KY holding special elections to fill three legislative seats


Tulips bloom along Capital Avenue near the Kentucky state Capitol in Frankfort on Monday morning. Tuesday’s forecast calls for sunny skies and a high temperature in the upper-70s, according to the National Weather Service.


The first Tuesday of November will be relatively quiet in Kentucky this year as residents enjoy their once-every-four-year break from Election Day. For Kentuckians in a handful of counties, though, civic duty calls.

Gov. Andy Beshear has called three special elections on Nov. 2 to fill vacant seats in the Kentucky General Assembly.

The most prominent of the three is the 22nd Senate District in Jessamine, Garrard, Mercer and Washington counties and some precincts in southern Fayette County. The winner will fill the remainder of the term of Republican Tom Buford, which runs through 2022. Buford, of Nicholasville, served in the Senate from 1991 until his unexpected death July 6 at 72.

In addition, there will be two state House special elections to fill vacancies — House 51 to replace Republican John “Bam” Carney of Campbellsville, who died July 17 at 51 after a lengthy battle with pancreatitis and infection, and House 89 to replace Republican Robert Goforth of East Bernstadt in Laurel County, who resigned Aug. 24 amid domestic violence charges.

Here’s a look at the three races.

22nd Senate District

From humble beginnings with loving parents and hard work experiences, the two major party candidates in the race to replace Buford in the Senate say they are ready to enter the political arena.

Democrat Helen Bukulmez ( pronounced “book-ool-mez”), 46, was raised on a small, family farm in Turkey. She married at 16, had a son when she was 17 and got divorced early in life in a culture where divorce was looked on in disgrace.

Helen Bukulmez.jpg
Democratic candidate Helen Bukulmez is running in a Nov. 2, 2021, special election for the Kentucky Senate. Photo courtesy of Helen Bukulmez

She left Turkey for America, where some uncles had done military duty in an exchange program. She located in Lexington for its affordability, studied English at the University of Lexington and got her law degree from Northern Kentucky University Chase College of Law in 2009.She became an American citizen during law school.

Today, Bukulmez is an attorney specializing in immigration and injury law and an adjunct professor in marketing and project management at Chase. She lives on a 61-acre farm near Paint Lick in Garrard County and is engaged to be married to an Ohio police officer. Her son recently graduated from the University of Louisville’s medical school .

Republican Donald Douglas, 64, was born and raised in an old, rambling log cabin outside of Owensboro in Western Kentucky. He was the 14th of 16 children of parents who were sharecroppers. He says they taught him persistence, discipline and focus.

After excelling in public school as an All-American in academics and athletics in track, Douglas received several scholarships and chose to attend Western Kentucky University to earn a degree in biology and minor in chemistry. He also was captain of Western’s track team all four years of college and now is in its Athletics Track Hall of Fame.

Republican candidate Donald Douglas is running in a Nov. 2, 2021, special election for the Kentucky Senate. Photo from Donald Douglas’ campaign website.

In 1978, Douglas was ranked 11th in the United States and 17th in the world for the 400-meter hurdles. He qualified for the Olympic Trials twice.

Douglas got his medical degree from the University of Kentucky College of Medicine and completed his residency at the University of Louisville Department of Anesthesia with a a sub-specialty in pain management.

Today, Douglas is the medical director and lead physician at Tony Delk IMAC Regeneration Center in Lexington. He and his wife, Carol, live in Jessamine County. They have raised three children, all of whom have finished medical school.

Sindicat “Sid” Dunn, 43, of Burgin is an independent write-in candidate in the race. His family has owned and operated Dunn’s Bar-B-Q and Catering in Harrodsburg since 1982.

Sindicat “Sid” Dunn, 43, of Burgin is an independent write-in candidate in a Nov. 2, 2021 special election for Kentucky Senate. Photo provided by Sid Dunn.

Dunn said he was a friend of Buford and promised him that he would run for his seat when he left the legislature. Dunn has been a member of the Burgin City Council for 10 years.

