The first debate featured Fifth District State Representative Candidates Kenny Imes (R) and Hal Kemp (D).
In his opening remarks, Kemp, who called himself pro-life, touted his more than 35 years as a small business owner and talked about the importance of education funding and of the new four-lane bridges across Lake Barkley and Kentucky Lake, and roads in general. He also said the pension plan needs to be addressed, and that it’s important that someone who will “work with the governor” get elected.
Imes said he’s proud of his record of supporting small businesses. He agreed with Kemp on the issues of the two bridges and education funding, and said he could bring “a working relationship” to Frankfort that has been “sorely missed.”
First question: What are your feelings about the coal industry in Kentucky?
Kemp said that although coal isn’t mined in Trigg and Calloway Counties, it is “essential” to the state’s economy, as it is the fourth largest industry in the state, and the loss of coal jobs puts the state’s budget in jeopardy.
“It not only relates to jobs, and all that we’re losing because of the over-stringent regulations that our government is forcing on all the coal miners in Kentucky, but it also relates to our educational funding,” Kemp said. “If people aren’t working, they’re not paying taxes, and therefore we have got to seize that opportunity.”
Imes, for his part, agreed with Kemp, stating that coal is “vital” to the state’s economy. “I don’t think that we can do away with coal and leave these families without a livelihood,” Imes said.
Second question: Business continually changes. What are your thoughts on workplace and workforce education?
Kemp said such education will be vital to this state moving forward, especially vocational education, as a lot youth won’t enroll in a traditional four-year college or university but nevertheless need to be able to be ready to enter the workforce.
“The manufacturing jobs that we’re looking for are going to have to be in areas that are high-tech,” he said. “It’s going to be important that we do educate our workforce to be ready for the … change in the way businesses handle things. We’re in the computer age. We’re going to have to get our high schools, our grade schools and even our preschools up to standards where they will be ready when they do get out of school to have a high-tech job.”
Imes said there’s a definite correlation between jobs and education, and that one is impossible without the other.
“They’ve got to be educated,” said Imes. “The true test of the measure is, we’re fortunate to have Murray State (University) right here. I know a lot of Trigg County students go to Murray State.”
In his rebuttal, Kemp also touted MSU and said it’s good for the entire area. He said it’s important to the education of the area’s students that MSU continue to get state funding, adding that MSU also employs more than 2,000 people.
Imes responded and said MSU is “a wealth of information,” and agreed with Kemp that “adequate funding” for that university is required.
Third question: Both of you are pro-life. Will you work to get bills such as the ultrasound bill, currently on the floor for a vote?
Imes said he will “definitely” work to get that bill to a vote, stating that he cast 23 votes in favor of pro-life legislation in his four terms as a state representative.
“This is one of the most important things that I think we have to have a comprehension of, that life does begin at conception,” Imes said. “One of the things I have a real problem with is using taxpayer dollars for abortions.”
Imes stated that using $349.6 million to fund Planned Parenthood doesn’t make sense to him.
Kemp said that although he’s pro-life, he doesn’t approve of this specific bill, saying it represents government intrusion.
“I think the government is in our lives enough. I don’t think that requiring somebody to have a medical procedure that’s not necessary, that the doctor doesn’t require. I don’t think it is the legislator’s responsibility or the state’s responsibility to dictate … the medical procedure.”
In his rebuttal, Imes said it isn’t an “infringement” in any way, “since we are using taxpayer dollars.” Instead, he said it has to do with getting people to understand the issues related to abortion.
Imes also said, “We cannot legislate morality in this country, either by state legislators, a Fiscal Court or the federal government. That is a personal decision that I respect that has to be made by the individual. But to say this is an encroachment on government, I totally disagree.”
Kemp maintained that it is, as it orders a medical procedure that the doctor doesn’t necessarily think is necessary, but that the legislature does think is necessary. He said the doctor should make the decision.
Fourth question: The U.S. 68/Ky. 80 bridges going across the Lakes are very high on everybody’s priorities. What would you do to expedite the process of replacing those bridges and protect the funding that’s already there?
Kemp said they need to work with Governor Steve Beshear (D), whom he said understands the importance of the two bridges. He went on to say he work with the leadership in the two state legislative chambers to make sure the funding is still there and make sure it is understood how important the two bridges are.
“They’re the artery that’s going to bring businesses into our area,” said Kemp. “Right now … we have trucking companies that can’t go across those bridges. They’re having to go north before they can go south.”
Imes said the governor has had five years to work on this issue and that the replacement bridges have been on the radar a lot longer than that. He went on to say that the governor seems more interested in bridges in northern Kentucky.
“Any of us are going to work with anybody that will work with us, but it is going to take some federal encouragement,” said Imes.
Kemp said he agrees that everyone is going to have to work together to make the bridges a reality.
Fifth question: How do you plan to get funding to keep vocational schools open, when many of them are closing?
Imes said economic recovery is the first and most important step. He said he will won’t cut K – 12 or MSU funding any further, although they will have to look at cuts in other areas.
“If we were flush with money, we could do a lot of things … We can’t even do what we’re doing,” said Imes. “First and foremost, we’ve got to get people trained and ready for the workforce, we’ve got to get the transportation needs to service Trigg County and Calloway County and all these others.”
Kemp said, “We’re spending more than we’re taking in. The economy has been bad, it has made it tough. We’re going to have to make some tough decisions, we’re going to have to cut some programs and cut back on some things.”
