Voters in the 18th District House race picked youth over experience and made history Tuesday night.
After the votes are certified and she takes the oath of office, Samara Heavrin, 27, will be the youngest woman ever to serve in the Kentucky House of Representatives.
Despite her age, Heavrin is a Republican Party insider having worked in federal and state staff roles. In fact, her election means she has to give up her job.
Heavrin is employed as director of initiatives in State Treasurer Allison Ball’s office. Because she cannot serve in two branches of government, she must resign her job to accept her elected position.
A 2014 graduate of Western Kentucky University, Heavrin carried the district with 8,655 votes to Democrat Becky Miller’s 5,701 — a 3-2 margin.
Miller, 57, emphasized people over party in her campaign and hoped her life experience, career as an educator and community service would help offset Grayson County’s registration divide where Republicans outnumber Democrats by more than 6,500. The district serves all of Grayson plus nine Hardin County precincts.
“Our job was to try to convince Republicans not to pull the straight ticket and vote for me,” Miller said.
Heavrin said she was pleased to win a hard-fought race that stayed positive and focused on the candidates and issues facing the district. She carried 29 of the 31 precincts.
“I put my nose to the grindstone and worked hard. Knocking on doors and going out and talking to people,” she said. “Being a Republican in such a red district didn’t hurt either, but really, I think my experience is what led me to win.”
The contrast between the candidates was apparent at their election night watch parties Tuesday.
Heavrin’s gathering was held at the home of state Sen. Steve Meredith and included House Majority Caucus Leader Suzanne Miles, R-Owensboro, among her guests. When she welcomed a latecomer Tuesday night, she immediately introduced her parents, Ray and Monica Heavrin.
Across town, Miller’s family and campaign supporters set up shop in the community room behind Warren RECC’s Leitchfield office where her husband, Harold, has worked more than three decades. While awaiting returns, she sat on the floor playing with her 4-year-old twin grandchildren.
Miller, who called Heavrin to concede after the Grayson County results began to come in, said she’s unsure about trying again next year when all the House seats are back on the ballot. She fought back tears when describing the commitments made by family and friends on her behalf.
In the General Assembly, Heavrin will replace Tim Moore, R-Elizabethtown, who resigned because of increased ministry commitments. Sen. Meredith said Heavrin will be “a great partner to work with” in the legislature.
Her election maintains the Republicans’ 61-seat majority in the 100-member chamber.
Rep. Miles, who worked alongside Heavrin when she completed a semester-long internship in U.S. Rep. Brett Guthrie’s office in Washington, said she’s excited about seeing a young colleague rise up.
“She’s going to be quite an asset for us in Frankfort,” Miles said.
Heavrin said she hopes her win “encourages younger people to get involved” in the electoral process.