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Math Teacher Defeats Republican Leader In Statehouse Primary

Alexey Stiop
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A high school teacher has defeated Kentucky’s House majority leader in a Republican primary election, signaling the newfound voting power of teachers after lawmakers made changes to state worker pension benefits this year.

Travis Brenda is a 19-year teacher at Rockcastle County High School and won the 71st district GOP primary by just 123 votes.

During the campaign, Brenda attacked Rep. Jonathan Shell for helping craft the pension bill and tax reform package that passed into law this spring.

Shell was a rising star in the Republican Party. The 30 year-old helped recruit Republican candidates for House races in 2016, when the GOP took control of the chamber for the first time in nearly a century.

Brenda will face Democrat Mary Renfro of Berea in the general election. At least eight other educators have advanced through the primary contests. There are three other incumbent Republicans and one Democrat who lost races.

Republican Rep. Wesley Morgan of Richmond fell to businesswoman Deanna Frazier in the 81st district primary. Morgan was an ardent opponent of former Republican House Speaker Jeff Hoover and last year said he reported Hoover’s recent sexual harassment scandal to the FBI. Frazier will face Democrat Morgan Eaves in the general election.

Republican Rep. Tim Couch of Hyden lost to Leslie County Clerk James Lewis in the 90th district primary. No Democrat filed to run for the district.

Republican Rep. Lynn Bechler of Marion was defeated by Fred Stubblefield in the 4th district Republican primary. Stubblefield is an officer with the Republican Party of Kentucky and in the general election will face Democrat Abigail Barnes, an attorney from Livingston County.

Democratic Rep. Dennis Horlander, who has represented the 40thHouse district since 1996, lost to Nima Kulkarni, an immigration and employment law attorney from Louisville. Kulkarni will face Republican Joshua Neubert in the general election.

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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