However, Kemp agreed with Imes that cutting education spending won’t be the answer to jump starting the economy, and reiterated the importance of vocational schools.
Imes said that Kentucky has “kicked the can too many times down the road,” which will make the decisions they as legislators make difficult.
Kemp said he or Imes might be one-term representatives for that very reason.
Sixth question: As both of you are Calloway County residents, what will you do to assure voters that you represent Trigg County as well?
Kemp said, “The bridges lead both ways, it’s not a far distance.” It will important for him to be open and accessible to all of the voters, he added. Imes made similar comments about accessibility.
Seventh question: Economic development is a very important topic. What specifics can you offer as to how you would stimulate the economy?
Imes said the bridges are “paramount to getting industry,” as they probably won’t get a Toyota plant in western Kentucky. He went on to say that Clarksville, Tenn., is getting industry, and that maybe western Kentucky could get “feeder industries.”
Kemp basically agreed, and said an educated workforce that can handle the type of jobs that modern industry requires is most important.
“Even at Murray, we have a plant there that’s making glass for vehicles for the Toyota plant,” Kemp said. “We’ve got an opportunity, once we get the bridges, to make sure they understand we have the workforce, that we’ve got an educated workforce down here.”
Imes also said that Land Between the Lakes is one of the top draws in the state. “And developing that where people can get in here actually go to it” will be a boon to the local economy, he said, as a lot of people will go around the two bridges via Interstate 24.
Kemp said they’ll have to change the state’s tax structure to make it more “business friendly” to encourage businesses to come here.
Eighth question: How should the tax structure be reformed?
Kemp said they have to do something that encourages people and businesses to come here, such as making sure corporate taxes are competitive with other states. He said that as a small business owner, he knows how difficult taxes and regulations can be for such businesses.
“I think we’re going to have to look at what we do to encourage those people,” Kemp said. “We’re going to have to do something besides incentives … We wouldn’t have to give as many incentives if our tax plan was better.”
Imes said 22 percent of every dollar that’s spent on goods and services is eaten up by regulatory and tax processes. He said that while he doesn’t have all the answers, we have to figure out why people go to Tennessee rather than Kentucky.
“We share the Tennessee border, and you look at what’s gone on over the years, the last 40 or 50 years,” Imes said. “50 years ago, Kentucky and Tennessee were the same geographically, they were the same kind of people, we all worked together. Tennessee has had a progressive tax system.”
Kemp said Tennessee ‘s taxes on food and drugs are “regressive” and hit seniors and people of low income the hardest.
Imes said he wouldn’t vote for such taxes, and indeed voted to repeal those taxes when he was a state representative.
In his closing statement, Imes said he doesn’t have all the answers but does have experience in the legislative branch.
Kemp said he isn’t a career politician and if elected will serve only 2 – 6 years.
The second debate featured Carol Hubbard (D) and Trigg County Judge Executive Stan Humphries (R), who are running to replace First District State Senator Ken Winters (R), who isn’t running for re-election.
In his opening statement, after saying how much he enjoyed the Ham Festival and Ham Breakfast, Hubbard talked about the importance of working with the governor – something he, and to a lesser extent Kemp, repeated throughout the debate. He said Beshear has been good to this county, especially with regard to the Eggner Ferry Bridge, despite losing it to Senate President David Williams last year.
Humphries said he’s been working well with Republicans and Democrats alike to work on the county’s issues during his six years as the county’s Judge Executive. Among the issues he mentioned were the 2009 ice storm, the closure of Johnson Controls, the 2009 alcohol referendum and the Eggner Ferry Bridge collapse earlier this year.
He talked about getting the job done and not getting “so caught up in party affiliation.” He also said he’s not running for the office for “self-gratification.”
First question: Do you support right-to-work?
Humphries said that while he isn’t anti-union he would support right-to-work in Kentucky, noting that counties such as Fulton County, a county he says has been “torn apart” by unemployment, are struggling much more than Trigg County.
“Right to work puts us on a more level playing field with other states around us. It gives us an opportunity for businesses to look at Kentucky as a viable option,” Humphries said. “Unions have to do a much better job getting their wages and their dues when there is a right to work in that state. I’m not against unions, I think they’ve been very favorable across the years, but I would be in favor of right to work.”
Hubbard said that as the U.S. Representative for the area many years ago, he sent out questionnaires to constituents to see how they feel about the issue. He went to say he would hold meetings on the subject in December and January and would vote how the majority of the people in the district want.
“This is a divided question, people are divided on this issue,” Hubbard said. “The issue of right to work won’t be decided in the (State) Senate, it’s going to be decided in the (State) House.”
Humphries said he wanted to know how Hubbard himself feels about right to work, “since he didn’t answer the question.”
“I’m sure you’re going to point out that I’m a union man. No, I’m not. I’ve never been a member of a union,” Hubbard said. “But I can tell you that this: when I was your congressman, I didn’t always vote for the union.”
Hubbard said that then-President Ronald Reagan was pleased when Hubbard said he was against common-situs picketing. He called that labor bill “unfair.”
Second question: How would you move Kentucky forward?
Hubbard said, “Much has been said by my opponent about homosexual marriage and abortion and gun control. And I favor marriage between a man and a woman. God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve. I’ve always been a right to life advocate.”
Hubbard added that while he has supported Kentucky Right to Life through the years, they support Republicans.
Humphries said, “Systemically, we have some challenges at the state level.” He talked about the necessity of changes to the state’s tax systems, and complimented the Cadiz/Trigg County Economic Development Commission on their efforts to bring more jobs into the community. He also said they need to increase education funding and look at ways to beat Tennessee economically.
