Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Candidates in Tuesday election disagree on abortion, death penalty, felons' voting rights, coalfields

The candidates in the June 25 special election for state representative from the 56th District debated qualifications and issue positions last night in the only public forum of the race, at Midway College.

From left: Crews, Hack, Kay (Lexington Herald-Leader photo montage)
Among the issues discussed, but not mentioned in the Midway Messenger's earlier story on the race, were abortion and the death penalty.

Republican Lyen Crews, who answered both questions first, simply said he is "pro-life" and believes that "Life begins at conception, period." Democrat James Kay said he had prayed about the issue and "I don't feel comfortable giving the government the ability to make that decision," which should be between the woman, God, her family and her doctor. Independent John-Mark Hack said "I believe in the sanctity of all life" but "can't see government telling half of the population what they can do with their bodies." He said faith communities need to do a better job of preventing unwanted pregnancies and encouraging young people to take responsibility for their actions.

Crews said he believes the death penalty is "fair and just," but Kay said it "seriously needs to be looked at." He said he would pray about it and ask constituents how they felt. Hack asked him, "Are you for it or against it?" Kay said he needed time to think about it. Hack then said the penalty is not fair and just, because innocent people have been executed, and one of those is too many. He said he strongly supports the penalty of life without parole.

The candidates also disagreed on whether felons who have served their sentences should automatically have their voting rights restored, as all other states do. Kay said they should. Crews said he favors keeping the current system, in which felons apply to the governor for restoration of rights. Hack said that system favors the well-connected, and restoring civil rights is one of the best ways to re-integrate felons back into society and keep them from committing more crimes.

The two-hour forum, sponsored by the Woodford County Chamber of Commerce and Woodford Tomorrow, touched on several other issues. In each case below, the answers are reported in the order the candidates gave them.

What initiatives would they take for education? Kay said preschool preparation is vital to Kentucky's future. Hack, who answered last, said he places a high value on vocational and technical education, and said the political parties have over-emphasized the value of college. He also said the state needs to de-emphasize its new, standard curriculum, and look at consolidating school districts to reduce bureaucracy. Crews said schools have too much bureaucracy, and should not tell teachers how to teach. Asked afterward of he was referring to the new "Common Core" national standards that Kentucky was first to adopt, he said they are "a good suggestion" but should not be required.

What about the use of coal severance-tax money for redoing Rupp Arena? Hack called it "wholly inappropriate" and said it was an example of a "closed process" controlled by the two political parties. "We have an opportunity to send a shock wave through that system. Crews said all coal severance-tax money should stay in the coal counties, and Kay agreed.

How would they address high unemployment in the coal industry? Hack said, "Reality is a difficult thing to face sometimes," but big coal companies are investing elsewhere, so the state must think about "transforming the coalfields to break loose from the chains of an extractive economy." Crews said the coal industry in Eastern Kentucky is dying because of President Obama's policies. "we have to balance mining with environmental issues," he said. Kay said the state should invest in the children of the coalfields so they can have skills to get the best jobs.

What about the proposed western bypass of Versailles? Crews said the need for it must be shown, and said the state should stop adding projects until it has money to fulfill its current commitments. He noted that Gov. Steve Beshear has expanded Medicaid; however, that is funded by different taxes and fees than road projects. Kay said the project "needs to be looked at," noting traffic problems downtown, and said farmland needs to be protected but the community needs to be kept safe. Hack said there has already been a $250,000 study of the project, which he has read. He said one of his highest priorities is farmland preservation, but he would also consider safety and business concerns.

What two factors would most influence their votes on legislation? Crews said constituents' opinions and his own principles. Kay said he would work to hear constituents' voices, and said Crews would vote for a "right to work" law even if it "were roundly rejected in this district." Hack said, "I'll actually read bills," as well as staying in touch with constituents, and favors posting the budget for at least 48 hours before final passage.

What would they hope to say they have accomplished that would deserve re-election in 2014? Kay said a balanced budget (which is required by law), fighting for students and teachers, and no cuts in education. Crews said he would work for jobs, a more business-friendly environment and a better educational system. Hack said the only issues the legislature can afford to address in 2014 are a review of all state spending and liabilities such as pensions, and comprehensive tax reform.

For a text-and-video report on the forum from cn|2, click here.

Read more here: http://www.kentucky.com/2013/06/18/2683378/two-media-outlets-pull-tv-ad-critical.html#storylink=cpy

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