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January 23, 2023    Political Note #534 Kentucky Down Ballot candidates

2023                           General Election

 Down ballot positions are important for the job they do. In most states, Secretaries of State oversee elections.  Attorneys General advise and represent the state, often on issues that are truly controversial.  Treasurers and auditors have serious responsibility for state finances.  Commissioners oversee specific sectors of a state’s economy.  These offices also create a political party’s bench.  They are often the source of candidates for Governor or US Senator.

Despite electing a Democratic Governor in 2019.  Despite having had several Democratic Governors in recent years, Kentucky, is pretty far from purple status.  Democrats do occasionally win these offices. Despite winning the governorship in 2019, no Democrats were elected to a down ballot position that year. Help the Democrats win a few in 2023.

Secretary of State

Charles “Buddy” Wheatley’s father was a firefighter.  His grandfather was a firefighter.  His great-grandfather was a firefighter.  That gene did not skip a generation.  Buddy Wheatley was a firefighter in Covington just like the others.  From 2005 to 2008, Buddy Wheatley was fire chief.  He also went to law school – graduating in 2009.

When he opened his own law office, Buddy Wheatley represented public unions, was active in the American Bar Association’s State and Local Government collective bargaining committee, and, in 2018, ran for the Kentucky House of Representatives.  He was elected by more than 20 points and elected again in 2020. Redistricting encouraged him to consider alternatives, which brought him to his run for Secretary of State.

Buddy Wheatley has a record in the legislature he can run on.  He fought successfully to prevent tolls on the new Brent Spence Bridge.  He brought enough understanding of pension issues so that what was seen as a crisis was resolved without needing much in the way of legislation. New legislation created two pension tiers for teachers – allowing them to be eligible for both a pension and a 401k.

Buddy Wheatley is more than clear in his campaign.  He is willing to stand up to election deniers and to promise that Kentucky can and will deliver free and fair elections.  He supported the election reform bill of 2021.  Using emergency powers, Governor Andy Beshear had made voting easier.  Voters did not need a medical excuse to vote by mail and early voting was introduced.  The reform bill, sponsored by Republicans, preserved weakened versions of most of the reforms.  The bill provided for three days of early voting, vote centers where any voter could vote, drop boxes for absentee voters (while the medical excuse requirement for voting by mail was restored, an online portal was created for requesting the absentee ballot).  Buddy Wheatley proposes more and better – an increase in polling locations, recruitment of more poll workers, and an extension of early voting days to two weeks.

Buddy Wheatley will almost certainly face the incumbent Secretary of State Michael Adams.  Adams defeated Democrat Heather French Henry by 4.5 points in 2019.  He initiated the reforms passed by the legislature during the pandemic.  He wanted to add voter ID to the mix, a change that was passed by the legislature despite Governor Beshear’s veto in 2020.

Adams has a political pedigree.  He has worked for Mitch McConnell, served as Mike Pence’s political law attorney, and was the campaign attorney for the notorious Eric Greitens who resigned in disgrace as Missouri governor.  Accusations as a result of his role in Missouri did not make a dent in the 2019 election; but they were noted in Missouri.  Michael Adams law firm was not the recipient of the biggest money during Governor Greiten’s scandal that led to his resignation.  But Michael Adams himself wound up representing the campaign and serving as President and Treasurer of the organization – The New Missouri, which appears to have generated funds supporting Eric Greitens.  Michael Adams was accused by one Greitens opponent of running a criminal enterprise.

In Kentucky, Adams was adamant insisting Kentucky does not suppress votes.  When Hillary Clinton praised the Governor for efforts to achieve a successful election despite Covid in 2020, Adams responded (I could say whined) —  “the greatest threat to our elections is a lack of public confidence. Despite my tireless efforts to restore public confidence in the Kentucky Secretary of State’s Office, and to enhance both the ease and the integrity of our election system, certain people outside our state have aggressively pushed a false, culturally bigoted narrative that paints Kentucky as a racist backwater that suppresses the votes of African-Americans”.