“The issue is jobs. That’s the main issue, the economy in western Kentucky,” said Hubbard. “In Graves, Fulton and Carlisle Counties, it’s a disaster. The economy is better in Calloway and Trigg and Lyon. Governor Steve Beshear is the number one person in Kentucky who can help bring new industry to Trigg County. He’s aware of Johnson Controls.”
Hubbard added that while JCI still owns the building, the local EDC has done its best to buy the building so that new industry can take its place, but JCI won’t sell it.
Humphries also said that the EDC has worked “tirelessly” to get JCI to gift or sell that building, which is now being used as a warehouse, to the county. He went on to say that when the county lost those 600 jobs, it went from having 8 percent unemployment to more than 17 percent unemployment.
Third question: What are your views on legislative ethics reform?
“Any time that you talk about ethics reform, I think that you’re going to have to start with the top,” said Humphries. “I think you have to start by trying to find a reason for people to be there. They have to follow a standard, they have to follow guidelines.”
Humphries said some reform is necessary to ensure that legislators are held to a higher standard.
Hubbard also came out in support of ethics reform, stating that there need to be “better people” in both of the state legislative bodies, so that there will be people that will “tell the truth and vote accurately and won’t take payoffs.” He also said that Senators and Congresspeople shouldn’t receive expenses or pay for extra sessions.
“We need people in the House and Senate who are concerned about issues like the pension situation, which is critical,” said Hubbard. “These general sessions, these extra sessions, to be candid with you, they’re caused by Senator David Williams, the Republican who carried Trigg County.”
Fourth question: Hubbard, you’re running on a Democratic platform but state you are a conservative. Explain this.
Hubbard said he isn’t a national or liberal Democrat, and went on to say that the Democratic Party is less popular here than it’s ever been because of the liberal Democrats and because of the Democratic National Committee Convention over the summer.
“I’m a conservative Democrat. I want to go to Frankfort. Any advertisement that says a candidate’s going to Frankfort to repeal Obamacare, that’s a joke. That won’t be repealed in Frankfort, that’s in Washington (D.C.),” Hubbard said. “The national Democratic Convention was an embarrassment to me. I didn’t want to go. They had to vote three times on whether to have God in the platform. That’s terrible.”
Humphries said he’s worked closely with the Democrats in Trigg County, which leans 70 percent Democratic. “It’s going to be the Democrats who put me in office if I’m elected State Senator,” he said.
Humphries also echoed Hubbard’s comment about state versus national Democrats, stating that state and local Democrats tend to be more conservative.
Fifth question: What jobs have you brought to Trigg County since you were elected?
Humphries said the county has lost quite a few jobs because of Johnson Controls, but since then the EDC has helped bring in Transcraft, which as of now is hiring about 300 people.
“I don’t think anyone understands the devastation that could have been still in place here in Trigg County if it weren’t for our EDC and Transcraft,” Humphries said. “That’s not my effort, I don’t want to take any claim for that individually. I’ve been supportive of the EDC. Our Fiscal Court funds economic development. We have a director (Sharon Butts) who does a wonderful job … trying to bring in industry.”
Hubbard said, “Governor Beshear and I will work together for jobs and industry.” He also said he helped bring jobs to Trigg County in the 18 years he represented this and other counties as U.S. Representative, having helped bring in a lot of federal dollars, some of which built the Cadiz Fire Department near Food Giant.
He also talked about Community Development Block Grants that went to housing rehabilitation projects and federal dollars that went to double the size of the Cadiz water treatment plant, and said he did what he could for the county as Congressman.
Humphries said he could talk about millions of dollars worth of grants that he’s helped bring to the county as Judge Executive, some of which went toward the Trigg County Justice Center and the Trigg County Senior Citizens Center.
In response, Hubbard said he was “thrilled” to help Trigg County and other counties as Congressman. “Ask some of your former mayors how much I helped Cadiz,” he said.
“I am the one candidate who can go to Frankfort and work with Governor Beshear … to expedite these two bridges and to bring new industry to western Kentucky to replace what we lost in Johnson Controls,” said Hubbard.
Sixth question: What are your thoughts on school vouchers, and how would that affect public schools?
Hubbard started by saying he’s been endorsed unanimously in Murray by the Kentucky Education Association of Western Kentucky over Humphries.
“School vouchers would seriously damage our public schools, school vouchers would widen the class divide,” Hubbard said. “A strong economy requires an educated public, and let me assure you I don’t think school vouchers will work. It might work in Louisville, where they have the bussing and the racial problems, but not down here in western Kentucky.”
Humphries seemed to agree with Hubbard on this issue, stating he didn’t want to do anything that would harm the public school system. He also said that not getting the KEA endorsement bothered him as a former educator, and added that he won’t do anything to “mess up” the KTRS (Kentucky Teachers’ Retirement System).
“I did teach here at the Trigg County School System … In today’s world, we don’t want to do anything that’s going to take away from the public school system,” Humphries said. “We have a great school system here.”
Hubbard rebutted by saying he has the support of the Fulton County Retired Teachers Association, that his wife is a retired teacher and that his mother taught in the Jefferson County School system. He reiterated that school vouchers are “a bad idea.”
Seventh question: Regarding the transparency of the legislature, what are your views on how new bills are introduced for a vote?
Humphries said, “I think that we live in a time and age where we need to have transparency … There was a question the other day about new bills that are surfacing.”
