Some local educators running for office faced their first challenge to winning a seat in Tuesday’s state primaries, seeing mostly success.

At least 40 teachers across Kentucky ran for office, many inspired by a last-minute pension bill pushed through the state legislature and widespread teacher protests that followed. Of the eight teachers or professors running for office in Jefferson County, three were in contested primaries. Two won.

Dr. Lisa Willner

State Representative, 35th District, Democratic

Jefferson County Board of Education Vice Chair Lisa Willner won the Democratic primary in the 35th district. Willner, who also teaches part-time at Bellarmine University, bested Richard Becker and Jack Walker.

Willner will face Republican Donna Lawlor, who is a retired teacher, in the general election.

Because Willner will be on the ballot for state rep, she can’t run for re-election for the JCBE in November. Four JCBE terms — Diane Porter, Steph Horne, Linda Duncan and Willner — are slated to end this year and will be up for election this fall.  

Willner told Insider via email that she plans on staying on the school board until after the general election. If elected as state rep, she would request that her swearing in would take place after the final school board meeting in December to fulfill her term.

State Senator, 26th District, Democratic

Two educators faced off in the 26th District’s Democratic primary. Karen Berg, a former University of Louisville School of Medicine professor, won against Matt Kaufmann, a high school teacher.

Berg received nearly 75 percent of the vote in the district, which covers parts of Jefferson County and all of Oldham County. She’ll face incumbent Ernie Harris, who has served in Kentucky legislature since 1995, in the general election.

Other notables

Gay Adelmann

Locally, co-founder of Dear JCPS and Save Our Schools Kentucky Gay Adelmann lost to Sheri Donahue in the Democratic primary for 36th District state Senator. Adelmann had been vocally pro-public education throughout her campaign. Donahue will face incumbent Julie Raque Adams in November.

Statewide, a teacher unseated the state House Republican Leader. Travis Brenda, a math teacher, beat Jonathan Shell, who many considered a rising Republican, in the primary in the House’s 71st District. Several are considering Brenda’s win a sign that teachers’ protest chants of “We will remember in November” haven’t been forgotten.

General election matchups

Seven of the initial eight educators will be on the ballot in the November general election. Here are their races and opponents.

Ronel Brown Sr., high school paraeducator, will face Kevin Bratcher for 29th District Representative.

Josie Raymond, former middle school teacher, will face Leigh Boland Jones for 31st District Representative.

Tina Bojanowski, elementary school teacher, will face Phil Moffett for 32nd District Representative.

Lisa Willner, JCBE vice chair, will face Donna Lawlor, retired teacher, for 35th District Representative.

Karen Berg, former medical school professor at UofL, will face Ernie Harris for 26th District Senator. 

Andrew Bailey, high school teacher, will face Dan Seum for 38th District Senator.

This post has been updated to include a comment from Willner.

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Olivia Krauth
Krauth reports on education in Louisville, including JCPS, the University of Louisville and state policy. Before joining Insider Louisville, she covered technology and business as a reporter at TechRepublic. She also spent time on the data team at the Austin American-Statesman in Texas as a Dow Jones intern. Krauth graduated from UofL, where she was an award-winning editor of The Louisville Cardinal and obtained a degree in investigative journalism with a minor in Russian studies. Email Olivia at [email protected]