The Senate district leans Republican in voter registration — 46,441 Republicans, 36,608 Democrats and 4,737 others. Female voters in the district outnumber male voters, 48,264 to 43,480.

Kentucky’s 2022 General Assembly will grapple with a two-year state budget, possible redrawing of boundaries of legislative and congressional districts and a myriad of other controversial issues.

Douglas, who attends Centenary United Methodist Church in Lexington, said he is “steadfastly pro-life” and will support legislation “to end the travesty of abortion on our state.”

Bukulmez, who attends Southland Christian Church in Lexington, said she is pro-life but believes there should not be a government mandate forcing pregnant women to give birth, especially in cases involving rape and when the life of the mother is in danger.

Bukulmez said Douglas is being “100 percent contradictory” when he states on his website that he is pro-life and supports “the rights of adult Kentuckians to make their own medical decisions in conjunction with their medical doctors.”

“Those two things can’t exist at the same time,” she said.

Douglas said he sees no discrepancy in his positions.

Both candidates said they support the 2nd Amendment right to bear arms.

“I’m engaged to a police officer who carries a gun and I need to own a gun as a farmer,” Bukulmez said.

Douglas said he supports ending gun free zones and “will fight against any attempt to disarm law abiding-citizens, including red flag proposals” that would allow court emergency orders to temporarily remove guns from persons deemed an immediate threat to themselves and others.

To spur economic development, Douglas said he opposes any net increase in taxes and will fight to reduce the overall tax burden on Kentucky citizens and businesses. He also backs fighting against “an increasingly burdensome regulatory state which hurts Kentucky’s ability to attract new business..”

He said with no mention of COVID-19 that “over the past year, economic shutdowns and government mandates have crushed small businesses. It is time for the government to get off the backs of small businesses and allow them to thrive under the free market.”

Bukulmez said tax reform should be balanced. She added that she believes economic development depends on education of the state’s people, especially in trade and technical education.

On critical race theory that holds the premise that racial bias —intentional or not —is incorporated into U.S. laws and institutions, Douglas said he opposes its teaching in schools. “Taxpayer dollars should not be used to support such a victim-based, socially divisive, and degrading ideology,” he said.

“To me, he doesn’t want schools to teach racism,” said Bukulmez.

Asked if Democrat Joe Biden stole the 2020 presidential election from Republican Donald Trump, Douglas said, “That’s really a hot-button question. I don’t have the data one way or the other. What I’m looking forward to is moving together.”

Bukulmez answered the question by saying she is running for the Kentucky Senate and is focusing on issues that involve the state Senate.

According to the most recent campaign finance reports filed with the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance, Bukulmez has raised $21,085 compared to $7,835 for Douglas. Dunn reported no campaign funds.

51st House District

Candidates in this special election are Democrat Edwin “Eddie Rogers,’ the former judge-executive of Taylor County; Republican Michael “Sarge” Pollock, an insurance risk advisor in Campbellsville; and independent Timothy Shafer, a retired Navy veteran.

The winner will serve through the end of 2022.

The district covers all of Taylor and Adair counties. It has 20,714 registered Republican voters, 10,377 registered Democratic voters and 1,138 registered other.

Latest campaign finance reports show Rogers with $9,950, Pollock with $2,100 and Shafer with no campaign receipts.

89th House District

In this race, Democrat Mae Suramek, a small business owner in Berea, faces Republican Timmy Truett, principal of McKee Elementary School in Jackson County.

The 89th District includes all of Jackson, northern parts of Laurel, and southern parts of Madison counties. Voter registration figures show 24,609 Republicans, 9,737 Democrats and 1,501 other.

Suramek leads in campaign receipts — $36,411 to Truett’s $10,735.

This story was originally published October 22, 2021 1:43 PM.

Jack Brammer is Frankfort bureau chief for the Lexington Herald-Leader. He has covered politics and government in Kentucky since May 1978. He has a Master’s in communications from the University of Kentucky and is a native of Maysville, Ky.
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