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Louisville's Neal, Marzian, and Kulkarni win their Democratic Kentucky primary elections

Senate Democratic Floor Leader Gerald A. Neal, D-Louisville, reads the line-item vetoes for House Bill 6, the executive branch budget, on the Senate floor Friday.
LRC Public Information
Senate Democratic Floor Leader Gerald Neal of Louisville, reads the line-item vetoes for the executive branch budget earlier this year.

Senate Minority Leader Gerald Neal, Rep. Nima Kulkarni and Mary Lou Marzian won their party’s nomination for seats in the Kentucky legislature.

Several Democratic incumbents and former lawmakers won reelection in Tuesday’s primary election for the Kentucky General Assembly.

Nearly every seat held by Democrats in the state legislature is up for reelection this November. Republicans will square off against them in nine races, while only Democrats are running in another 16 races.

“With Kentucky Republicans leaving Kentucky’s children, public schools, women, and families behind, our Democratic candidates are in the fight to move our Commonwealth forward — together,” said Kentucky Democratic Party Chair Colmon Elridge in a statement.

Incumbent Sen. Gerald Neal won the Democratic primary for the 33rd Senate District, which encompasses parts of downtown Louisville and stretches to the city’s south end.

He’s the Senate minority leader and the first Black man elected to the Kentucky state Senate. He ran against former state Rep. Attica Scott, who distinguished herself as an outspoken member of the General Assembly and championed the 2020 protests around racial justice and police misconduct.

In a statement, Neal said it’s been an honor to serve his district.

“I have spent my career in office working to be an effective legislator who improves the lives of the people in my district and across Kentucky,” Neal said. “I am grateful for the opportunity to continue to do so, and to keep standing up for our shared values in Frankfort. I want to recognize my opponent for her commitment to justice and service to our community.”

Marzian comeback

Two years after she was redistricted out of her state House seat in Louisville, Mary Lou Marzian is again her party’s nominee, winning the House District 41 Democratic primary over attorney Rick Adams.

Marzian won 71% of the vote.

Marzian served for nearly 30 years in the House, known as a firebrand progressive who needled Republicans in floor speeches.

Kulkarni and the Kentucky Supreme Court

Louisville Rep. Nima Kulkarni won her race for House District 40 against William Zeitz, who ran a campaign with a limited public presence. However, it remains unclear whether she is an eligible candidate for office. That decision will be left to the Kentucky Supreme Court later this summer.

The chief justice issued an order this week pausing an appeals court ruling that disqualified Kulkarni’s candidacy.

The appeals court disqualified Kulkarni over a state law that required two signatories to her candidacy to be also in the same party. One signer, Sharon LaRue, switched her party registration to Democrat shortly after Kulkarni filed her candidacy form and before the secretary of state’s office certified the candidates.

Joshua Watkins wins Louisville Rep. Keturah Herron’s House seat

Joshua Watkins, the director of strategic initiatives for Louisville Metro Government, won the three-way race for House District 42, which stretches from Chickasaw Park in Louisville West End to Eastern Parkway in the Highlands.

He defeated labor organizer Jonathan Musselwhite, and Jack Walker, the director of operations for Burger Boy and Burger Girl Diners in Louisville.

Watkins will not face a Republican challenger in the general election. He told KPR he’ll prioritize economic growth in office.

“By fostering an inclusive economy, we can create opportunities for wealth-building, reduce inequality and ensure every resident of District 42 can participate in our shared prosperity,” he said.

Close races

Three Louisville Democrats are vying for the seat vacated by Republican Rep. Kevin Bratcher in House District 29. With all of the votes counted Tuesday evening, Pastor Timothy Findley won with nearly 42% of the vote, followed by challengers Mathew Pfaadt with 40% and Ricky Santiago with 18%.

Findley will face off against Chris Lewis, a legislative assistant for Louisville Metro Council District 22 who won his Republican primary by a large margin. This is the only race for the Statehouse this year with a competitive primary in both parties.

Meanwhile, the Democratic race for House District 36 came down to just five votes. Middle School Teacher William Zorn had 1,019 votes, just five more than real estate developer Colin McDowell.

Once an official winner of the District 36 race is declared, they will face GOP Rep. John Hogdson in the general election.

State government and politics reporting is supported in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Ryan Van Velzer is the Kentucky Public Radio Managing Editor. Email Ryan at rvanvelzer@lpm.org.
Joe is the enterprise statehouse reporter for Kentucky Public Radio, a collaboration including Louisville Public Media, WEKU-Lexington, WKU Public Radio and WKMS-Murray. Email Joe at jsonka@lpm.org.
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