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The incumbent state representative and her challenger traded barbs last Thursday night during a political debate conducted by the Anderson County Chamber of Commerce.
In front of a crowd chamber officials estimated at around 100 in the high school auditorium, challenger Kent Stevens (D-Lawrenceburg) closed his portion of the debate by insinuating that during her term King (R-Harrodsburg) has campaigned in places that he would not.
“I didn’t campaign at weddings and churches and funerals,” said Stevens, who held the seat before being defeated two years ago by King.
Stevens added that he and his wife “didn’t need to wear name tags” wherever they went, and that he “didn’t attend every ribbon cutting” to get his picture in the paper.
Having already given her closing remarks, King couldn’t respond. She did afterward, saying, “The thought going through my mind was one of two things: Either he wasn’t invited to go to the ribbon cuttings, weddings or churches, or was invited but declined to go,” King said.
As for campaigning at funerals, King said she doesn’t know to what Stevens was referring, but “if he wants to given an example of how I campaigned at a funeral, I’ll respond to that.”
During the debate, King reiterated concerns she had nearly a month ago about Stevens using contacts in the state’s Department of Transportation to secure discretionary road funds for county government.
At that time, King alleged Stevens was doing so in concert with Gov. Steve Beshear to “buy votes.” On Thursday, she called his actions “totally inappropriate.”
She said by Judge-Executive John Wayne Conway’s “own admission” the county received no discretionary funds during Stevens’ term in office but that “lo and behold $400,000 showed up” when Stevens was out of office.
The event also featured an appearance by incumbent state Sen. Julian Carroll (D-Frankfort) and his challenger, Frank Haynes (R-Frankfort), along with prepared statements from a pair of school board candidates and eight of the 12 candidates for city council.
There was also a confusing on-again, off-again portion of the night set aside for a debate between incumbent Congressman Ben Chandler (D-Versailles) and challenger Andy Barr (R-Lexington) that never materialized.
Haynes laid out his views, saying economic development is the biggest problem facing Kentuckians, along with a perception that Kentucky lags in education, has a taxing structure that isn’t business friendly, no right to work laws and an unfunded liability in its state pension system.
Carroll, a former governor, said jobs are a priority and a key to creating them is to ensure proper training is available for Kentuckians. If that happens, he said, companies that are looking to relocate will consider Kentucky because of its trained workforce.
Both men addressed education, with Haynes voicing his support for charter schools and saying Kentucky’s lack of them resulted in the state losing $200 million in stimulus funds.
Carroll discussed gridlock in state government, saying cooperation is needed between the Republican-controlled Senate and Democrat-controlled House.
“We’ve got to have better cooperation between the political parties,” he said.
During the King-Stevens portion of the event, both agreed that tax reform is needed in Kentucky, with King adding that she won’t agree to any proposals that are “smoke screens to raise taxes.”
Stevens said he doesn’t want taxes increased, but “people who ought to be paying taxes should be paying taxes.”
Asked how the state can better control spending, Stevens said it shouldn’t be done by making cuts to education.
“We have to protect our children at all costs,” he said.
King countered that Beshear immediately began forming “health care exchanges” when Obamacare was approved, saying that doing so costs over $500 million in five years — money that will take funding away from education.
During the city council portion of the event, eight candidates were each given two minutes to address the audience. Those who spoke included incumbents Paul Thomas Vaughn, Larry Giles, Ken Evans, Bobby Durr, Steven Rucker and challengers Alan Kays and Dustin Burley.
For school board, incumbent Steve Higgins and challenger Donna Crain Drury also had two minutes each to address the audience.
Drury called the school system “great,” but said students deserve textbooks. She also claimed that track and soccer are overlooked in athletics, and that the track team doesn’t have enough uniforms to compete.
Higgins said praised the school board for not raising taxes during the past four years.
The debate between Chandler and Barr was moved to the end of the event as both were in Lexington for another candidate forum.
At the 8:15 p.m. conclusion of the school board candidate comments, neither had arrived and moderator Gabe Uebel told the audience that the candidates indicated they should be able to be there no later 8:45 p.m., and that the audience was welcome to stay until then.
Barr showed up around 8:45, but Chandler did not.
Barr was given five minutes to address the 40 or so people left in the audience, saying the federal government is bankrupting the country “then has the gall to say you’re not paying your fair share.”
Afterward, chamber officials said every effort was made to allow Chandler to attend the event, but confirmed that a request to have someone speak on his behalf was denied.
Chamber director Pam Rice said after the debate that information on Barr’s arrival was relayed to chamber officials, but that throughout the day Thursday, no one from Chandler’s campaign contacted the chamber.