GOP incumbent Rep. Killian Timoney routed by ‘Liberty’ challenger Thomas Jefferson

Rep. Killian Timoney’s quest for a third term in office was cut dramatically short by Thomas Jefferson, a Liberty GOP candidate in the primary.

Jefferson won in landslide fashion, with more than 70% support with the vast majority of votes in.

Money didn’t appear to matter.

Timoney, a Nicholasville Republican, had more than $250,000 come in from outside groups supporting him, but Jefferson was backed by a network of social conservative groups and the Jessamine County GOP.

Jefferson also had the strong backing of Liberty Republicans across the state, a group intent on pushing legislative leadership to the political right on various issues.

House District 45, which is part Jessamine County and part Fayette County, was among the more closely watched state House primaries because it exemplified the party’s internal push-pull between more moderate Republicans like Timoney, and the Liberty wing of the party.

Jefferson, who has never held public office and had the endorsement of the Jessamine County Republican Party, campaigned heavily on knocking Timoney for a vote he cast in 2023, splitting with his party.

Decisive issues

Timoney, an educator in Fayette County Public Schools, was one of only a handful of Republicans who voted against a 2023 GOP-sponsored bill, Senate Bill 150 which is now law, that bans gender-affirming medical care for transgender youth. He also voted against a bill, Senate Bill 83 in 2022, that banned transgender girls and women from school sports.

SB 150, in addition to outlawing hormone therapy, puberty blockers and surgeries for kids under 18, banned lessons on gender identity and sexual orientation in the classroom, prohibits trans students from using restrooms that correspond with their gender identity, and stops districts from requiring faculty use a student’s pronouns if they don’t assigned with their sex assigned at birth.

Outside groups continually bruised Timoney on those votes.

One mailer from the group Make Liberty Win framed his votes as the “telltale signs of a predator” and called him “groomer Killian.”

Jefferson told the Herald-Leader that he campaigned on the issue hard. It worked.

“I’ve been knocking on doors since September. My shoes are worn out, my knuckles are raw, and when I brought up his voting record to people when I knocked on doors, it was a no brainer for them. When you vote against Senate Bill 150 twice, it’s crazy,” Jefferson said.

When asked if he regretted the votes, Timoney responded “absolutely not.”

“Sixty percent of trans kids have had suicidal ideation within the past 12 months — 60% of them,” he said. “They are the most endangered group of children that exists in society today, whether we understand it, agree with it, find it as an abomination, or don’t care.

“I will always protect kids, even if I don’t understand it or agree with it.”

Timoney and Jefferson also had differing views on school choice, for which there will be a question on the ballot in November.

Proposed by Republicans earlier this year, House Bill 2 aims to give parents the “choice” of where to send their children. The question in November will ask voters if they support amending the Kentucky constitution to give lawmakers this funding option in the future.

Timoney, who brought in nearly $30,000 in his primary bid, has said he does not support diverting those tax dollars to charter schools or other private schools. Jefferson favors the measure.

“I love our public school system and I love our teachers, but it’s not a good fit for everybody,” Jefferson said.

Looking forward

Jefferson will face a well-funded opponent in Democrat Adam Moore, who’s already hosted a fundraiser with popular Gov. Andy Beshear.

Mostly suburban in nature, House District 45 is one of relatively few politically “purple” districts in the state.

While former GOP President Donald Trump won the district by just over three percentage points in 2020, according to elections data website CNAlysis, Beshear won the district by more than 21 points.

Timoney predicts a tightly contested race given the political makeup of the district.

Jefferson said he won’t budge on his policy stances for the general election.

“I won’t change my values. I’ll speak my values and what I feel is right. If people want to vote for me, that’s great,” Jefferson said.

In an election night press release, Moore was already working to draw a stark contrast between himself and Jefferson.

“Our opponent is an extremist on healthcare, education, and workers rights — a candidate that supports criminalizing reproductive care, harming our mothers and driving doctors out of our state. He wants to take your tax dollars out of our public schools and give them to unaccountable private and for-profit charter schools,” Moore wrote.

Though the primary tally was decisive, Timoney also indicated that he may run for something again in the future.

“I still have fuel in the tank, and I still have ideas that could make Kentucky better,” Timoney said. “I’m not done.”

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