Teacher running against House Majority Floor Leader in Republican primary

LANCASTER, Ky. (WKYT) - A Kentucky teacher is challenging House Majority Floor Leader Jonathan Shell in next Tuesday's Republican primary.

The 71st district race between the Lancaster lawmaker, who is among the most prominent in the House, and teacher Travis Brenda, who is one of the 40 educators running for seats in the Kentucky legislature, is garnering statewide attention.

Brenda says he is challenging Shell, a Garrard County farmer, because he says the floor leader "has turned his back on his constituents" for political gain.

Shell disagrees, but he says he is not surprised his Republican challenger is making those comments.

"If I was running against me I'd probably say the same thing that he just said," Shell says, as he points to legislative accomplishments during his time in Frankfort.

"Created $9.2 billion in new investments, 17,500 new jobs last year. We went from 33rd to 18th because of tax reform this last session in business competitiveness," Shell says, "That's the record that I'm proud of that I'm willing to stand on."

The primary comes on the heels of a controversial legislative session, which saw the passing of a pension reform law which will move new teacher hires into a hybrid plan that puts less risk on the state but doesn't guarantee them the same benefits. Brenda calls the reform effort a "mess," but Shell says it was necessary to help save what some call the worst-funded pension system in the country.

"I will tell you this. We are not going to sit by and do nothing in Frankfort when we have major problems in this state, and if that gets me beat, then that gives me more time with my wife and kids at home," Shell says.

Brenda said he had previously voted for Shell before deciding to run against him.

"I don't have a problem with him personally, but politically we have some differences," Brenda said.

The two will see who will secure the party's nomination Tuesday. Mary Renfro is running unopposed in the Democratic primary.

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