A Teacher Beat Kentucky's House Majority Leader in a Republican Primary

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In a race that indicates that the teachers’ movement has some staying power at the ballot box as well as in the streets, a teacher in Kentucky took out one of that state’s top legislative leaders, after a pension reform bill protested by teachers was signed last month by Republican governor Matt Bevin.


With 100 percent of precincts reporting, the New York Times reported that high school math teacher R. Travis Brenda had taken out Republican House Majority Leader Jonathan Shell by a narrow margin of 51 percent to 49 percent. Shell reportedly called Brenda around 8:15 to concede.

According to the Lexington Herald–Leader, Shell—30-year old farmer by trade who has been in office since 2013—was backed by U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell as “a potential rising star in the GOP.” But Shell was felled by his role in pushing the anti-worker pension reform bill, which he helped shepherd through the legislature earlier this year.

According to a Associated Press report from earlier this month, 39 current and former educators filed to run in elections for the Kentucky legislature this year. Fifteen of them had Democratic or Republican primary elections on Tuesday. Apart from Brenda, at least four of the educators running for office which the AP highlighted in their report won their primaries on Tuesday.

While Brenda is a teacher inspired to run by the pension bill fiasco, he’s by no means a liberal, and the Herald-Leader notes that he’s not a member of the Kentucky Education Association. While his website says he’s running to “protect public education, enhance our communities through economic development, and address the opioid epidemic and strengthen families,” Brenda also describes himself as “a life-long conservative, an advocate of the 2nd Amendment, pro-life and believes in common sense solutions.”

News editor, Splinter