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Few Candidates Challenging Kentucky Congressmen Rand Paul So Far

Photo provided by Rand Paul for US Senate

Kentuckians seeking to run for Congress or Senate as a Democrat or Republican have until this afternoon to officially declare a candidacy.

Through Monday afternoon, only a handful of Kentuckians were vying for the jobs.

Five of Kentucky’s incumbent U.S. House members are seeking re-election, and so is U.S. Sen. Rand Paul. So far, none of them are facing high-profile challenges.

There’s always the potential for a strong candidate to enter just before the deadline passes — that’s precisely how Matt Bevin launched his successful bid for governor a year ago.

Here’s a rundown of who is running with one day to go.

U.S. Senate

Despite rumors that Lexington Mayor Jim Gray will make a bid for the U.S. Senate, Rand Paul still doesn’t have any prominent challengers.

On the Democratic side, there’s Phelps manufacturing worker Jeff Kender, retired navy officer Tom Recktenwald of Louisville and Owensboro business owner Grant Short.

Paul does have two Republican challengers for the May primary election — Lexington financial analyst James Gould and Stephen Slaughter, an engineer from Louisville.

Last year, political observers said Paul’s focus on his presidential campaign could jeopardize his simultaneous bid for re-election to the Senate. But a strong showing by Republicans in statewide races appears to have tempered that thinking.

House District 1

Four Republicans and one Democrat have emerged to run for the congressional seat held by longtime Republican Rep. Ed Whitfield, who is not seeking re-election.

Republican James Comer is the most prominent candidate, having served as state agriculture commissioner for four years and state representative for 11 years before that. Comer lost the bid to be the Republican candidate for governor last year by 83 votes.

Also seeking the nomination are Whitfield’s former district director Michael Pape, Hickman County Attorney Jason Batts and Miles Caughey of Herndon.

The only Democratic challenger for the seat representing western parts of the state is Sam Gaskins, a retired military officer from Hopkinsville.

House District 2

So far, Republican Rep. Brett Guthrie is running unopposed in the district, which includes parts of west and central Kentucky. Guthrie was first elected to congress in 2009. He defeated Democratic challenger Ron Leach in 2014. He previously served in the state Senate.

House District 3

John Yarmuth, Kentucky’s lone Democratic representative in Washington, has filed for re-election to the congressional district covering Louisville. He has held the seat since 2007.

Republican Robert DeVore has also filed for the seat. DeVore previously ran for the seat in 2008, losing to Anne Northup in a primary race.

He also ran for Louisville mayor in 2014 and was resoundingly defeated.

House District 4

Republican Rep. Thomas Massie has no prominent challengers in his district, which extends across northern and northeastern Kentucky.

Highland Heights resident Calvin Sidle has filed to run as a Democrat.

House District 5

Republican Rep. Hal Rogers has filed for re-election to his eastern and southeastern Kentucky seat, which he has held since 1981.

Rogers is the chair of the powerful House Appropriations Committee.

Somerset resident John Burk has also filed to run as a Republican.

House District 6

Republican Rep. Andy Barr has drawn a handful of Democratic challengers for his seat. The House district is centered on Lexington.

Those challengers will include Nancy Jo Kemper, former executive director of the Kentucky Council of Churches; Lexington engineer Geoff Young; and attorney Michael Coblenz.

Ryland Barton is the Managing Editor for Collaboratives for Kentucky Public Radio, a group of public radio stations including WKMS, WFPL in Louisville, WEKU in Richmond and WKYU in Bowling Green. A native of Lexington, Ryland most recently served as the Capitol Reporter for Kentucky Public Radio. He has covered politics and state government for NPR member stations KWBU in Waco and KUT in Austin.
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