At the 29th annual Kentucky County Judge-Executives, Magistrates and Commissioners Summer Conference, candidates in some of the most high-profile 2015 races for constitutional offices talked issues Thursday in Lexington.
Candidates in the races for governor, attorney general, auditor and agriculture commissioner debated the issues in front of a large crowd at the Galt House.
2015 Governor’s Race
In the race at the top of the ticket, Democratic candidate and current Attorney General Jack Conway began his remarks discussing the importance of the local offices represented by the people at the conference.
Conway said his number one priority as governor would be “jobs, more jobs, and higher paying jobs,” adding that his campaign will release a jobs plan next week.
As for business, Conway said he would be an advocate for small business and focus on education and workforce training to make sure students are prepared for jobs in the state.
Early childhood would also be a priority in his administration and making investments in the area like the state has never seen before, Conway said.
Conway also said he will fund transportation and infrastructure projects including roads and broadband, drawing applause from the crowd of local officials.
Concluding his remarks, Conway touted his record as attorney general and discussed his background as a Kentuckian and a resident of Louisville but assuring the crowd that he cares about rural Kentucky.
“A governor ought to bring us together, and I am going to do that,” Conway said.
GOP gubernatorial candidate Matt Bevin began his remarks by stating that the decisions facing Kentuckians in 2015 are critical and thanked the crowd for having the candidates.
Bevin noted that there are distinct differences between himself and Conway. The gubernatorial candidate said “it is very likely” he will be the next governor of Kentucky and said while he felt there were more Democrats in the room than members of his party, he promised to work with people from both parties and at all levels to do what is best for Kentucky.
Discussing the bleak financial reality facing Kentucky, Bevin said the state is borrowing too much money and has to take cutting back seriously, adding the state can’t remain on autopilot if we want a better future.
On education, Bevin received applause from the crowd with statements about higher education as he said not everyone needs to go to college and that the state needs to be focusing on workforce training.
Bevin also brought up the state’s woefully underfunded pension system, stating that he is serious about making sure Kentucky’s workers get their retirement. To do that, Bevin said the state needs to fully audit all of the state’s retirement systems and find solutions.
“These are real issues facing the state that need real solutions and I plan to take them head on,” Bevin said.
See video of the candidates remarks in the video below:
State Auditor Race
First up at the candidate forum, Current state Auditor Adam Edelen began his comments by discussing his record and the high profile audits he has conducted since being elected.
Edelen touted a bipartisan record, working with Republican Agriculture Commissioner James Comer and others on legislation and other efforts. When it came to legislation, Edelen stated that his opponent, Rep. Mike Harmon, has voted in favor of all of his legislative efforts.
In his remarks, Harmon noted that he has voted in favor of those bills but said since then, he has heard some concerns about the implementation.
Harmon also talked about the issues in the public pension systems, stating that the issues have to be fixed and that the systems must be fully reviewed before there is extra money infused into the systems.
Attorney General Race
In the attorney general race forum, Democratic candidate Andy Beshear, stated that he is running because of the serious problems he sees facing the state.
Beshear, the son of Gov. Steve Beshear, said Kentucky’s drug problems have to be tackled. He added that the state must “get ahead of the next drug crisis,” and that his priorities will also focus on protecting innocent children and seniors.
“Whether you are a Democrat or a Republican, I am committed to working with you to make Kentucky a better place,” Beshear said.
Republican candidate, state Sen. Whitney Westerfield, discussed his background as an attorney and member of the General Assembly serving as the Senate judiciary chair.
Westerfield cited his work on the anti-heroin bill and dating violence bill to say he has been a leader on judiciary issues, tackling some of the biggest problems facing the state in the recent sessions.
“There is a difference between talking and doing. And only one of us has done that, and its me,” Westerfield said, adding that he believes the issues facing the state are too important to only get talk from an attorney general.
Agriculture Commissioner Race
Democratic candidate for agriculture commissioner, Jean-Marie Lawson Spann, told the crowd that she was born into Kentucky agriculture as her family has a rich history in the industry.
Lawson Spann said her priorities are jobs for Kentuckians, bringing agriculture into education, farm safety, growing the Kentucky Proud program and growing the agriculture industry in general.
Rep. Ryan Quarles of Georgetown, the Republican candidate for agriculture commissioner, discussed his record in Frankfort and his background as a farmer.
Quarles told the crowd the state deserves a commissioner with a “real farm background” as many issues face the industry. He also stated that he believes his record speaks for itself as a bipartisan leader.
Among his priorities for the office, Quarles said it is important to continue to grow Kentucky Proud, teach kids where their food comes from through education, focus on international markets and continue to stand up to “overreach” from the federal level.