Buddy Wheatley is a local politician who, with his law degree, his expertise on public pensions, and his representation of unions has gone beyond being a local fire chief.   Help Buddy Wheatley get elected.  He will fulfill his promise to encourage people to vote.

Attorney General

Pamela Stevenson trained for this job in the Air Force.  Call her Colonel.  From Louisville, she left Kentucky for Indiana University where she earned her BA and her law degree.  She brought to Indiana and the Air Force a young life affected by her father’s service as chair of the Deacon Board at Oak Grove Baptist, a training that leads her to say, without awkwardness, that she relies on God.

Service as an attorney for the Air Force brought her experiences she might not have imagined in Kentucky or Indiana.  She managed multi-million dollar budgets, represented the US in negotiations with foreign governments, and served on fact finding commissions, including an investigation of 9/11.  After 27 years, she retired with a commitment to work for social change.  That work has included teaching at the University of Louisville’s law school and studying at Louisville Presbyterian Seminary.  Through her connections with a variety of organizations and as the Founder of the Stevenson Law Center, she has helped people gain access to mental health services and health care, helped veterans transition to civilian life, and helped low income communities with economic development.

She also served in Kentucky’s legislature.  Elected to the House of Representatives in 2020, like most Democrats in a body where they are a 4:1 minority, she does not get a chance to make laws.  She has had an opportunity to denounce police violence, abortion bans, and the belief of some that Covid-19 either did not exist or was not a matter of any import.

The incumbent Republican Attorney General is running for Governor.  She will face former US Attorney Russell Coleman in November.  A graduate of the University of Kentucky and its law school, Coleman joined the FBI where he served as a Special Agent.  He went on to be legal counsel to Senator Mitch McConnell and briefing coordinator to two US Attorneys General. He had important roles in dealing with crimes associated with opiates and drug trafficking.  Appointed as US Attorney by Donald Trump, he expressed concern about the increase in crime in Louisville, while acknowledging that “we will not arrest our way out of the drug crisis.” During the protests of 2020, he promised to protect the rights of protestors and to prosecute those who used the protests as an opportunity for criminal behavior. Arrests led by his office included several defendants for ransacking a pharmacy, for carjacking, and for firearms.  When campaigning, he, in effect, announces what the Republican party has come to be. He describes himself as a pro-life, pro-gun, and pro-police conservative.

Let’s help Pamela Stevenson.  Kentucky and the country will benefit from having someone with her sensibilities as Kentucky’s Attorney General.  She could be a transformative figure.

State Treasurer

Michael Bowman is an example of the Democrats building a bench.  Currently, he is a special assistant to the Lt Governor and to the Secretary of Education.  He is a graduate of the University of Kentucky in communication art and graphic design.  He worked for 7 years for the Louisville Metro council, having already moved beyond graphic design.  He managed the council’s budget, including infrastructure spending, and responded to constituents.  He moved to US Bank as a Branch Manager and an officer, joined the Board of the Parks Alliance of Louisville, connected with a Graphics Design company and, in 2020, joined the Governor’s staff.

Three Republicans have filed for State Treasurer.  Andrew Cooperrider, owner of a coffee shop.  He refused to close during the Covid mandates and sought Andrew Beshear’s impeachment. Mark Metcalf, a county attorney.  OJ Oleka, the president of the Association of Independent Kentucky Colleges and Universities and the former Chief of Staff for State Treasurer Allison Ball.  He is the son of Nigerian immigrants.

State Auditor

Kim Reeder will be the Democratic nominee.  She is a tax attorney.  Her undergraduate degree is from Yale. She has a public policy Master’s from Duke and a JD from the University of North Carolina.  At the end of her private-sector career, she taught speech and debate at Morehouse State University and at a high school.  She is prepared for a debate during her campaign and prepared to oversee audits and investigations.

She will face either of two Republicans.  Allison Ball, the former State Treasurer or Derek Petteys, a project manager for a flooring company.