The Judge Executive said the state’s current auditor has done a great job pushing for legislative transparency, and added that he “wouldn’t be opposed” to transparency laws.
Hubbard said that the transparency issue is important and that Legislative Research Council in Frankfort are already awaiting the January 2013 General Assembly session. However, he feels there are already enough laws and taxes, and he doesn’t plan on introducing any new legislation.
“Many new bills have been sent up there for drafting,” Hubbard said. “Some of the bills are for new taxes, some of the bills are for pro and con on abortion. I really won’t be a State Senator up there trying to introduce a lot of new bills. I think what we need to do is reduce waste in state government, and if you think there’s not waste, just go to Frankfort sometime.”
Eight question: Kentucky’s tax system is antiquated. What are your plans on improving that?
“My plans are to oppose any new taxes, we have enough taxes already,” Hubbard said. “The Governor has appointed a commission, which has gone around to different places … to get the ideas of the people. I don’t know what they’re going to recommend. I really believe there may be a special session in the legislature in December after that commission reveals its plans.”
Hubbard said he would “eliminate waste” in the state government, and talked about the “big contracts” that are given to road departments for highway construction and about lawyers on public service contracts. He added that he would vote for lower taxes.
Humphries said the Governor’s commission itself has said that Kentucky’s tax code is “an impediment to job creation and job growth.” He went on to say that the state needs to look at surrounding states to see how their tax systems are structured.
“I think taxes are too high, I would be against raising taxes,” Humphries said.
Ninth question: Would you support parents’ rights to homeschool?
Humphries said that while parents have the right to homeschool their children, and there are several students in the county that are homeschooled, but he was somewhat skeptical of the quality of that education.
“I’m not going to judge a parent for homeschooling … so I would not be opposed to that,” said Humphries. “I would have to be realistic in the fact that I don’t know if their education is going to be as well rounded or as thorough as you would have in a public school setting.”
Hubbard said he is not opposed to homeschooling, but he said that in his years as an attorney in divorce cases, the wife would say she didn’t want the kids to go to a particular school and wanted to teach them herself.
“They don’t even use good English when they’re explaining themselves,” said Hubbard. “Most of the children, I fear, who are under homeschooling are not getting an adequate education. Are they really doing okay at Murray State University or West Kentucky Community Technical College? I doubt it. No, it shouldn’t be outlawed, but I think it’s bad.”
Tenth question: Regarding a new bill in the Kentucky General Assembly, how do you ensure that your bill is given proper consideration?
Hubbard reiterated that he doesn’t plan on introducing any new bills if elected, and restated that there are enough laws already. What the state needs, he added, is a “watchdog” to stop bad legislation.
“I was in Congress long enough to see horrible bills, multiple bills introduced that were ridiculous and unwise,” Hubbard said. “Most of the bills that will be introduced in the 2013 session will never see the light of day. They won’t come out of committee. But it pleases somebody back home for them to introduce a bill that does this or that.”
Humphries said he would be in the majority if he was elected, although he doesn’t have any “exclusive ideas” on bills that he wants to see introduced onto the floor. He did say he sees infrastructure and education needs.
“I do see regulations that are hurting them, the taxes that are hurting them. I see issues that are making people’s, people having a tough time paying their mortgage,” Humphries said.
Hubbard said they need more cooperation in Frankfort, and that the fighting between Beshear and Williams in particular, and between the Democrats and Republicans in general, isn’t helping the state.
“When I was your Congressman, my best friends were Republicans,” said Hubbard. “I’m not going to Frankfort to fight the Republicans. I won’t be a soldier for Senator David Williams, and I know he carried this county.”
“Mr. Hubbard’s made several jabs at Mr. Williams,” said Humphries. “I think Mr. Williams is … likely going to be out as the President (of the State Senate), I think he’ll more than likely take a position that’s going to be offered to him … as a judge, which will for those who like Mr. Williams, they’ll be saddened by his departure. For those who despise him, I think this will be a refreshing start to a new era in Frankfort.”
Eleventh question: Hubbard has criticized Humphries’ spending outside the First State Senate District, including campaign advice from Trifecta Solutions of Hopkinsville. Explain.
Humphries said he has indeed purchased materials from Trifecta, but he’s also purchased materials from other locations, many of them in Cadiz and Trigg County, including yard signs. He also said most people in the area don’t see an issue with outside spending.
Hubbard said he’s had a lot of yard signs stolen and/or taken down in this area. On point, he said most of his money has been spent in the First State Senate District, whereas 90 percent of Humphries’ campaign spending has been in Hopkinsville and Clarksville, Tenn.
“$3,000 for campaign advice? He’s getting advice from Senator Mitch McConnell, Senator David Williams, Senator Ken Winters. Why would they need a woman in Hopkinsville to give him campaign advice for $3,000,” Hubbard said of Trifecta.
Humphries said he didn’t have the help of those Senators early in the campaign and called Trifecta’s advice “a little bit of extra help along the way.”
Hubbard said the woman from Trifecta is a registered lobbyist and called the use of her services “untoward.”
Twelfth question: Hubbard, as you have been convicted on campaign finance laws, will there be a reoccurrence?
Hubbard said he is “very careful” on his campaign finance reports. “The big mistakes I made 20 years ago, I regret. They were stupid mistakes. I’ve asked God to forgive me, I’ve asked my family to forgive me, and I’ve asked the people of western Kentucky to forgive me,” said Hubbard. “As a Baptist, I believe in redemption and forgiveness.”
