GASPARD: KY Primary election offers voters extraordinary opportunityPosted by Brett Gaspard on May 17, 2015
The upcoming primary election offers voters an extraordinary opportunity to select from among four highly qualified candidates to be the next republican nominee for Governor of Kentucky.
As GOP Chairman of one of the largest conservative strongholds in the state, I am often asked my views on various political races, and usually happy to oblige with a response. In doing so, although, I initially like to articulate the key responsibilities of republican officers.
Predominantly, the key role of party officials is to promote the values and principles outlined in the GOP platform. Further, it is incumbent upon us to recruit, educate and support candidates for office. Equally important – though far more stressful – is the need to hold elected officials accountable to those values and principles, especially in light of their written pledge to honor the party platform.
Aside from these core tasks, whether or not elected officials and party officers choose to back particular candidates in primaries is a completely independent decision. In the past, I have opted to help recruit and endorse high caliber candidates to run for office because I believed them to be exceptional choices able to move our nation back towards its constitutional roots – strong voices such as Senator Rand Paul and Congressman Thomas Massie. Happily, both of these gentlemen ran very clean, upbeat and positive campaigns focused on the issues. They won in landslides.
Unfortunately, in this year’s republican gubernatorial election to be held next week on May 19, Kentucky voters have been confronted with an alarming degree of misinformation and smear attacks completely unrelated to the actual voting record or public statements of the candidates. Sadly, no matter how often folks say they dislike negative advertising and are not influenced by it, the data continues to validate this type of campaign strategy works. We must change that reality.
Let’s start that process by setting the record straight now. We ought to make note that allegations of a personal nature should be viewed with much skepticism. Elections should be based on issues. Voting records are fair game. Personal attacks involving family or business are usually not, and should be quickly spurned. That being said, the following is what we know about the candidates:
Former Louisville Metro Council member Hal Heiner was the first person to announce. He is a prominent developer who has personally infused millions of dollars into his campaign war chest. His principal issue has been a focus on creating jobs, but has been called to account for supporting tolls in Louisville, helping move jobs to Indiana, and opposing local concealed carry ordinances.
Agriculture Commissioner James Comer was the second candidate to enter the race. He is a former state legislator and earned a reputation for leading the hemp initiative in Kentucky. Having served in elective office for some 15 years, his public record is the most extensive. Commissioner Comer has earned kudos for cleaning up the Agriculture Department, but has also been chided for votes to supersize legislator pensions, increase the gas tax, enable tolls, and escalate the minimum wage.
Retired Supreme Court Justice Will T. Scott was the third person to join the fray. Although lagging far behind in the polls, he is popular in Eastern Kentucky and well-known in political circles for being honest, direct and colorful. Like all judges, he has made decisions that please some while upsetting others. A former paratrooper, Scott recently jumped from an airplane to gain attention for the campaign. His most notable issue has been the support of expanded gaming and casinos.
Louisville businessman Matt Bevin was the final republican who filed to run for Governor. While he is best known for challenging Mitch McConnell to represent Kentucky in the United States Senate, Bevin has also gained national attention for his successful pension management background, chiefly due to the looming debt and pension crisis facing our Commonwealth. As a Tea Party favorite, Bevin has been the recipient of constant negative advertising, even though nearly every accusation has been thoroughly rebuffed or disproved. Only time will tell if the damaging attacks hit their mark.
Having been an extremely engaged volunteer activist for 20 years, I can state with confidence that most contested elections involve a high level of anxiety and division among the respective factions. Some people pick sides due to a genuine divergence of philosophy. Others have a serious difference on key issues. Still more line up behind one team or another because that’s what friends are doing. I’ve even witnessed decisions made based on negative rumors, proving false advertising does work. Ultimately, it is incumbent upon We, the People, to weigh all the factors important to us – including the urgent financial and social issues confronting our families – then cast our vote for the candidate who best and most consistently represents our values and principles.
Therefore, after spending this entire election cycle allowing the campaigns to unfold, the candidates to articulate their positions and clarify statements, I am reluctantly ready to share my comments – reluctant because all four candidates are worthy of consideration and certainly present a stark contrast to Jack Conway this fall. In presenting my thoughts, it should be made explicit that I am a steadfast constitutional conservative who strongly supports the Republican platform and patently views abortion as the greatest evil in our land crying to Heaven for vengeance.
