The Senate 19th Thunderdome descends over Louisville

Once Louisville’s Derby hangover rolls around on Monday, we’ll be just two weeks away from the primary election, and people will finally start paying attention to some of the contested races within Jefferson County for Metro Council, the state House, and state Senate.

Probably the biggest and most hotly contested race will be the Democratic primary for the 19th Senate district, where Sarah Lynn Cunningham, Morgan McGarvey, Amy Shoemaker and Gary Demling face off against each other to take over retiring Sen. Tim Shaughnessy’s seat and win the right to do battle in the Senate with David Williams (or whoever the Republicans choose to replace him with next year, if they’re so inclined).

Here’s a very basic rundown of the candidates in the race — all of whom are at least somewhat liberal — with their background and base of support:

Sarah Lynn Cunningham — Cunningham is an engineer known for being a prolific environmental activist, as well as her epic whistleblower struggle against Metro Sewer District. She is well-liked among a great number of like-minded liberal activists in the 19th, and has picked up some big name supporters (Brown family) — partly resulting in her formidable fundraising totals in the first filing, with $34,000. She’s already received the endorsement of the Sierra Club, and we’ve heard multiple rumors that Rep. Jim Wayne will step in and support her, which would be… huge.

Here’s a short video she put up on her website recently:

Morgan McGarvey — McGarvey is a young attorney who worked under Attorney General Jack Conway and has the strong backing of the Kentucky Democratic Party establishment/machine — to the tune of a jaw-dropping $124,000 raised already. Such backing is most likely due to the fact that McGarvey has been a campaign grunt worker for big name politicians in Kentucky since he was in high school. His list of endorsements is really long, including labor unions, Crit Luallen, Tim Shaughnessy, Rep. Joni Jenkins, Sen. Gerald Neal and Adam Edelen. Regardless of the money and endorsements, McGarvey will have to convince voters that he is going to go there and fight, not play it safe in order move up the political ladder. (In The Courier-Journal video of the 19th candidate interviews at the bottom of the post, McGarvey says that he isn’t for a ban on mountaintop removal mining… not the most promising sign in the world. There also is no “issues” section on his campaign website, so he might want to share his beliefs with voters in the next two weeks.)

Amy Shoemaker — Shoemaker is a lawyer with the backing of the Fairness Campaign. A look at her issues page shows that she is quite liberal, and her speech at the Unite Against the War on Women rally last Saturday was unapologetic and impressive. She hasn’t raised a lot of money ($14,000), so she might have some trouble getting her name and message out there.

She did take the first offensive strike of the campaign, calling out McGarvey in a press release for hoarding out-of-district money — “foreclosure money,” she termed it — and stating her support for the Kentucky Clean Elections Act to move the state toward publicly financed elections.

Here’s her speech that she posted from the Louisville Metro Democratic Club:

Gary Demling — Demling is likely the underdog in this race, though he has some strong Catholic and Germantown support (Demling shirts all over the Beerwalk). He is a golf instructor and occasional sports radio host. Demling raised $23,000, but sadly hasn’t figured out that it is 2012, and his campaign should have a Facebook page.

We’ll have much more on the issues and positions of these candidates next week, but here’s a must-watch if you’re interested. This is the candidate forum/interview by The Courier-Journal, which gives you a pretty good picture of each candidates strengths (or weaknesses).


  1. Kenny
    Posted May 4, 2012 at 8:45 pm | Permalink

    Thanks the breakdown. I’ve been going to campaign websites while looking for some info on this race, since I didn’t know much about them (I’m new to the District). McGarvey’s website does have issues info, but it’s tucked into his biography section. It should be it’s own section, but it’s still there.

    He also knocked on my door a couple of weeks ago, and I asked him about MTR. He said he thinks banning it outright isn’t possible, but he wants to try and dismantle it piece by piece. You never know with a candidate, but he seemed pretty genuine. Time will tell.

  2. Sam
    Posted May 6, 2012 at 11:29 pm | Permalink

    All the candidates seem better than the average Republican. But Frankfort needs more females – it is too much of an old boy’s club. And we don’t need more lawyers who are looking for a career living off the public dime. We need some who has a backbone and is willing to standup to the “leadership,” not someone who will be beholden to them.

  3. Beverly
    Posted May 10, 2012 at 10:00 pm | Permalink

    Amy Shoemaker called out McGarvey for “hoarding out-of-district money — “foreclosure money” but after searching McGarvey’s KREF filing, I don’t see where any “foreclosure money” has been taken. All I see is one PAC connected to the banking industry and even that PAC did not contribute the maximum. I see this more as a campaign publicity stunt that has no basis in fact. On the other hand, I I did notice a lot of out of district donations made to Amy Shoemaker on her KREF filings which included, among others, a donation from an attorney at Steptoe & Johnson in Charleston, WV, who represents energy clients and whose firm represents big banks and other energy developers throughout Appalachia. Hmmmm… wonder what that attorney’s position is on MTR. Anyway, I guess that’s okay, but you know what they say about glass houses…

3 Trackbacks

  1. [...] on the races in next week’s issue — including a Q&A with all four candidates in the big state Senate 19th race, which will determine who takes over retiring Sen. Tim Shaughnessy’s seat — as well as [...]

  2. [...] have more endorsements to report from the Thunderdome of Louisville’s Senate 19th Democratic primary, the winner of which will take over Sen. Tim Shaughnessy’s seat for the next four years (or [...]

  3. By Get your elections on, Louisville – FatLip on May 21, 2012 at 8:26 am

    [...] As we wrote two weeks ago, this Democratic primary is probably the biggest and most competitive race in Louisville. Morgan McGarvey is the assumed front-runner — with the biggest endorsements and a big wad of cash to blanket the airwaves with TV ads — but we wouldn’t count out Sarah Lynn Cunningham, who has enough money to blanket the 19th with mailers and big liberal endorsers (Rep. Jim Wayne, KFTC) along for the ride. Amy Shoemaker doesn’t have a lot of campaign funds, but is hoping her Fairness Campaign endorsement and word of mouth can help her pull off the shocker. Meanwhile, Gary Demling hopes that the 19th has an abnormally large demographic of golfers. [...]