“Those things that plagued him then, and are going to plague him, I guess, the rest of his life, are things that we can forgive, but I don’t know that the voter is ready to forget it,” said Humphries.
Hubbard said a Republican poll showed him with a “substantial lead” in every county in the district, save for Trigg County, and that he has a three-to-one lead in his home county. Humphries said hasn’t seen those poll numbers and wouldn’t comment.
In his closing statement, Humphries reiterated that he isn’t running for “self-gratification” but because he sees a need in Trigg County, and that he would be in the majority and would therefore be in “key committees.”
Hubbard, in his closing statement, asked why Humphries, who makes $65,000 as Judge Executive, would run for State Senate, where he would make $30,000.
The third debate featured incumbent John Tilley (D) and Max Sturdivant (R) in the Eighth District State Representative race.
In his opening statement, Tilley said he was a former prosecutor who has spent his legislative career combating the state’s drug problems in a “non-partisan” way, crossing party lines to do what needs to be done. As an example, he pointed to House Bill 481, which tackles the issue of synthetic drugs. He also said he was one of only two Democrats to be named the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce’s MVP.
Sturdivant, in his opening statement, criticized Tilley’s “liberal voting record,” stating that Tilley voted against “tax relief at the pump.” He also said Tilley voted to increase Kentucky’s debt. He talked about the Kentucky Club For Growth, which he said, as he repeated at other times in the debate, “promotes the Reagan doctrines of lower taxes, smaller government and strong, free enterprise.” He said that group rates Tilley very poorly.
First question: What qualifies you to be a State Representative?
Sturdivant said he studied political science and earned a doctorate of education. He went on to say that he believes education is important in general, and is important in particular to creating jobs.
“I’ve always studied political science. I love watching MSNBC, CNN and Fox News, looking at all of them, and I’ve always been interested in politics,” said Sturdivant. “I care about my state and I care about my country.”
He says that according to Forbes, the state is ranked 45th in the “labor supply,” meaning the state needs to do a better job of making sure students are well educated so that they’ll be in a good position to get good-paying jobs.
Tilley said he is the only candidate to have run a small business, as he has for about 20 years, he has been a city attorney, a county attorney, a prosecutor and has served on “a number of boards in this community, including the Rotary Club. He also said he’s sponsored 27 bills but wouldn’t call them “new laws” but bills that “reversed disturbing trends and revised laws that needed to be updated.”
“Qualifications do mean a lot in this race,” Tilley said. “I’m the only candidate to be in private business. Again, I’m a candidate with a diverse resume … I’m humbled by the fact that I’ve received 14 recognitions for the six years I’ve been in office, and that doesn’t happen to every legislator.”
Sturdivant said he liked Tilley but didn’t agree with his politics. “The Kentucky Club For Growth … it just doesn’t buy all the accolades and awards that you say you’ve received. They’ve given you a 15 on a scale of 100,” Sturdivant said. “You don’t stand up for those Reagan doctrines of lower taxes, smaller government and strong, free enterprise.”
He added that although he’s been a minister, he saw how regulations and taxes affected his father’s business.
“As President Reagan said, ‘here we go again,’’ rebutted Tilley. “Let me tell you what the Kentucky Club For Growth is. It’s a former (Kentucky) Governor (Ernie) Fletcher staffer and another lawyer, a Republican lawyer from northern Kentucky and a P.O. Box. They’re not the Kentucky Chamber, they’re two individuals.”
Tilley went on to say that the House Minority Leader got a low score from that organization, and called it “an absolutely absurd measure of performance.”
Second question: Would you support right to work legislation?
Tilley said he would “open to the idea” of right to work as a local option. He mentioned that the Lane Report surveyed more than 30 CEOs in the state, and that to those CEOs, right to work wasn’t a factor to attracting companies. Instead, the education of the workforce and the quality of living were the top two factors, both of which Kentucky is improving on, added Tilley.
“It’s a difficult question for Kentucky. In a place like Louisville … which has plants like Ford Motor and GE and UPS, they’re comfortably unionized,” said Tilley. “To go into Louisville and to break that up would be tough to Kentucky business, but local option right to work might have some merit.”
“The data shows that right to work works, I don’t know where John is getting some of his data,” Sturdivant said. “If you compare states that are right to work and non-right to work, they create more manufacturing, their unemployment numbers are lower, their disposable income is higher, and guess what? More people move into those states.”
Sturdivant added that he thinks that “the Reagan doctrines of lower taxes and less government and strong free enterprise” are solid principles. He also said that Tilley didn’t look like a Reagan Democrat to him.
Tilley retorted that Reagan couldn’t get elected today on account of some of his beliefs that he held in office. He said that for every study that says that right to work is effective, there are studies that say otherwise. Of the 12 states with the highest unemployment, eight are right-to-work states, added Tilley.
Sturdivant stated, “the data is clear,” and repeated his earlier points. He then talked about how the prevailing wage is hurting the state.
Third question: How would you support funding for school building construction to serve the needs of Trigg and Christian County?
Sturdivant said, “We’ve got to eliminate the prevailing wage. Now, you look at the Trigg County Justice Center, look at the Christian County Justice Center and look at the Christian County Middle School, those projects cost millions of dollars more because of prevailing wage. And so, we’re having to pay the union-mandated wage … raising huge costs on construction projects.”
The prevailing wage results in “wasteful spending,” and that money could otherwise be spent on education, said Sturdivant.
