A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Two Northern Kentucky state Senate races attract contested Republican primary elections

By Jack Brammer
NKyTribune reporter

One wants to make a comeback as a state legislator after more than 20 years. Another is a Boone County magistrate who was statewide coalition director for Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign committee.

Also in the contest are a former state police trooper who has worked in energy and health care and a former Toyota employee who now is chairman of the Franklin County Republican Party.

All four are candidates in the May 17 Republican primary election for the newly created 20th District Senate seat that includes the counties of Franklin, Owen, Carroll, Gallatin and parts of Boone and Kenton.

That is not only the state Senate race this year involving Northern Kentucky.

The Republican primary election features three candidates for the 24th District that includes the counties of Campbell, Pendleton, Bracken and part of Kenton.

It is an open seat because Republican incumbent Wil Schroder of Wilder in Campbell County did not seek re-election this year.

A Democratic candidate is in each of the two state Senate races in Northern Kentucky. They will face the Republican primary winners in the Nov. 7 general election.

Gex Williams

Only 19 of the state Senate’s 38 district seats – only those even-numbered — are up for election this year.

Here’s a closer look at the two state Senate Republican primary elections this spring in Northern Kentucky.

20th District

This year’s state legislature made major changes in the boundaries of the Senate’s 20th District.

The district formerly consisted of Carroll, Henry, Shelby, Trimble and a part of Jefferson counties. Its senator, Republican Paul Hornback of Shelby County, is not running for re-election this year.

The legislature this year changed the district to run from Boone and Kenton in the north to Franklin County in the south. Franklin County tends to run Democratic but Republicans dominate most of the district.

The Republican primary race has attracted two Northern Kentucky candidates – Gex “Jay” Williams of Verona and Phyllis Sparks of Walton in Boone and Kenton counties – and two from Frankfort – Mike Templeman and Calen Studler. Former Franklin County Judge-Executive Teresa Azbill Barton is the lone Democrat in the race.

Williams, who has worked as a software developer, marketer and IT consultant, was elected to the Kentucky General Assembly three times between 1990 and 1998 from Northern Kentucky.

Phyllis Sparks

On his campaign website, www.gexforsenate.com, Williams said he “shook up the status quo in Frankfort before and he will do it again.” He claimed he helped Republicans take control of the Senate, increased transparency in the legislature and exposed politicians who said one thing and did another.

Now after raising six children with his wife, Judy, Williams said he is ready to serve the people again.

He lists as his Senate priorities pro-life legislation, gun rights, banning Critical Race Theory and inappropriate sexual content from schools, keeping biological boys out of girls’ sports and opposing all COVID vaccine mandates.

Williams, who has raised about $53,701 for his campaign, has been endorsed by U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie.

Sparks helps run with her husband, Russell, Sparks Contractors Inc., a mining equipment company.

She has raised about $67,000 for her campaign, including a $50,000 loan.

Sparks is former president of the Kentucky Branch of the International Dyslexia Association, chair and vice chair for the Boone County Republican Party, a national delegate for the 2016 Republican convention and campaign coordinator for Rep. Massie. She is county chairman for U.S. Sen. Rand Paul’s re-election campaign this year.

On her campaign website, www.electsparksforsenate.com, Sparks said, “Too often, politics is about someone trying to become important, gain status, or get something. I am running to serve.

Mike Templeman

“We live in one of the best places in America, but we have a lot to do to ensure it stays that way. We also have improvements needed to roads, infrastructure, and our economy. I will be your voice in Frankfort.”

She said she is a lifelong Kentuckian and Boone Countian who is “a strong pro-life Republican who is a supporter of small businesses, personal liberties, and our Second Amendment rights.”

Templeman, a former Kentucky State Police trooper, is a commercial and residential property developer, small business owner and healthcare consultant for self-insured employee health plans. He was a former executive in the energy sector and ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2010.

Caden Studler

On his website, www.templemanforsenator.com, Templeman said he is 100 percent pro-life, a gun owner and advocate for 2nd Amendment rights, an opponent of higher taxes and government overreach, a supporter of expanded broadband Internet and transportation infrastructure projects and will work to lower taxes and health care costs, slash red tape and make Kentucky more business friendly to entice new jobs.

Templeman has raised $18,179 for his campaign.

Studler, who works in real estate, managed a restaurant until he went to work for Toyota in Georgetown. While at Toyota, he obtained his real estate license.

Teresa Azbill Barton

He says on his website, www.studlerforkentucky.com, that he knows firsthand the needs of working families across the 20th District.

“As your senator, I will work to create a climate that enhances job growth, lower taxes for all Kentuckians, ensure full funding to all Kentucky retirement systems and work with the Department of Agriculture to promote Kentucky’s growing industrial hemp industry.

“If the people of the 20th District elect me as their senator, I look forward to representing the people’s needs from the Kentucky River to the Ohio River.”

On some of the major issues, Studler said the state should focus on the 65 percent of students who will likely never go to college, make sure tax dollars are not funding abortion and protect the right to bear arms. His campaign has raised about $18,000.

Shelly Frommeyer

Barton, the former judge-executive of Franklin County, is the lone Democrat running for the 20th Senate District. Her campaign website is www.bartonforkysenate.com.

24th Senate District

Three Republicans are in this district’s primary election – Shelley “Funke” Frommeyer of Alexandria, Jessica Neal of Cold Spring and Chris Robinson of Alexandria.

Frommeyer says on her campaign website, www.shelleyforkentucky.com, that she grew up as one of 12 children in a log cabin in rural Kenton County and learned the hard work and perseverance of farming.

Jessica Neal

She is a Certified Financial Planner.

On the issues, Frommeyer said she is committed to the rights of the unborn and elderly, will fight for ethics, fiscal responsibility and transparency and will stand up for gun rights.

Neal, who graduated from Highlands High School in 2004, works in the financial services industry. In 2019, she started working for P.L. Marketing in Newport, where she supports The Kroger Co. in capacities ranging from merchandising to floor planning.

On her website, www.nealforky.com, Neal says, “The time for seat-filling politicians, anointed by the power brokers, is over. A true grassroots movement is here, supporting fighters for liberty.”

Chris Robinson

She said in the Senate she will work to ban Critical Race Theory, end all lockdown, mask and vaccine mandates, secure elections by starting with a forensic audit of all 50 states as called for by former President Donald Trump, abolish the income tax, protect the right to bear arms and end abortion.

Robinson is a licensed professional clinical counselor, a Kentucky High School Athletics Association basketball official and owner and operator of two small businesses.  He is a veteran of the Army Corps of Engineers.

His campaign website, www.electchrisrobinson.com, said even though he is making his first venture into public office, he is familiar with the district’s political landscape and has been involved with local elected officials on various issues for years.

He said attracting businesses that have ancillary ties to locally owned small businesses is the key to long-term success for the district.

Rene Heinrich

Issues Robinson mentions on his website include reducing taxes, recruiting industry, providing better access to education, fighting substance abuse and developing infrastructure.

In raising campaign funds, Frommeyer reported about $45,000 in revenue, doubling the amounts of Robinson and Neal.

Rene Heinrich of Highland Heights is unopposed in the district’s Democratic primary. Her campaign website is www.heinrichforsenate.com.


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One Comment

  1. Joe Conley says:

    It’s good we have all these candidates to protect us from the evils of CRT. Wonder if any of them can answer this question: “What is it”?

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