A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Primary 2024: NKY has 10 state legislative races this month; at least one going down to the wire


By Jack Brammer
NKyTribune reporter

A state legislative race in Northern Kentucky between two Republicans is shaping up to be the nastiest in the state this spring. Allegations involving controversial topics like gay hook-ups, white supremacy, and support for Hillary Clinton have popped up in the 66th House District that covers part of Boone County. The district represents parts of Burlington and Hebron as well as Belleview and Petersburg.

In the district’s May 21 Republican primary election, TJ (nickname for Theodore Joseph) Roberts of Burlington has called on his opponent, C. Edward Massey of Hebron, to withdraw for personal attacks.

Thomas Massey, TJ Roberts (Photos provided)

Massey, a former two-term state representative, says it is his opponent who started the negative attacks and that he will hit back when hit.

The attack-filled race is one of 10 state legislative races this spring involving the Northern Kentucky counties of Boone, Kenton and Campbell — three in the Senate and seven in the House.

Republicans occupy 80 of the 100 state House seats and 31 of the 38 state Senate seats in Kentucky. Republicans will keep control of both chambers this year. On the ballot are all 100 House seats for two-year terms and half of the Senate seats – those in odd-numbered districts – for four-year terms.

Here’s a look at each of the state legislative races next week in Northern Kentucky. Voter turnout is expected to be low.

Kentucky House (File photo)

Kentucky House

66th District

Both Roberts and Massey – GOP contenders in the state House’s 66th District — are lawyers, graduates of Northern Kentucky University’s Chase College of Law.

Both espouse conservative views on major issues like abortion and gun rights but Roberts also aligns himself with so-called “Liberty” candidates. They are known for limited government and strict adherence to the Constitution and Christian values. Their ranks in Northern Kentucky include U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie of Lewis County and state Rep. Savannah Maddox of Dry Ridge, both of whom support Roberts.

Massey’s endorsements include Boone County Attorney Bob Neace and former United Nations Ambassador Kelly Craft, an unsuccessful candidate for governor of Kentucky last year.

Massey held the 66th House seat for four years and wants to return. He was one of three Northern Kentucky committee chairs defeated by Liberty Republicans in the 2022 primary election. He blames low turnout – about 10 percent – on his defeat.

He is running to replace the lawmaker who beat him – Rep. Steve Rawlings, R-Burlington, who is now running for the seat of retiring state Sen. John Schickel, R-Union.

Massey was a member of the Boone County School Board of Education before he was a legislator. He served on the school board from 1998 to 2018.

In the House, Massey served as chair of the Judiciary Committee. He said his goals in returning to the Capitol include representing well the economically productive 66th District, ensure a strong educational environment through public and private schools and school choice options and improve juvenile justice centers.

Roberts, an attorney, said he has been fighting for rights and freedoms. In 2020, he sued Gov. Andy Beshear after he banned worship, protests, and other activities and won. Roberts also has fought for school choice, constitutional carrying of guns, abolition of vaccine mandates and the end of abortion.

But attacks have dominated over issues in the House race.

Roberts’ campaign has accused Massey of being a Democrat, basing the claim on a Federal Election Commission report that Massey had donated to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in 2008.

Massey said the money was the cost of admission to attend an event to hear a presidential candidate speak about education at a private residence at the time he was on the school board and he did not consider it a campaign donation. He said the Roberts’ campaign is trying to smear him with flyers that show him with Clinton.

There also was Massey’s appointment by House leadership to a special panel to investigate whether Gov. Beshear should be impeached for his COVID-19 policies. The committee voted unanimously not to impeach. That only fueled comments from the Liberty side that Massey was close to the Democrats.

The Massey campaign, on the other hand, has noted that Roberts years ago met neo-Nazi Richard Spencer, who has sounded off on white supremacy, and shook his hands. Roberts said he actually used the chance to disagree with him about his views on Jewish people.

“Everything was taken out of context,” said Roberts.

Earlier this month, Roberts called for Massey to drop out of the race after Massey at a candidate forum accused Roberts of having a profile on a gay hookup app. The Cincinnati Enquirer reported that Massey said he stood by his claim that Roberts is “rumored to be on Grindr.” Grindr is an online dating site targeted towards gay and bisexual men, and transgender people.