Tilley said Sturdivant’s criticisms of him with regards to a bill he supported, a bill he said would have resulted in schools built in Trigg County, was “somewhat disingenuous.” The state could have built schools all over when the bonding rates were “historically low,” and asked if Sturdivant would ever support any kind of bonding.
“Let me tell you how much of the debt load it would have taken up. It would’ve taken up what amounts to about 4 percent of what would exist in your families,” said Tilley. “If you spend about 20 percent on your mortgage, you’re doing pretty well.”
Tilley added that they have made serious cuts in Frankfort to balance the budget, unlike the federal government.
Sturdivant rebutted, stating that the prevailing wage needs to be removed. The bill Tilley supported, he added, would have resulted in the borrowing of $1.1 billion, and the state’s debt is already more than $60 billion.
He went on to say that the state has a “spending addiction” and has “raided” $90 million out of the education fund because of that, resulting in the denial of scholarships for several low-income students.
“I would tell you that prevailing wage would drive, what it does is … invites foreign workers to come and take jobs from American workers. That’s what it’s proven in California,” Tilley said. “At the end of the day, if you exclude the pension crisis, which is a real crisis, only about six cents of every dollar brought into Frankfort goes to pay debt right now.”
Fourth question: Will you sponsor and support education that requires all tax increases for public education, regardless of amount, to be voted on by the citizens of that district?
Tilley said he “could be open to the idea,” once again stating his support for local option legislation. But while teachers can’t do their jobs without adequate funding, he is confident that the citizens of this district also realize that.
“You decide things locally,” he said. “I have faith in listening to your superintendent talk about need for more funding and the importance of education here in Trigg County. I have the utmost faith in this school board and this system of dedicated teachers.”
Sturdivant said the amount spent on education has doubled in the last 10 years or so without much improvement in ACT scores and other performance scores. “We have to be open to a variety of ideas and innovations to make education better,” he said.
Tilley said that since the Kentucky Education Reform Act was passed in 1990, education has improved in this state. “Since that time, we have risen, according to U.S. Education Weekly, to 16th … we were in the bottom five in 1990 … It’s a fact that gets lost too often,” added Tilley.
Sturdivant reiterated that the state’s ACT scores are still not good, and said high ACT scores are needed to get scholarships into colleges. “I believe in good pay for good teachers, and they would agree with you, that we’ve got some work to do. And ACT scores tell us that we’ve got things to work on,” he added.
Fifth question: How do you feel about Kentucky’s legislative pension system?
Sturdivant said he supports Representative David Floyd’s proposal to have new legislators not be on the state’s pension system and give current legislators the ability to opt out of said system, as he thinks it’s a conflict of interest for a legislator to be it.
“It has contributed to the $30-plus billion shortfall … in the public workers’ pensions,” said Sturdivant. “I want to save those pensions, I want to protect those pensions. But for future, new employees, we’re going to have to do something different. Not for current ones, and not for retirees, but future and new employees, they’re going to have to change things.”
Sturdivant suggested that the state move toward a “401(k)-style plan” for new and future employees.
Tilley said there is indeed a pension crisis, as there is in other states, because of “lagging market returns,” lack of funding from both chambers and the rising cost of healthcare, and added that the issue in question is one he ran on.
“I voted on neither the Greed Bill or the bill that was voted on in 2006, prior to me taking office … to increase legislative pensions,” Tilley said. “I didn’t vote for either of those bills, nor would I have, and I would be more than happy to set aside my pension.”
Sturdivant asked if Tilley would support Floyd’s proposal to allow current legislators to opt out of the state pension system, and further asked if he would join Sturdivant in opting out of it.
Tilley said he would opt out but added that the majority of his pension comes from him being a former prosecutor, and he doesn’t want to give up that part of the pension. “I can promise you that I’ve put in hours upon hours dedicated working men and women in law enforcement to earn that pension,” he said.
“The legislative pension is a pittance,” said Tilley. “The only time it becomes anything of any great value is based on the Greed Bill and the bill voted on before I got there.”
Sixth question: Kentucky businesses are drowning in a sea of red tape. Do you believe current business regulations can be improved?
Tilley said, “Absolutely. We can always improve business regulations. I don’t know of any time in my six years in Frankfort where we placed undue burdens and undue regulations on business.”
Tilley then talked about how proud he was of the prescription drug abuse bill and spoke of the “epidemic” of prescription abuse, but he said the regulations that came after that bill did put “undue burdens” on the medical community – regulations he said he has worked to eliminate.
“The Institute for Justice study indicates that Kentucky is one of the toughest in terms of … having restrictive licensing regulations. And this particular study from the Institute for Justice said that it actually hurts mid-to-lower income job seekers,” said Sturdivant. “And once again, we want to … lift up low-income and mid-income workers first.”
Sturdivant said it’s difficult to become a barber, as you have to have 200 days of training and have to pay a $300 licensing fee, as opposed to 32 days of training and an $80-plus licensing fee to become an EMT.
Tilley said those requirements are set by the barbers themselves, and added that while he knows how regulations are set, Sturdivant obviously does not. He went on to say that the National Tax Foundation ranked Kentucky as the 19th best business tax environment in 2011, while Tennessee was ranked 27th.
“We have … surpassed Tennessee in a number of areas,” said Tilley. “I would work at any time to undo unnecessary burdensome regulations.”
Sturdivant responded by saying that Barron’s ranks the state 47th in fiscal health on account of the more than $60 billion in debt, a debt he says Tilley and others “keep punting.”
