Republican Phillip Wheeler wins 31st District Senate seat

Published: Mar. 5, 2019 at 6:24 PM EST
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Update 11 p.m.

Tuesday, the 31st District here in Kentucky got a new state senator who now represents Pike, Martin, Lawrence, Elliot, and Morgan counties.

The special election was set up after former senator, Ray Jones, won his campaign for Pike County Judge Executive.

At times, the vote difference was around 100 or less.

But as the final precincts reported, Philip Wheeler ended the night with the win.

"When I've represented my clients over the last 15 years, I've never asked them whether they have a 'D' or an 'R' behind their name", said Wheeler, who has practiced as an attorney locally. "And I'm not going to ask if they have a 'D' or an 'R' when they come to me seeking help for their communities."

Wheeler says that mindset will help him understand the needs of the people he now represents.

He says he already knows what his focus will be in helping people here in the mountains.

"The water issue in Martin County which has been really devastating and a burden to it's populous over there", said Wheeler. "Pike County has some issues with the landfill."

While many people saw this election as a referendum on Governor Bevin, it may have been more about President Trump.

"Trump is still really positive here. I don't know. I've already called and congratulated Phillip", said Darrell Pugh, who is the runner-up in the special election. "We were friends before the race and I feel like we're still friends. Whatever happens, I just hope it's best for Eastern Kentucky."

Ultimately, Pugh says both candidates in this race just want what is best for Eastern Kentuckians.

"I think everybody involved in the race on both sides has a common goal that they wish the best for Eastern Kentucky. There's going to be another race in May and another in Fall. Life goes on", said Pugh.



Unofficial results indicate Republican Phillip Wheeler defeated Democrat Darrell Pugh in the 31st District Senator race.

Here are the unofficial results by county.

Elliott County:

Pugh 450

, Wheeler 168

Lawrence County: Pugh 639,

Wheeler 895

Martin County: Pugh 265,

Wheeler 688

Morgan County:

Pugh 671

, Wheeler 609

Pike County: Pugh 3624,

Wheeler 3828

That adds up to a total of 6,188 votes for Wheeler and 5,649 votes for Pugh.

All precincts now reporting, unofficial results now in for the special election for the 31st District Senate seat

Posted by WYMT on Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Statement from Republican Party of Kentucky Chairman J. McCauley Brown:

“The people of Senate District 31 have chosen to reject the extreme liberal values of Democrats like Nancy Pelosi, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama,” Chairman Brown said. “Instead, the voters chose in Senator-elect Wheeler a strong voice for Kentucky’s values. I am proud to congratulate Senator-elect Wheeler on his victory, and I know he will be a forceful advocate for Eastern Kentucky in the State Senate.”

Statement from Kentucky Senate President Robert Stivers:

“On behalf of our entire Kentucky Senate Republican Majority leadership team, we’re proud to congratulate Senator-elect Wheeler,” Senate President Stivers said. “We are proud to welcome him to our caucus. We’re looking forward to having Senator-elect Wheeler as a fighter for working families and Kentucky values in Frankfort as we keep working to make our Commonwealth a better place to live, work and raise a family.”

We will update this story as we learn more information.

Original Story

The polls are closing now in an important political race in Eastern Kentucky.

If you live in the 31st District, you will soon have a new state senator.

The 31st District includes Pike, Martin, Lawrence, Elliott, and Morgan Counties.

Democrat Darrell Pugh and Republican Phillip Wheeler are hoping to end the night with a win.

"It's important for the people of a region like Eastern Kentucky and the five counties I plan on representing to get out and vote to let everyone know how they feel about certain issues," explained Pugh.

"You know, Lord willing we will ring the bell tonight and start putting Eastern Kentucky first," said Wheeler.

Pugh says he hopes to help small businesses like his own.

"Lately it seems like it is harder and harder for small businesses to survive and I hope to be able to do something to turn that around," Pugh pointed out.

Wheeler aims to give the 31st District a seat at the political table.

"In order to have a seat at the table on the major questions facing our state and especially on appropriations in order to get investments within this district," explained Wheeler.

The seat opened up after Ray Jones won his campaign for Pike County Judge-Executive in November.

"Who we elect says a lot about who we are, what we expect, and what we represent," said Pugh.

Both candidates arrived early Tuesday morning to cast their vote.

"I just encourage all people to do their civic duty and go out and vote today. That's what makes our democracy work," Wheeler pointed out.

Polls closed at 6:00 P.M.

To learn more about the candidates, click