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Ky. House District 8 GOP primary features matchup between incumbent, Caldwell judge-exec

Legislative Research Commission, Kentucky County Judge-Executive Association
Kentucky House District 8 incumbent Walker Wood Thomas and Caldwell County Judge-Executive Larry Curling will face off in the Republican primary election in May.

This story has been edited for clarity.

The Kentucky House District 8 Republican primary election race is a faceoff between the incumbent and a local judge-executive trying to make the leap to state politics.

House District 8 consists of Caldwell County and parts of Trigg and Christian counties. Walker Wood Thomas is the incumbent and has been in the position since 2016, and his challenger is Larry Curling, who currently serves as the judge-executive for Caldwell County. Lone Democratic candidate Pam Dossett will face the winner of the GOP primary in fall’s general election.

Before becoming a legislator, Thomas graduated college and became a business owner, formerly owning a skating rink and currently a storage business. He’s done six years of both business ownership and politics. He said, now that he's been there a little while, he has the knowledge of how things work but hasn’t been up there so long that he’s ineffective.

“The first two years, I hate to say, you're kind of figuring out where the bathrooms are and how you're going to juggle all these committees and sorting through emails and phone calls and things like that,” Thomas said. “Now I got a good balance.”

Curling’s been working in county government for eight years, and he’s gotten a chance to learn what counties really need through local governance. Before getting into government, he worked in the Caldwell County school system for 32 years. His experiences, he said, have helped him listen more and talk less in his work.

“One thing you learn by doing that as you work with the public, you listen to them every day,” Curling said. “You go to their house, you listen to their concerns from potholes to dogs to trash, you name it. It's having boots on the ground.”

Some of Thomas’s recent accomplishments and efforts in the House include supporting the omnibus abortion bill that passed, advocating for tax-exempt military pensions and working to lower that state’s income tax. He’s the chair of the Veterans, Military Affairs, & Public Protection committee currently, so he’s been focused on some of the issues related to that along with work related to the other committees he’s one – which include agriculture, transportation, local government and capital projects..

He’s also been working on fast tracking teacher certifications so those interested can start the work in high school. It’s House Bill 277 and the program allows those looking to become teachers to work with the school system during the day and take classes at night. The goal is to get teaching degrees in three years instead of four.

“It's been passed, the governor has [passed it], so I look forward to implementing it and kind of getting the word out that it's even available,” Thomas said.

Curling’s been focused on infrastructure in Caldwell County. In the last three years, they’ve resurfaced 75 miles of road so far and they’ve got plans to resurface 25 more miles. There’s also been a lot of work done toward increasing internet and broadband access in the rural parts of Caldwell County.

He said they’ve been working on a grant to partner with Pennyrile Electric to run fiber out to the surrounding counties.

Thomas is looking into transportation and infrastructure improvements for the state’s future, namely roads and broadband expansion. He hopes to distribute some of the money that’s been appropriated for rural internet networks.

“We do need to get that out into the communities,” Thomas said. “COVID the last couple years shows how important it is when you have kids and counties having to make hotspots so kids can get to class, in essence, through Zoom and everything. It just showed how important broadband is to our communities and we do need to try to get it out in the rural communities.”

He’s also considering anti-abortion rights legislation and what can be done to improve the retirement plans of local police departments.

Curling has hopes to change the income tax and support a consumption tax. He’s also looking at ways to improve the workforce. He also wants to expand on work he’s done at the county level.

“[I want to] put as much money as possible into infrastructure, especially roads,” Curling said. “States have been flushed with cash from the federal government. Our state roads that you drive on these days [need] dire resurfacing.”

Both candidates care about the community they want to represent. Thomas said to vote for him because experience matters and he’s been around long enough to navigate how the system works. Curling said to vote for him because he’s passionate about public service.

The 2022 primary elections will take place on May 17. Learn more about races in the region in our Primary Election Voter Guide.

Lily Burris is a tornado recovery reporter for WKMS, Murray State's NPR Station. Her nine month reporting project is supported by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
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