“If you keep punting to ball all the time, you never win any games,” Sturdivant said. “You know, right now, the $60-plus billion debt equals 40 percent of the total annual income of Kentuckians. We’re in trouble, and we need leaders who will go up there and work to reduce the debt.”
Seventh question: What would you do to tackle Kentucky’s drug problem?
“We have had this scourge of synthetic drugs, and I appreciate my opponent’s work on this bill, and I appreciate what he and others have done,” Sturdivant said. “I believe that if you make and sell synthetic drugs, it certainly should be a felony even if you sell it, and I think if you make it or sell it, you should not have your voting rights ever restored.”
Sturdivant said he feels the same way about the manufacturing and selling of methamphetamine. But he also said that when doing the right thing, legislators should also work on doing it right.
While Tilley agreed that those should felony crimes, he wasn’t sure that was the question that was asked. He said that while working with his good friend Tom Jenson (R) and the Republican-controlled Senate, they have worked in a “nonpartisan” way to combat the drug problem.
“We have put away, put aside any party affiliation. We’ve worked in not a bipartisan way, because that means you’ve compromised. We’ve worked in a nonpartisan way on a nonpartisan problem: drug abuse,” said Tilley. “Kentucky is swimming in it. We’re ground zero. We’re absolutely dying from drug abuse.”
Tilley said this country comprises 4.5 percent of the Earth’s population but use 97 percent of the world’s opiate painkillers. He added that this isn’t counting methamphetamine or the synthetic drug problem, and that the state has “almost eliminated” the synthetic drug problem with a bill that he said “has become a national model.” He further called drug abuse the state’s “number one problem,” one that is more important to tackle than any other problems.
Sturdivant replied that they want to protect the children from dangerous drugs but that they are “putting the future of our children on the credit card,” and reiterated that the state has a more than $60 billion debt.
“How is that promoting their economic well-being and their ability to find good jobs,” asked Sturdivant. “We need to take a stand and get our fiscal house in order to protect the future of our young people.”
“I thought we were talking about drug abuse and what we can do to improve drug addiction in the state, not about credit cards,” replied Tilley. “Too many people are placing too many bills on our credit card because they’re out buying drugs. It affects everything we do.” He reiterated that the drug problem is the biggest one the state and country face.
Eighth question: What would you do to bring more manufacturing jobs to Trigg and Christian County?
Tilley said, “I think we’ve done that.” He went on to express his distaste for special sessions and said he would gladly give up his pay for those sessions, but he pointed fingers at a few people for causing those special sessions to be necessary. He did not name them.
“Our governor, and our Senate President David Williams and our speaker of the house and all of us in both chambers worked together to pass House Bill 3,” said Tilley. “I talked to you a little bit earlier about those 17 economic development announcements. 1,700 new jobs, 1,100 jobs retained $135 million in investment.”
“We didn’t forget about guys like Transcraft,” Tilley said. “We didn’t forget about those existing companies, we incentivized them to retain the jobs they had so they wouldn’t leave our community, and then we incentivized them to go out and create new jobs. We didn’t do it with a checkbook, we did it in other ways.”
Tilley said Tennessee is doing it with a checkbook. He went on to say that Tennessee spent $1 billion to create 500 new jobs, adding that that isn’t “a good return on investment.”
Sturdivant said Transcraft employs 319 people, wants to expand and has done what it has without the government’s help.
“To create manufacturing jobs, we need to provide tax relief for Kentuckians. I believe we need to get our fiscal house in order and spend less. I believe we have to make Kentucky a right-to-work state. I believe all of those are essential,” said Sturdivant. “I believe we have to regulate businesses less, and I believe we don’t increase taxes on businesses, as my opponent has voted to do once.”
Tilley said he’s worked with Transcraft, and passed a bill to eliminate “burdensome” regulations on that business.
“(Sturdivant) mentioned that without the help of government they grew their business, well that’s certainly true. But then he’s also … saying that his service can indeed attract those jobs. He’s a little bit inconsistent in that position,” Tilley said.
Sturdivant responded by saying, “The one thing I will not do for Transcraft and other businesses is vote for a measure that increases taxes on businesses,” something he says Tilley has done.
In his closing statement, Sturdivant said Tilley voted for a redistricting bill that not only was ruled unconstitutional but eliminated Trigg County from the Eighth District, further stating that Tilley apparently didn’t want to represent this county. He also said that Kentuckians should vote for Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney (R) on Nov. 6 in order to create jobs.
Tilley said he didn’t vote “to oust Trigg County” and called redistricting “complicated.” He further said that he has always been of the opinion that the bill was unconstitutional.
The fourth and final debate pitted incumbent Pam Perry (D) against District Three Magistrate Jon Goodwin (R) in the Trigg County Circuit Court Clerk race.
In her opening statement, Perry touted her nine years of experience in the position. She further said she’s worked her way up “from the bottom” as a deputy clerk and that experience is very important to this and other positions.
Goodwin opened by saying that he’s running because the county deserves a choice in the race for Circuit Court Clerk. He further said he wants to introduce a “new level of service” to the office,” and that he will be a “hands-on” Circuit Court Clerk if elected, and would make the office more accessible.
First question: What qualifies you to be Circuit Court Clerk?
Goodwin said that on Dec. 3, 2011 he took and passed the Circuit Court Clerk’s exam in Lexington, which he said was “very complicated” and “very intense.”
“Having served on the Trigg County Fiscal Court, I’ve served the people of the county. I feel as if now is the time for me to serve the people of Trigg County on a full time basis,” said Goodwin. “I love the public service aspect.”
