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2018 NKY Primary: Candidates React to Victories, Losses

It was another wild primary election night in Northern Kentucky - and across the state. The Kentucky General Assembly saw five incumbent state representatives lose their seats in primaries, including Republican House Majority Floor Leader Jonathan Shell, who was credited as an architect of the controversial pension bill that drove teachers to protest in Frankfort. 

Shell lost to teacher Travis Brenda.

In all, four Republicans and one Louisville-area Democrat lost their legislative seats on Tuesday.


Locally, incumbents had the most trouble in Boone County.

In the hottest race of the night, incumbent Boone & Gallatin County Commonwealth's Attorney Linda Tally Smith, who defiantly sought re-election even after members of her own party urged her to resign following revelation of an affair with a lead detective in a high-profile murder case that she prosecuted, lost big to challenger Louis Kelly.

The race wasn't even close. Kelly, an attorney at Covington-based Adams, Stepner, Wolterman, and Dusing, scored 6,855 votes to Smith's 3,233.

"It has been a tremendous honor to have served the people of Boone and Gallatin Counties for the last 18 years. I am blessed to have had the opportunity to cross paths with and work with many wonderful people during that time," Smith said on Facebook. "We worked hard against what proved to be insurmountable obstacles. We always knew we were fighting an uphill battle. And the people have spoken. I want to congratulate Mr. Kelly on his victory tonight. I will now regroup and focus the rest of my term on transitioning the office to the new Commonwealth’s Attorney."

"Thank you to the citizens of Boone and Gallatin Counties for placing their trust in me to be their next Commonwealth’s Attorney," Kelly said. "I am humbled to receive this honor and will do everything I can to live up to the expectations the citizens have set.

"I want to congratulate Linda Tally Smith on running a hard fought campaign. I look forward to working with her on the transition over the next several months."

Commissioner Charles Walton lost in the GOP primary to challenger Jesse Brewer. "I am beyond humbled by the overwhelming support and vote of confidence that as been placed in me by the voters of Boone County," Brewer said. "I could not have done this alone and there has been several of you along the way that have helped me and I will forever be grateful to you all.

"Boone County voters said today they are ready for some change and I promise you change is what I'm going to bring. I look forward to working with each and everyone of you and representing all of the voters in Boone County."

In a close race, incumbent Boone Circuit Court Clerk Diane Murray lost to challenger David Martin, 4,202 to 4,168. Jennifer Barnett finished third in the race with 1,145 votes.

Judge/Executive Gary Moore fended off a challenge from Chris Reinersman in one of the region's most contentious primaries. Moore won 5,906 to 4,309. "I will continue to give you my best each and every day. I love Boone County and our Northern Kentucky region and I will continue to work to make it the best that it can be," Moore said. "God is good and I am thankful for all of the blessings he pours on me and my amazing family!"

"Tonight was not to be but the campaign has not ended," Reinersman said. "I have learned so much and met so many great people; this was undoubtedly the best part of the effort. I have no regrets and will continue to watch, listen, and fight for my neighbors and friends in the years to come.

"Let’s support our county officials when we can and challenge them when we must. The people of this county deserve to be heard and listened to."

Commissioners Cathy Flaig and Charles Kenner also won their primaries, as did Sheriff Michael Helmig, and County Attorney Robert Neace.

Marcia Thomas and Keith McMain advanced to November in the race for Boone County District Judge. Angela Greene was eliminated. "Last night was overwhelming. We are so grateful for all the support we have been given in this primary," said Thomas. "The numbers in this victory show that we are more than well on our way, to our victory in November. We will continue to work hard and once again, thank you, thank you!"

"I am truly humbled by everyone's support for my campaign. I have made it on to the General Election in the fall. Very excited for the campaign to continue," McMain said.

"Although the results are disappointing, I am proud of our campaign and would like to thank all my supporters," Green said in a Facebook post.

In Campbell County, Judge/Executive Steve Pendery survived yet another Republican primary in his quest to win a sixth term in November. He will face Charlie Coleman, a current county commissioner who switched his party registration from Republican to independent, and Democrat Calvin Sidle. Pendery beat back challenger Anna Zinkhon 3,199 to 2,662.

"Many thanks to my crew and all of you wonderful voters," Zinkhon said. "We gave him a good race!"

