Secretary of State Adams survives challenge from election deniers

Field set for Kentucky’s down ticket races in November

By: - May 16, 2023 11:25 pm

A resident walks into a polling location to vote on Tuesday, May 16, 2023, at Morton Middle School in Lexington. Photo by Abbey Cutrer | Kentucky Lantern

Michael Adams’ gloomy prediction last week that he might lose to two election deniers in Tuesday’s Republican primary election for Kentucky secretary of state did not materialize and the state’s top election official since 2019 has a chance to run against Democrat Charles “Buddy” Wheatley in the Nov. 7 general election.

The race for secretary of state was one of five state constitutional races Tuesday other than governor setting up this fall’s statewide races. They are called down ticket races.

Here’s a look at each.

Kentucky Secretary of State

Adams had primary opposition from Steve Knipper of Erlanger, who was chief of staff to former Lt. Gov. Jenean Hampton when Matt Bevin was governor, and former state Rep. Allen Maricle of Bullitt County.

Unofficial results showed Adams with about 64% of the vote, compared to 27% for Knipper and 10% for Maricle.

Knipper spent much of last year traveling the state declaring that there was fraud in the election results of Bevin’s 2019 loss to Democrat Andy Beshear and in the 2020 presidential election that Donald Trump lost to Joe Biden.

In his term as secretary of state, Adams introduced major changes to Kentucky’s voting laws and significantly purged the registered voter rolls of more than 100,000 people who have died or moved out of state.

Adams was criticized by some Republicans for working closely with Beshear to make voting easier during the COVID-19 pandemic,

Adams, of Thornhill in Jefferson County will face Wheatley, a former state representative from Covington, in the fall election.

Wheatley, a retired Covington fire chief, was present Tuesday night at Beshear’s victory rally at the Kentucky History Center in Frankfort.

He said he will “open up” more voting opportunities for Kentuckians and will be willing to debate Adams.


Republican Allison Ball of Prestonsburg, who has been state treasurer since 2015, garnered more than 72% of the vote in the GOP primary election against political newcomer Derek Petteys of Lexington in unofficial results.

The current state auditor, Republican Mike Harmon, has reached his two-term limit as auditor and decided to run for governor.

Ball will face Democrat Kimberly “Kim” Reeder of Frankfort.

Reeder had no opposition in the Democratic primary for auditor. She is a tax attorney, and a graduate of Yale University, Duke and the University of North Carolina College of Law.

She said she hopes to utilize her years of experience as a tax attorney to “eliminate waste and abuse where it exists.”

Reeder, a native of Rowan County, has also spent time in the classroom, teaching at Rowan County High School, Holmes High School in northern Kentucky, Morehead State University, and in cooperation with the Governor’s Scholars Program.

Attorney General

There were no contested races for attorney general in Tuesday’s primary elections.
However, Republican Russell Coleman and Democrat Pamela Stevenson will compete against each other in November.

Coleman, a former U.S. attorney and counsel for U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, describes himself as “a pro-life, pro-family conservative Republican who has the hard-won experience to keep Kentucky families safe.”

Stevenson is a state legislator from Louisville, a Baptist minister and spent 27 years in the Air Force. She grew up with her life and community centered around the church founded by her grandfather: Oak Grove Missionary Baptist Church, in the heart of Louisville.

She says the values she learned there — “faith, family, and service” — called her into a career of service as a Judge Advocate General attorney in the U.S. Air Force and as the founder of a nonprofit providing free legal services to veterans.

She said she will be the “People’s Lawyer,” protecting Kentucky families from big business, corrupt politicians and scammers.

Agriculture commissioner

Former state Rep. Jonathan Shell of Garrard County turned back state Rep. Richard Heath of Mayfield to win Tuesday’s GOP primary for state agriculture commissioner.

Unofficial results had Shell with 57% of the vote and Heath with 43%.

In the Democratic primary, Sierra Enlow defeated Mikael Malone, 59% to 41% in unofficial results.

Enlow grew up on a family farm in LaRue County and today is an economic development consultant to counties and companies.


The two candidates for state treasurer in November will be Republican Mark Metcalf of Lancaster against Democrat Michael Bowman of Louisville.

In the Republican contest, Metcalf defeated Andrew Cooperrider of Lexington, a coffee shop owner who defied Beshear’s mandate during the COVID-19 pandemic to close his coffee shop, and O.C. “OJ” Oleka of Frankfort, who is president of Oleka Management Consultant.

Bowman, the Democratic candidate, has served in various leadership positions in Louisville, including Parks Alliance and the Southwest Festival Committee.

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Jack Brammer
Jack Brammer

Jack Brammer, a native of Maysville, has been a news reporter in Kentucky since 1976. He worked two years for The Sentinel-News in Shelbyville and then from 1978 to 2021 in the Lexington Herald-Leader's Frankfort bureau. After retiring in December 2021 from the Herald-Leader, he became a freelance writer for various publications. Brammer has a Master's degree in communications from the University of Kentucky and is a member of the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame.