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Election 2018: In NKY, There Will Be Competitive Races for Legislative Seats

Nearly every legislative district in Northern Kentucky will see a competitive race in the fall, at least on paper.

And some will even have primaries - on the Democratic side, a surprise since Democrats have been all but wiped out of the Northern Kentucky Legislative Caucus, save for Reps. Dennis Keene, who drew a Republican challenger in northern Campbell County, and Arnold Simpson, who is retiring, creating a competitive race in northern Kenton County.

Simpson is not the only incumbent to bow out of the 2018 campaign.

Republican Rep. Addia Wuchner, whose district covers Florence and northwestern Boone Co., will not seek reelection. She has served in the House since 2005. Rep. Brian Linder, a Republican from Dry Ridge, whose district covers all of Grant County and parts of Kenton, Boone, and Scott Counties, did not file to run again. He was one of four Republican lawmakers that settled a sexual harassment lawsuit with a female former staff member, all of whom were asked to resign by Governor Matt Bevin.

It is unusual for there to be so many contested legislative races in Northern Kentucky but the Democrats have fielded candidates in every corner - and even have a primary of their own in District 69. Republican Adam Koenig currently holds that seat, and former Kenton County Democratic Party chairman Col Owens and school teacher Ryan Neaves want to take him on in the fall.

Here's how the legislative races break down in Northern Kentucky this year (i = incumbent), with information pulled from submitted campaign press releases or social media/websites that were easily found:

Senate District 24

Republican: Wil Schroder (i)

Democrat: Rachel Roberts

House District 60

This district is in Boone County and is currently represented by Rep. Sal Santoro (R-Florence).

Republican: Sal Santoro (i)

Democrat: Roger Rankin, Jesse Parks

Santoro has represented the district since 2007. 

Parks, on a campaign Facebook page, said that he is a longtime employee of Jake Sweeney Auto Group and a volunteer at his daughter's school. "I believe Kentucky’s state government needs to address wage stagnation and help workers whose jobs have changed or disappeared due to circumstances beyond their control," Parks wrote. "Government can help control the transition to other work or in new industries. Kentucky has made strides in building alternative energy industries, and I believe that the State should continue in that direction. Kentucky needs tax reform, to protect public pensions, and to support our public schools. The people of Kentucky look to government to take an active role in the public health crisis of opioid addiction and not just relying on our police and court system to solve the problem. Constant vigilance is required to protect the rights of all citizens as provided by state and federal laws and in the U.S. Constitution."

House District 61

This district is in all of Grant County and parts of Kenton, Boone, and Scott Counties, and is currently represented by Rep. Brian Linder (R-Dry Ridge).

Republican: Michael Fletcher, Savanna Maddox

Democrat: Darrell Link, Susan Back

Maddox is the chair of the Grant County Republican Party and Link is the former Grant County Judge/Executive, so the seat has drawn some heavy-hitters.

“First and foremost, my purpose in running for this seat is firmly rooted in a commitment to be openly accessible to the people who reside in this district, and to be dedicated to promoting conservative values in the Kentucky Legislature,” said Maddox, a graduate of Northern Kentucky University who is a lifelong, sixth-generation resident of Grant County. She is involved with the NKY Young Republicans and worked on Senator Rand Paul's campaign, and worked to elect Congressman Thomas Massie, Governor Matt Bevin, and State Senator Damon Thayer. “I am motivated by the desire to analyze the issues that impact the 61 st district, and to be a dedicated and accountable public servant in order to develop solutions that improve the lives of those living around me and across the Commonwealth.”
 
Fletcher lives in Independence, Link lives in Williamstown, and Back lives in Morning View.
 
House District 63
 
This district is in parts of Kenton and Boone Counties and is currently represented by Rep. Diane St. Onge (R-Ft. Wright).
 
Republican: Diane St. Onge (i)
 
Democrat: Josh Blair
 
St. Onge has already put together a campaign team of veteran Republican operatives, with Pam Dimmerman reprising her role as campaign manager. St. Onge has held the seat since 2013 and previously served on Lakeside Park city council.
 
Blair, of Erlanger, is making his first run for office. 
 
“My fellow Kentuckians in Kenton and Boone counties deserve someone in Frankfort who will fight for the issues they care about,” Blair said. “Nearly everyone I speak to is concerned about the same things: rising taxes, good jobs, quality education, the pension crisis, affordable healthcare, increasing college tuition, and the heroin epidemic.
 
“I’ve lived most of my life in this district, and the last time voters had a choice was the year before I could vote,” Blair sais. “That’s not how a democracy should work.”

House District 64

This district is in Kenton County and part of Campbell County and is currently represented by Kimberly Moser (R-Taylor Mill).

Republican: Kimberly Moser (i)

Democrat: Larry Varney 

This is a reprise of 2016's campaign that saw Moser win her first term with 69 percent of the vote.

House District 65

This district is northern Kenton County, and includes most of Northern Kentucky's largest city, Covington, and has been represented by Rep. Arnold Simpson (D-Covington) since 1995.

Republican: Jordan Huizenga

Democrat: Charles "Buddy" Wheatley

This is most talked-about race so far because Simpson's announcement came largely as a surprise, in a Facebook post late on New Year's Eve. Both Huizenga, a two-term Covington city commissioner, and Wheatley, a former Covington Fire chief, were expected to be on the ballot for a seat on the city commission. With Simpson's retirement, they have both jumped in to make this a very competitive race. 

House District 66

This district is in Boone County and is currently represented by Rep. Addia Wuchner (R-Florence).

Republican: Ed Massey

Democrat: Roberto Henriquez

With Wuchner's surprise decision not to run, this seat is open, too.

Ed Massey is a current member of the Boone County Board of Education and Henriquez is a former school teacher at Boone County Schools and now works at Wynright Corporation.

House District 67

This district is in northern Campbell County and is currently represented by Rep. Dennis Keene (D-Wilder).

Republican: Bob Schrage

Democrat: Dennis Keene (i)

If there was any sign that state Republicans are emboldened by their capture of the House in 2016, look no further than District 67 where longtime incumbent Keene is being challenged.

House District 68

This district is in central and southern Campbell County and is represented by Joe Fischer (R-Ft. Thomas).

Republican: Joe Fischer (i)

Democrat: Jason Kilmer 

Kilmer is running for office for the first time and Fischer has held the seat since 1999.

House District 69

This district is in Kenton and Boone Counties and is currently represented by Adam Koenig (R-Erlanger).

Republican: Adam Koenig (i)

Democrat: Col Owens, Ryan Neaves

Koenig has held this seat since 2007 after serving as a Kenton County Commissioner.

Neaves is making his first run for office. He is an 8th grade teacher at Tichenor Middle School and is the head boys and girls track and cross country coach at Lloyd High School. He lives in Florence with his wife Rachel, and children Hadley, 5, Lily, 3, and Beau, 1.

Owens has served on the Covington Board of Education and was chair of the Kenton County Democratic Party. “Improving health care for all Kentuckians is another high priority. Good health is essential to quality of life and a highly-productive workforce,” Owens said. “I worked on health care issues, at their request, for Ohio Governors John Kasich and Ted Strickland. I always worked with members of both parties to achieve gains for all citizens.” Owens helped lead the campaign to implement the Medicaid expansion in Ohio, which brought health care to 700,000 Ohioans.


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-Michael Monks, editor & publisher