Perry said she also passed the Circuit Court Clerk exam, in 2002, and was asked to run in 2003 during the special election. “I just feel like I have … accomplished a whole lot from when I started as a deputy clerk,” Perry said. “I want to continue serving the people.”
Second question: Do you think extended hours are necessary, and if so how would you implement them?
Perry said that if anyone needs to come to her office after hours, they is available by appointment. She said they’ve been affected by three furloughs, budget cuts, a hiring freeze and an overtime cut, with three furloughs expected next year.
“It is just something that is hard to accommodate right now,” said Perry.
Goodwin said many surrounding counties already have longer hours than the Trigg County Circuit Court Clerk’s Office, and face the same issues. Livingston County’s office is open until 6 p.m. on Monday and Calloway County’s office is open until 5:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, he said.
“I think at least what we could do is, through scheduling we could at least offer the people at least one evening per week,” Goodwin said. “We need to take the service back to the people.”
Perry replied that people only need to get a driver’s license once every four years and that people can come in six months ahead of time for that purpose. She also said Calloway County has 12 employees.
Goodwin said there’s more to it than updating your driver’s license, and called the office “form-driven,” with a lot of different responsibilities.
Perry said her office is “accommodating” to anyone, and that they do help people with their forms. “We try to assist them in any way we can, but we’re not lawyers, we’re not judges, we can’t do a lot outside the office,” she added.
Goodwin said it’s about “doing the right thing and giving the service to the people.”
Third question: Goodwin, how would you handle your other businesses?
“I’ve been fortunate for about 20 years to be a part of a …successful family-owned business,” said Goodwin. “But what you have to understand is, I have a position in the family-owned business, it’s a position that I will walk away from … I will be in the Circuit Clerk’s Office during business hours. When the office is open, you’ll see me there serving people.”
He said that once he’s Circuit Court Clerk, there will be a job opening in that business.
Perry answered a similar question about how she juggles her other responsibilities as Circuit Court Clerk. “I am accessible at any time. Any time that I am out of the office, during business hours … my office has my cell phone number, Trigg County has my cell phone number,” Perry said. “All you have to do is call me.”
Fourth question: What duties to you perform when you’re not at your desk?
Perry said those duties include handling driver’s licenses and the tests the 16-year-olds have to take. She also said she’s the bench clerk for the district and circuit judges.
Goodwin said this would be a good opportunity to cross-train employees so that there won’t be a situation where one employee has too little to do and another has too much, which affects efficiency.
Fifth question: What qualifies you for this job, other than passing the test?
Goodwin said he’s been a small business owner for 20 years, been “self employed” and that people know of his work ethic. He added that in the private sector, those who provide inadequate service don’t stay in business very long.
Perry said again that experience comes from working from the bottom and that she started as a deputy clerk. “It was a good experience, and I was just proud of what I’ve accomplished,” said Perry.
Goodwin said that people who have been at a job long enough have a chance to become “complacent in their duties” and those duties become more “routine.”
Perry said her job isn’t routine and that there is often a new challenge every day, with people coming in and wanting divorces, small claims. “We’re not lawyers, so we don’t fill them out for them,” she said. “People don’t realize what’s involved in our office until they come and take a look and see.”
Sixth question: Why do you want to continue to be Circuit Clerk?
Perry said, “I’m not ready to give this job up. I really enjoy serving the people of Trigg County, and I want to continue doing that. I think I have done a good job, and I think I need to still to handle everything that’s handled in the office.”
Goodwin was asked why he wants the position. “I think oftentimes, for people that’s been in the job this long, they find the title more amusing than the job itself,” said Goodwin. “I have a deep desire to serve the people of Trigg County … I’ve enjoyed the public service aspect of being a magistrate for the people.”
Seventh question: Would you replace anyone in the Circuit Clerk’s Office?
“I’m applying for a job with the people of Trigg County,” Goodwin said. “I don’t have a problem with any of the workers in the office.” He added that while they are a good team, a team is only as good as its coach oftentimes, so he thinks the county “needs a new level of leadership,” and that if the staff do a good job, they’ll always have a job there.
Perry said she’ll keep the same staff and that they have cross-trained according to Administrative Office of the Courts guidelines. She also said that “you cannot just replace someone” under AOC guidelines.
Goodwin asked how workers that are lost are replaced. Perry said forms have to fill out with the AOC once there’s a vacancy.
Eighth question: How can you make your office friendlier?
Perry said, “As a clerk, this is something we deal with on a daily basis. There is a lot of work to be done in the office. We’re responsible for a lot of paperwork and a lot of moneys that come into the office, and we just have to work with what we have. The people in the office are as friendly as we can be. Sometimes, we’re just having a bad day.”
Goodwin said the workers in the “new” Circuit Court Clerk’s Office will be friendly and courteous. “You’ll be greeted with a smile and prompt and courteous service every time you enter the Clerk’s Office,” he said, before going back to the cross-training point that he made earlier.
Perry said they have a “fair” amount of cross-training, and that there is a lot of paperwork to be dealt with, and she talked about caseloads.
In his closing statement, Goodwin asked people if they wanted “more of what you’ve had from the previous terms” from the Circuit Court Clerk’s Office for the next six years, and that he will always be found in the office during office hours and that people will be greeted promptly by friendly staff, with extended hours.
Perry said it would “once again be my honor” to serve Trigg County, which she called a “humbling experience.” “You have a choice, and the choice is to please vote for me,” she said.