FILE - In this Dec. 6, 2017, file photo, David Ermold, right, files to run for Rowan County Clerk in Kentucky as Clerk Kim Davis look on in Morehead, Ky. Ermold, a gay man in Kentucky, wants to run against the county clerk who denied him a marriage license in 2015. But before Ermold can face Davis at the ballot box, he must first survive a four-person Democratic primary on Tuesday, May 22, 2018. (AP Photo/Adam Beam, File)

Gay Kentucky man loses bid to challenge GOP clerk Kim Davis

May 22, 2018 - 7:57 pm

MOREHEAD, Ky. (AP) — A gay man in eastern Kentucky has lost his bid to challenge Republican county clerk Kim Davis, who went to jail three years ago for denying him and others marriage licenses in the aftermath of an historic U.S. Supreme Court decision.

David Ermold sought the Democratic nomination in Tuesday's primary in Rowan County, Kentucky. He lost to Elwood Caudill Jr. in a four-way Democratic primary, despite a campaign that raised more than $200,000 with donations from at least 48 states.

Caudill will face Davis, the religious conservative who said in 2015 that "God's authority" prevented her from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, in November. No one challenged Davis for the Republican nomination.

It will be the second time Caudill and Davis have faced each other in an election. In 2014, Davis defeated Caudill for the Democratic nomination by 23 votes.

That was before Davis made international news by denying marriage licenses for same-sex couples. Davis is now a Republican, having changed her registration after saying she felt the Democratic party abandoned her.

Some Republicans signaled Tuesday they wouldn't vote for Davis in the fall. Jacqueline Smith, 72, said many in the community didn't like the attention Davis garnered in 2015.

"I don't think sexual orientation should have anything to do with it," she said. "This is America."

Ermold and his now-husband were one of several gay couples who tried to get licenses from Davis after the court ruling. A video of the encounter was viewed more than 1.8 million times on YouTube.

Lawsuits followed; a judge ordered Davis to issue licenses. She refused and spent a week in jail. Upon her release, two Republican presidential candidates, hundreds of supporters and a church choir greeted her.

In 2016, Kentucky's Republican-controlled legislature removed county clerks' names from marriage licenses. Things had remained calm in Rowan County since then, until Davis announced in November she'd seek re-election. Ermold soon announced his candidacy. Many in this college town, which includes Morehead State University, were wary of reviving the attention that would come with an Ermold-Davis matchup.

Ermold's loss means Davis' actions will likely be less of an issue in the fall campaign. Caudill has downplayed the incident, noting it had been resolved by the legislature and citing voter reluctance to relive the experience.

Davis, a Christian who attends an Apostolic church, has worked in the clerk's office since 1988. She was hired by her mother, who was clerk for 37 years.

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Beam reported from Frankfort, Kentucky.

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