Agriculture Commissioner

Sierra Enlow appears to be the likely Democratic candidate although she has a primary opponent.  She has worked for public entities on economic development and, for the last three years, has worked for an international real estate firm.

She will face either of two former state legislators – Richard Heath, who once chaired the House Agriculture Committee or Jonathan Shell who says he is “pro-life, pro-second amendment, pro-growth, and pro-farmer

Additional Thoughts

Each of the Democrats will be the underdog in his or her race. But not so much of an underdog that they should be abandoned.  Democrats do win election to Down Ballot races in Kentucky.  Give each of these candidates a little help:

Charles “Buddy” Wheatley         Secretary of State

Pamela Stevenson                         Attorney General

Michael Bowman                           State Treasurer

Kim Reeder                                      State Auditor

Sierra Enlow                                    Agriculture Commissioner






January 31

Pennsylvania’s 27th State Senate District

A special election is likely to temporarily reduce the number of Republicans in the State House of Representatives.   The 27th Senate District runs between State College and Wilkes-Barre.  It was won by the Republican candidate in 2020 by a 72-28 margin. In the Special Election, the Republican candidate is Lynda Culver, the State Rep from the 108th District. The Democrat is Patricia Lawton, a speech and language pathologist and doctoral candidate.  If elected, she would focus on education and children’s issues.

February 7

Pennsylvania’s 32nd 34th, and 35th State House of Representatives

These three districts, all in the Pittsburgh area, all in heavily Democratic districts will sort out some confusion. In November, Democrats gained a majority in the Pennsylvania legislature – 102-101.  These three seats became vacant, creating confusion and a lawsuit about who the House Majority Leader was in a state where the Majority Leader schedules elections.  The elections are now scheduled.  Favored to win are Democrats — former County Committee Director Joe McAndrew in the 32nd, attorney and former professor Abigail Salisbury in the 34th, and city Chief Financial Officer and former school board member Matthew Gergely.

The Pennsylvania House resolved who the Speaker would be with a bipartisan election of the moderate Democrat Mark Rozzi by a 115-85 vote.


February 21 and April 4

Virginia Fourth Congressional District Special Election on February 21

Jennifer McClellan is running to replace the only current vacancy in the US Congress – Virginia’s Four Congressional District. A state senator representing the 9th Senate district, she is the child of a civil rights activist and a university professor. She ran Terry’s McAuliffe’s transition team when he was elected governor in 2013, is vice chair of the Virginia Democratic Party and of the legislature’s Black Caucus.  She is the favorite to defeat Pastor and Navy veteran Leon Benjamin, Sr.   See Len’s Political Note #527.

New Hampshire Special Election on February 21

House District 8, Rochester Ward 4

Incumbent Chuck Grassie is running in this special election because of a rare occurrance.  In November, he and former mayor Republican David Walker tied.  Because New Hampshire’s House of Representatives is so large, a single seat rarely matters.  This election matters.  Republicans have a narrow majority – 201-198.  Make it a little narrower (201-199) by helping to reelect Chuck Grassie.

Wisconsin Supreme Court Multiparty Primary on February 21 followed by a General Election on April 4

Janet Protasiewicz is running for the Wisconsin Supreme Court.  Some describe this election as the most important election of 2023. Janet Protasiewicz’s win in the February 21st primary and the April 4thGeneral Election would flip the Wisconsin Supreme Court from 4-3 Republican to 4-3 Democrat with enormous implications for issues such as abortion and redistricting.  This is an open seat because a Republican Justice retired.  The election is in the spring rather than November because Wisconsin strives to limit partisanship in judicial elections. On the whole, Wisconsin has not achieved that goal. See Len’s Political Note #528

Wisconsin Primary on February 21 followed by a Special Election on April 4.

Jody Habush Sinykin is running in the special election for Wisconsin’s State Senate District 08.  She is also running to prevent Republicans from having two thirds of the seats in the Wisconsin State Senate.  If the current State Senator for the District were not retiring, Republicans would have 22 of the 33 State Senate seats.  See Len’s Political Note #529