TJ Comer, wife of Republican candidate for governor James Comer, speaks at a news conference Wednesday, May 13, 2015, in from of the state Capitol in Frankfort, Ky., as former U.S. Rep. Anne Northup, right, looks on. Republican candidate for governor James Comer's wife and about two dozen political supporters spoke on his behalf Wednesday, trying to take the spotlight off of abuse allegations leveled by a former girlfriend. (AP Photo/Adam Beam)

For political junkies, tonight's wide-open Kentucky GOP governor's primary offers the only electoral excitement for months. The 2015 calendar year has just three governor's races and no federal ones.

But for non-political junkies, the race has plenty of drama and intrigue too. There are domestic violence accusations dredged up from the past, alleged secret meetings with bloggers and more frenemies than a Hollywood awards show. In other words: a primary in Kentucky.

Here's what you need to know about the soap opera playing out as voters head to the polls.

The set-up

Picture this: You're in a state with beautiful oak and maple trees, good bourbon flowing and lots of cool hats. But that state is losing its leader soon. Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear, in the office since 2008, is finishing his second term this year and is constitutionally limited from running for a third.

Democrats have traditionally had a lock on the governor's seat: They've held it for 40 of the past 44 years. But an open race and the state's increasingly conservative lean have made the battle to replace Beshear a proxy war between Democrats and Republicans for Kentucky's political future.

"All the signs are that Kentucky's just getting close to breaking out our way," Sen. Mitch McConnell, the U.S. Senate majority leader and the state's most senior Republican, told the Lexington Herald-Leader in January.

The cast

Enter the candidates. On the Democratic side, Attorney General Jack Conway pretty much has his primary race tonight locked up against little-known Lexington lawyer Geoff Young.

If McConnell had his way, the Republican side was going to be similarly clean-cut. The race was shaping up late last year as a two-way battle between Agriculture Commissioner James Comer and former Louisville council member Hal Heiner, with former state Supreme Court justice Will T. Scott trailing third.

But all that changed Jan. 27, just two hours before the race's 4 p.m. filing deadline, when businessman Matt Bevin surprised everyone by throwing his name into the GOP primary. If his name sounds vaguely familiar, it's because the tea party candidate challenged McConnell in the majority leader's U.S. Senate primary last year. McConnell's team was characteristically ruthless with Bevin -- Bevin attended a cockfighting event! -- and Bevin refused to endorse McConnell in the general election.

In his latest foray into politics, Bevin took an immediate lead in the governor's race by promising to dismantle the health-care exchange Beshear set up under Obamacare.

The drama begins

Here's where things get soap-opery. Exactly two weeks ago, the Louisville Courier-Journal published a four-page letter from a woman claiming to have dated Comer while the two were students at Western Kentucky University in the 1990s.

The woman, Marilyn Thomas, alleged that Comer hit her and became enraged when she used his name on a form at an abortion clinic. The only physical proof of evidence, a slip of paper from the abortion clinic, is locked up in a vault in a Kentucky bank, Thomas said.

As friends of friends stepped forward to back Thomas or Comer, Comer was forced to hold a news conference -- with his wife behind him --- to deny the allegations.

The drama that had previously been relegated to whispers in Kentucky's political circles and the underbelly of the Internet was now a national headline, with potentially major implications for the already convoluted race.

The plot thickens

Like any good soap opera, the other characters got dragged into mud with Comer. A few days before Thomas publicly accused Comer, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported that Heiner apologized to Comer over allegations that people in his camp were helping spread the abuse rumors.

The Herald-Leader obtained e-mails showing a controversial Kentucky blogger had rendezvoused with the spouse of Heiner's lieutenant governor running mate, KC Crosbie, during which time they discussed Comer's college relationship.

Heiner called his campaign's alleged affiliation with the blogger "undignified and un-Christian."

"This is the most disgusting thing I've ever seen in Kentucky political history," Comer retorted.

Despite all this, the four-candidate primary race is still a three-way battle between Bevin, Comer and Heiner. The latest Bluegrass Poll shows Heiner with an 8 percent lead, with Bevin and Comer tied for second, but other polling showed basically a three-way tie.

The resolution

The latest Bluegrass Poll predicts an easy win for Conway in the Democratic primary -- no shock there. But it's anyone's guess who comes out on top of this mess on the Republican side.

Things might not get tied up into a tidy bow when the primary's over, either; McConnell has promised to do whatever he can to help the nominee take the governor's seat in November. But if that nominee is his nemesis from 2014, Bevin, McConnell has been coy about whether he'd forgive past transgressions and campaign for him. The GOP establishment in general doesn't think particularly highly of Bevin as its potential nominee.

The cliff hanger

The governor's race was supposed to be Republicans' coming-out party to possibly take one of the last political strongholds for Democrats . But the winner will likely emerge looking more like a reality TV star than a candidate hoping to lead the state. As National Journal's Karyn Bruggeman points out, that's bad news for Republicans who will have a fight on their hand against Conway.

Stay tuned for the next episode in this series: The general election. By then it'll have to compete with always-interesting Louisiana for the muddiest governor's race of 2015.