That stated, I believe it is imperative for elected leaders to be clear and unambiguous when it comes to the individual right to keep and bear arms, support of states’ rights, and the need to reject federal intrusion into our lives. After two terms under the socialist leaning agendas of President Obama and Governor Beshear, we immediately require a radical change of course and bold new leadership. We cannot settle for a measured response. Accordingly, here is my take on each candidate:
Will Scott is one of the nicest guys you could meet and an old school conservative, but even with a major surge is unlikely to catch the leading candidates. And, while we could discuss his strong and weak points, it seems unnecessary under the circumstances.
Hal Heiner remains statistically tied in the polls with the other leading candidates, but has seen his numbers slip after negative attacks aimed at Bevin and Comer. I have concerns with his reluctance to dismantle Kynect (the state-run Obamacare health insurance exchange) and his lack of focus on traditional conservative issues. Job creation is important, but we also need a leader who has a track record of fighting against federal government intrusion and defending constitutional principles.
James Comer has done a yeoman’s job arguing against federal government overreach and valiantly fought the Obama Administration to ensure hemp could be grown and studied in Kentucky. Further, despite being a tenured elected official, he has also made vital inroads with many Tea Partiers, but unsubstantiated claims that he abused his college girlfriend continue to plague him. Additionally, overcoming his past votes to increase legislator pensions and the fuel tax are difficult for some conservatives to swallow, though he has apologized for the pension faux pas. In the end, Comer’s path to victory will depend on his ability to hold enough support from Tea Party crossovers and establishment incumbents already lined up to pull him across the finish line.
Matt Bevin’s campaign has affably pitched him as “The Real Deal Conservative” in much of their outreach efforts and heavily played up the fact that he is the only military veteran and concealed carry permit holder in the mix to win. Unlike his counterparts, Bevin is also the only candidate who has not held elected office and can properly claim to be a political outsider. However, having faced the Washington Machine of Mitch McConnell in his first run for office and been the recipient of perhaps the most ugly attack ads and patently false accusations I have ever witnessed, the greatest hurdle Bevin faces in this campaign is clearing his good name as the same negative ads resurface.
In sharing my thoughts on the gubernatorial race, I have already exhausted more space than is typically expedient to read, but if you have followed along this far you can likely guess or already know the person for whom I will personally cast my vote. In fact, I purposely chose to highlight each candidate twice so readers could follow along with the process. Still, I want to reiterate the importance of republicans uniting after the primary in order to change regimes in Frankfort. We cannot afford to have another liberal leading in Frankfort over the next four years.
Just to be clear though, here is what I expect from elected officials and candidates: (1) Absolute commitment to conservative values and principles; (2) Unconditional support for the individual right to keep and bear arms; (3) Solemn devotion to the sanctity of life for all ages and a pledge never to harm innocent life in the womb; (4) An unwavering defense of States’ Rights and visible efforts to push back federal intrusion and overreach; (5) Complete respect for private property rights and outright resistance against infringements thereof; (6) Rejection of any federal program, regulation, or agency not specifically enumerated in the U.S. Constitution; (7) Extreme prejudice against any new or increased taxes, a willingness to repeal existing punitive taxes, and the solid recognition that our current tax code is broken and needs repair; (8) Fervent respect for both the United States and Kentucky Constitutions; (9) Gratitude for our men and women in uniform in all public service capacities; (10) Acknowledgement of our nation’s Christian heritage with obedience to the oath of office and reverence for the unalienable rights endowed to mankind by our Creator.
Because these principles are so important – and in light of the fact that most candidates for public office sign a pledge to uphold their Party Platform as well as swear an oath on the Holy Bible to defend the Constitution – I believe it is important to remind folks of them. All told though, there is little doubt that the four republican gubernatorial candidates are devoted to these principles. There may be differences in strategy and approach, but all seem to be men of deep personal faith. Yet, it is often that unique variance in style that tends to set bold leaders apart.
To that end, after much reflection, I agree with the Kentucky Enquirer’s endorsement of Matt Bevin for setting himself apart by “having clarity and specifics about his ideas” and being “most impressed with his focus on Kentucky’s looming public employee pension crisis – the same kind of crisis that threatened Cincinnati and helped send Detroit into bankruptcy.”
While no candidate is perfect, our state desperately requires someone unafraid to take bold stances, but who also has the business savvy to spark economic growth and avoid financial calamity. Unlike other candidates, Matt Bevin has demonstrated that he is more willing to uproot federal programs. Further, he has managed to stake out a sharp contrast by highlighting his successful experience in the investment and pension business, his ability to turn around floundering companies, his humble roots and deep Christian faith, his military background, and his specific plan to build the economy.
Please vote for the candidate of your choice on Tuesday, May 19.
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