Commissioners Brian Painter and Tom Lampe won their primaries, with Painter surviving a scare and coming back from a big deficit to win, and Lampe cruising to victory easily. The open seat, vacated by Charlie Coleman, will feature Geoff Besecker as the Republican nominee. He won a three-way race that included former commissioner Pete Garrett.

"Thank you to the voters of Campbell County being in support of my campaign," Besecker said. "This has been a great experience and I appreciate those who weathered the storm to get out and vote. Thank you also to my support staff and campaign team. Most especially to my wife Toni Zechella Besecker and my four sons. I will continue to work hard to serve our community focusing on a bright future."

Kenton County saw one of the closest races of the night in the special election for Family Court Judge. Incumbent Dawn Gentry, who was appointed by Governor Matt Bevin in late 2016 after Lisa Osborne Bushelman stepped down, finished second in a three-way primary. Terri King Schoborg finished on top with 5,072 votes to 4,595 for Gentry. The race had been tighter throughout the night. They will face each other in November head-to-head after Pete Roush was eliminated in the primary with 2,865 votes.

"Thank you to my amazing husband and family, as well as all my friends and supporters," Gentry said. "I greatly appreciate all of your help and love! I could not have made it this far without you! Thank you from the bottom of my heart!"

"I am clearly disappointed with the results and will reevaluate my standing in our cool," Roush said. "Although I am personally the loser tonight I ask all to remember the importance of family court judge and spend time evaluating the candidates."

Commonwealth's Attorney Rob Sanders and Sheriff Chuck Korzenborn easily won their Republican primaries.

In state legislative races, Democrat Darrell Link and Republican Savannah Maddox will square off for the open seat in House District 61. Republican incumbent Brian Linder is not seeking re-election to the seat, which covers all of Grant County, part of southern Kenton, northern Scott, and southeastern Boone counties.

Link, a former Grant County Judge/Executive, fought off Simon Kenton High School guidance counselor Susan Back by just over 200 votes. Their very cordial primary ended with Back conceding and urging her supporters to get behind Link, and also announcing that she has joined his campaign team.


On the Republican side, Maddox easily beat Dr. Michael Fletcher.

In House District 69, Col Owens won the Democratic primary over teacher Ryan Neaves, 938 to 622. Owens, a former chairman of the Kenton County Democratic Party and member of the Covington Board of Education, will face incumbent Republican State Rep. Adam Koenig in November.


"Although I was not fortunate enough to win my primary - I have to say, I do feel like a winner tonight," Neaves said. "I was able to experience something over the past five months that was so far removed from my comfort zone that I constantly surprised myself at what I was doing. I was able to meet and interact with so many new people and form so many new friendships and relationships that I otherwise never would have. I was able to learn about what truly matters to our district and look at things from a new perspective and I'm beyond appreciative for this."

Neaves also noted that only 1,500 votes were cast in the Democratic primary out of a possible 15,000 in the district.

"1,560 votes will not beat Adam Koenig in the general election. I can't put my finger on the reason for so much voter apathy in this district, but we've got 5 months to figure it out," Neaves said.

In House District 60, Jesse Parks won the Democratic nomination over Roger Rankin. The two posed for a photo together afterwards.


At the city level, the Bellevue mayoral candidates are decided. First-time candidate Charlie Cleves, a longtime business owner and civic booster, won more votes than his two opponents combined. Cleves claimed 447 votes to Steve Brun's 209 and Bill Helton's 61. Cleves will face Brun, a current member of city council, in a head-to-head race in November. Helton, a former city councilman, was eliminated.

In Covington, incumbent city commissioner Bill Wells won the day, finishing with the most votes of the ten candidates. Former mayor Denny Bowman, returning to the ballot for the first time in ten years, finished second in his bid for a seat on the city commission. Incumbents Timothy Downing and Michelle Williams finished third and fourth, respectively. Other candidates moving on to November are John Flesch, who is making his second run and finished fifth, Shannon Smith, who is running for the first time, Chrsiti Blair, and Brandon Mims, who are each running for the third time.

Del Shawn Renee Hayes and M. Spears, who campaigned on a platform that included a proposed wall to be built between Newport and Covington, were eliminated from the race.