Thursday, September 24, 2015

Lieutenant-governor candidates disagree on sexual-harassment case, education, health care and more

By Megan Ingros
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications
An initial version of this story first appeared in the Kentucky Kernel, the independent student newspaper.

Candidates for Kentucky lieutenant governor were divided on a sexual harassment scandal, education, health care and other major issues in their first debate Wednesday night.

Candidates Sannie Overly and Jenean Hampton met at Midway University in a debate sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Kentucky, which prepared the questions.

Overly is running with Democratic Attorney General Jack Conway, and Hampton with Republican businessman Matt Bevin. Independent candidate Heather Curtis, running mate of husband Drew Curtis, did not meet the league's polling criteria (10 percent or higher voter recognition in established nonpartisan polls) to participate. The last public poll, in late July, didn't measure name recognition but showed Drew Curtis with 8 percent support.

The debate was more civil than the first televised gubernatorial debate held last week, but included its share of sharp moments. The sharpest came when Overly denounced Bevin for his “false attacks” in that debate, in which he said she turned her back on female state workers who said they were sexually harassed by a former state lawmaker, a Democrat.

“That’s why even Kentucky Republicans call Matt Bevin a pathological liar,” said Overly, who said she and Conway condemned the behavior and would change the culture in Frankfort.

Hampton replied that Overly “fought very hard during the harassment case to have her deposition sealed,” and would not testify in the case until she knew it would be sealed.

On education issues, the candidates disagreed about the Common Core State Standards and state vouchers for private education.

Hampton said she understands the need for education because it “was the key to escaping the inner city” of Detroit, but “I do not support Common Core because from what I’ve seen from it, it dumbs down the curriculum and our students are better than that.”

Overly said, “I think the results speak for themselves. We’ve doubled the number of kids in Kentucky who are college ready at graduation. . . . Since the Kentucky core standards have been implemented our college readiness at high school has doubled. It's gone from 31 percent to 62 percent.”

On rebuttal, Overly took a shot: “While the Bevin campaign may not support Common Core or even Kentucky high standards, we do know that Bevin has enriched himself from investing in companies that sell Common Core software.” Hampton didn’t reply to that, but said Common Core is “too driven from the top down” and “We need a system. We need to find the best and implement that here.”

Overly noted her slate's support of expanded early-childhood education, and noted that Bevin has said it "serves no purpose: "It is another big contrast in this race."

Hampton said Common Core is "too driven from the top top down" and pledged to return control of schools to the local level as much as possible. "We also believe in parental choice" of schools, she said.

Common Core is a set of standards for students in kindergarten through 12th grade. According to the initiative it was “create to ensure that all students graduate from high school with the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in college, career, and life, regardless of where they live.”

Asked how they would make post-secondary education more affordable, Overly said she wants to hold colleges and universities accountable and offer a statewide apprentice program so students can "earn while they learn" and afford the cost of college.

Hampton said she would work with students to help them understand they can minimize their debt, and work with schools to make students are aware of their choices as a career path.

Health care was another major topic, with Overly supporting the expansion of Medicaid to 400,000 Kentuckians and the state's Kynect health-insurance exchange.

Hampton questioned the cost of the expansion and said "Kynect is a redundant system and we don't have the money to continue it." The exchange is funded by a 1 percent fee on all health-insurance policies sold in the state.

Overly said, “If we do away with that and go to federal exchange it’s going to go to a 3 1/2 percent charge, which in essence would be a tax increase for Kentuckians,” Overly said. Actually, the federal fee is only on policies sold through the federal exchange.

Overly said it would cost $23 million to dismantle Kynect and asked Hampton, "Where are you going to come up with that money?"

Hampton replied, "My question is, where we come up with the dollars to go to Medicaid at the end of 2017, when the federal subsidies are gone?" Actually, the subsidies for the Medicaid expansion do not disappear. The federal government is paying the entire cost of the expansion through next year, but states will begin paying 5 percent in 2017, rising in steps to the law's limit of 10 percent in 2020.