Massey told the Northern Kentucky Tribune that he emphasized that it was a rumor and that he had heard it from several people. “I thought it should be brought out into the race. I’m not judging him, but I think people should be truthful.”

Roberts said he wrote a paper while in college that mentioned “Grindr” but that he is not gay. He thinks some of Massey’s supporters found the article and tried to link Roberts with it.

As of May 21, Massey was leading in campaign funds. His campaign reported taking in $104,900 compared to $58,185 for Roberts. Massey had spent $87,604 and Roberts $40,450.

The winner of the 66th House District Republican primary will face Democrat Peggy Houston-Nienaber of Union on Nov. 5. She is a teacher.

64th District (Part of Kenton County)

Republican Karen Campbell of Independence, a real estate agent, is trying to replace Republican Kim Moser of Taylor Mills, who is running for her fourth term. Moser is chair of the House Health and Family Services Committee.

Heather Crabbe of Covington, an attorney, is a Democrat in the fall race.

60th District (Part of Boone County)

Republican incumbent Marianne Proctor of Union, a speech pathologist, faces GOP challenger Christopher Pavese of Union, a professional engineer.

Deborah Ison Flowers of Union is the Democratic candidate in the race that one of them will face in the fall. She is a retired registered nurse.

61st District (Grant, part of Boone, part of Kenton, Gallatin)

Republican incumbent Savannah Maddox of Dry Ridge has a GOP challenger, Jarrod M. Lykins of Walton, a Marine Corps veteran. No Democrat filed in the race.

63rd District (part of Kenton and Boone counties)

Republican incumbent Kim Banta of Ft. Mitchell is unopposed this year. She is a retired educator.

65th District (part of Kenton County)

Republican incumbent Stephanie Ann Dietz of Edgewood has no GOP challenger but is being challenged by Democrat Aaron Currin of Ft. Wright in the fall. Both are attorneys.

67th District (part of Campbell County)

Democratic incumbent Rachel Roberts of Newport decided not to seek re-election. Vying for the seat this year are Democrat Matthew Lehman of Newport and Republicans Terry W. Hatton of Bellevue and Brian K. Ormes of Southgate.

Lehman is a health care and biotech executive who unsuccessfully challenged U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie in 2022 for the 4th Congressional District seat. Hatton is a U.S. Army veteran who owns VSP Management Co. Ormes owns Boss Mechanical Construction.

68th District (part of Campbell County)

Republican incumbent Mike Clines of Alexandria, an education consultant, has no primary opposition. K. Brandon Long of Fort Thomas, a Democrat, is to run against him this fall. Long is an Episcopalian minister.

69th District (part of Kenton and Boone counties)

Republican incumbent Steven Doan of Erlanger, an attorney, faces Diane Brown of Erlanger in the GOP primary. She is a former attorney who decided to be a fulltime mom. The winner takes on Democrat Wilanne Stangel of Erlanger in November. Stangel is an employee with the Boone County Library System.

78th District (Part of Boone, Campbell and Kenton and all of Pendleton counties)

Republican incumbent Mark Hart of Falmouth is unopposed.

The Kentucky Senate in session (File photo)

Kentucky Senate

11th District (part of Boone County)

Two Republicans are vying to replace the retiring Schickel.

They are Duane Froelicher of Florence and Steve Rawlings of Burlington. Froelicher is president of the Florence Rotary Club and Rawlings is an attorney trying to jump from the House to the Senate.

No Democrat entered the race.

17th District (Grant, part of Kenton, Scott, part of Fayette County)

Longtime Republican incumbent Damon Thayer, the Senate majority leader from Georgetown, is retiring this year.

Seeking to replace him are two Republicans and one Democrat.

According to state data, more than 2 million Kentuckians voted in the 2020 presidential election. (NKyTribune file)

The Republicans are Julia Jaddock of Georgetown and Matt Nunn of Sadieville. The Democrat is Kiana Fields of Georgetown.

Jaddock is a business consultant, Nunn is a Toyota official, and Fields is a University of Louisville research administrator.

23rd District (part of Kenton County)

Republican incumbent Chris McDaniel of Ryland Heights, who is chair of the Senate Appropriations and Revenue Committee, has no GOP opposition but Democrat Jennifer Sierra of Covington is running against him in the fall.

McDaniel runs a concrete company. Sierra is a small business owner whose campaign advocates the rights of women to make their own health decisions.


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