Home » Republicans keep large majority in state House; Barr returns to Congress

Republicans keep large majority in state House; Barr returns to Congress

By Jacqueline Pitts, The Bottom Line

Many close results on Tuesday evening provided for an interesting election night. In the end, Republicans will retain control of the state House and even picked up one seat in the state Senate. At the federal level, U.S. Rep. Andy Barr defeated his Democratic opponent Amy McGrath in a race that was close until the end.

State Senate:

Former state Representatives Robby Mills and Matt Castlen won their elections in western Kentucky to become members of the Senate. Mills unseated incumbent Democrat Sen. Dorsey Ridley, a member of Senate Democratic leadership, while Castlen won the open seat vacated by retiring Republican Sen. Joe Bowen.

Meanwhile, all incumbent Republican Senators in tight races were re-elected by the end of the evening.

The election results expanded the GOP supermajority in the state Senate with the numbers currently sitting at 28-10 with Democratic Minority Leader Ray Jones winning his race for Pike County Judge-Executive on Tuesday, meaning a special election will be called for that open seat.

State House:

Many interesting races in the state House led to some seats changing hands between the parties but did not put a large dent in the Republican majority numbers with the final tally of 61 Republicans and 39 Democrats (before any potential recanvassing takes place). The GOP held 63 seats before Tuesday.

CLOSE INCUMBENT RACES: There were many extremely close contests Tuesday night including a district in western Kentucky where former Democratic state Rep. Jim Glenn won by one single vote against incumbent DJ Johnson, who defeated Glenn in 2016. That race along with others including former Democrat Rep. Cluster Howard and incumbent Republican Toby Herald in eastern Kentucky with a race separated by 7 votes, incumbent Republican incumbent Rep. Jill York’s race where she lost by 5 votes, and Democratic Rep. Jeff Greer’s election where he lost by 6 votes are likely to see those results challenged in the coming days.

Additionally, other incumbent House members from both parties saw defeat in the general elections including Louisville-area representatives Phil Moffett (R), Ken Fleming (R), and Linda Belcher (D) as well as Rep. Larry Brown (R) in Prestonsburg.

Acting House Speaker David Osborne, who was facing a Democratic challenger, handily won his re-election with 60% of the vote.

Much of the angst expected to come from pension reforms passed in the 2018 session did not seem to have as large of an impact on the state House races as many anticipated with most Republican representatives retaining their seats.

NEW FACES: New representatives who will be in Frankfort in 2019 after winning their elections for open House seats include:

• Larry Elkins (R) in District 5 previously held by Rep. Kenny Imes
• Scott Lewis (R) in District 14 where he replaced Matt Castlen (elected Senator in the region’s 8th Senate District)
• Steve Sheldon (R) will replace retiring Rep. Jim DeCesare in District 17
• Patti Minter (D) replacing retiring Rep. Jody Richards in Bowling Green’s 20th District
• Josie Raymond (D) in the 31st House District held by Rep. Steve Riggs
• Lisa Willner (D) replaces Rep. Jim Wayne in District 31
• Nima Kulkarni (D) won in the 40th District previously held by Rep. Dennis Horlander
• Charles Booker (D) will hold the 43rd District seat vacated by Rep. Darryl Owens
• Joe Graviss (D) in District 56 vacated by former Rep. James Kay
• Savannah Maddox (R) in House District 61 replacing former Rep. Brian Linder
• Charles Wheatley (D) in District 65 vacated by Rep. Arnold Simpson
• Ed Massey (R) replacing Rep. Addia Wuchner in the 66th District
• Travis Brenda (R) will represent the 71st District after defeating Rep. Jonathan Shell in the primary election and winning against the Democrat Tuesday
• Les Yates (R) won in the 73rd District previously held by retiring Rep. Donna Mayfield
• Deanna Frazier (R) won the general election in the 81st District after defeating former Rep. Wesley Morgan in the GOP primary
• Bobby McCool (R) will replace retiring Rep. Scott Wells in House District 97
• Terri Clark (D) won in the 100th House District race to replace Rep. Kevin Sinnett

OPEN SEAT GOP PICKUPS: Republicans picked up seats in the open House districts in western Kentucky vacated by Democratic representatives including the 3rd District race where GOP candidate Randy Bridges defeated Martha Emmons for the seat vacated by Rep. Gerald Watkins and a win in the 6th District by Republican Chris Freeland in the previously held by Rep. Will Coursey. GOP candidates Matthew Koch won the 72nd District previously held by Democratic Rep. Sanny Overly and Adam Bowling picked up the seat previously held by Rep. Rick Nelson (D) in the 87th District.

OPEN SEAT DEMOCRATIC PICK UP: Democrats also picked up a seat in western Kentucky previously held by Rep. Robby Mills (who will be the new state Senator for the region) with Democrat Rob Wiederstein defeating Republican James Buckmaster in the 11th District. Democrat Cheralynn Stevenson was victorious in the 88th District previously held by Republican Rep. Robert Benvenuti


At the federal level, all of Kentucky’s incumbent U.S. Representatives won re-election in the state’s six congressional districts.

In the race watched around the country, Republican Congressman Andy Barr and his Democratic opponent, former Marine Amy McGrath, saw their lead come and go throughout the night with Barr finally claiming victory with 51% of the vote.

While Barr reclaimed his U.S. House seat, many other GOP-held districts were claimed across the country and Democrats now have control of the U.S. House of Representatives. Republicans did, however, retain control of the U.S. Senate with Kentucky U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell keeping his position as Senate Majority Leader.

See the full results of all state races on the ballot during the 2018 General Election here.