with House Democrats and for introducing Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis to the conservative Liberty Counsel group for legal advice in her battle against issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Riner also surprised his House colleagues in 2013 when, in a floor speech, he gave a forceful speech against sexual harassment shortly after two veteran employees filed complaints against a state lawmaker.

Crimm, who has been in the House for 19 years, lost to Jason Nemes, an attorney who is a former director of the state Administrative Office of the Courts, in the 33rd House District. Nemes faces Democrat Rob Walker in the November general election.

Nemes is the son of Mike Nemes, a former state representative and the current deputy secretary of the Kentucky Labor Cabinet. Nemes ran radio ads in his campaign against Crimm that featured former Kentucky Supreme Court Chief Justice Joseph Lambert.

Tuesday’s House elections to select party nominees set the stage for a contentious fight between Democrats and Republicans for control of the Kentucky House of Representatives in the Nov. 8 general election.

Republicans think they have a good chance of wresting control of the House from Democrats for the first time since 1921. They fielded candidates in 91 of the 100 House districts up for election this year.

Republicans now control the state Senate and the governor’s office. The Kentucky House is the last legislative chamber in the South with a majority of Democrats.

State Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, said Donald Trump, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee, will be a factor in state House races this fall.

He said Tuesday’s vote in Kentucky’s Democratic presidential primary showed Democrat Hillary Clinton’s weakness in rural parts of the state, where Republicans have the best chance to pick up state House seats.

“The Trump-Clinton factor helps us in the state House races,” Stivers said.

Democrats now outnumber Republicans in the state House 53-47 after winning three of four special elections in March.

Eleven incumbents — seven Republicans and four Democrats — faced party opposition Tuesday.

Besides Riner and Crimm, they were Russell Webber, R-Shepherdsville; Linda Belcher, D-Shepherdsville; Daniel Elliott, R-Danville; Kim King, R-Harrodsburg; Jonathan Shell, R-Lancaster; Donna Mayfield, R-Winchester; Regina Bunch, R-Williamsburg; Chris Harris, D-Forest Hills; and House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg.

Eight incumbent representatives did not run for re-election this year. They include four Democrats — Johnny Bell of Glasgow, Larry Clark of Louisville, Mike Denham of Maysville and Leslie Combs of Pikeville — and four Republicans — Bob DeWeese of Louisville, David Floyd of Bardstown, Brad Montell of Shelbyville and Thomas Kerr of Taylor Mill in Kenton County.

Jack Brammer: 502-227-1198, @BGPolitics

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