“Jack and I will monitor Medicaid and see if we can afford going forward,” Overly said. She cited a state-funded study predicting that the expansion will pay for itself by creating health-care jobs and tax revenue, putting $30 billion into Kentucky’s economy through 2021.

Hampton said the underlying premise of "Obamacare" is the belief that people are incapable of making their own health-care decisions, but she didn't elaborate.

Asked if they agreed with Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis's refusal to issue same-sex marriage licenses, Overly said Davis should have followed a federal judge's order, but Hampton said “Matt and I side with Kim Davis because this is an issue of religious freedom. However, to say that it is the law of the land is questionable . . . because if that were true I would still be a slave.”

The Supreme Court interprets the Constitution, which was amended in 1865 to ban slavery. Hampton also questioned whether the court can overrule the state's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, but Overly, a lawyer, noted that the U.S. Constitution has a supremacy clause overriding state laws.

The debate's first question was "What is the most significant issue the new governor will face?"

Hampton said, “The $34 billion pension shortfall has potential to derail everything we do in Kentucky,” Hampton said. She repeated Bevin's emphasis on growing the economy to fund programs.

Overly replied, “Growing more and better good paying jobs for the people here in Kentucky,” making the first of several mentions of heir campaign's jobs plan that will "change the environment here in Kentucky."

The debate was co-sponsored by Midway University and CBS affiliates WKYT-TV of Lexington and WLKY-TV of Louisville. WKYT anchor and political editor Bill Bryant and WLKY anchor Vicki Dortch asked the questions.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Bevin turns up the heat, during debate and afterward

By Matthew Young
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

In a governor’s race that has been conspicuous for its relative silence, Republican Matt Bevin is turning up the heat on Democrat Jack Conway.

Matt Bevin and Jack Conway
(Lexington Herald-Leader photos)
Content for weeks to ride the wave of conservative anger and frustration over County Clerk Kim Davis’ fight against gay marriage in Rowan County, Bevin is now aiming directly at Conway, the two-term state attorney general.

The most spirited attack came in Tuesday night’s Bellarmine University debate when Bevin called Conway, in no uncertain terms, a liar.

That came after Conway accused Bevin of saying he would like to see the road fund in Kentucky – in dire need of cash – drained all the way to zero, then have it audited. Bevin’s anger was palpable in his response:

“First of all, so much of what comes out of your mouth, Jack, is absolutely made up. I have never once called for letting anything go to zero and then auditing it. You literally make lies up on the fly. So I would challenge those of you watching, check carefully with the facts.”

The Conway campaign later cited a Beattyville Enterprise article from last year’s U.S. Senate primary in which Bevin said government public-works projects have "served their purpose," but could not provide any evidence that Bevin wanted the highway fund to fall to zero.

Bevin lashed back at several attacks.

He is still fighting off claims that he was delinquent on taxes, something fact-checkers largely cleared him of early in the Senate primary against Sen. Mitch McConnell.

A recent Conway ad shows Bevin saying the Farm Bill was “an insult to farmers.” The screen then splits and shows him saying that was “a misrepresentation of what I said.”

Bevin has a case, since the “insult” he spoke about was the bill’s longstanding non-agriculture provisions, and the money it funneled to big agribusiness.

The ad also says Bevin told one group that early childhood education “after the age of nine serves no purpose,” then shows him denying that he opposes early childhood education.

While Bevin has said Head Start’s benefits to children disappear after the third grade, Head Start and early childhood education are not exactly the same.

More clearly, Bevin has backtracked on the expansion of Medicaid in Kentucky to include more than 400,000 people. After he said he would end the expansion, and Conway accused him of being callous, he denied saying he would end it and said he would seek a less expensive alternative, like Indiana’s.

The frustration seems to have taken its toll on Bevin. Tuesday night’s debate was not the only time he directly attacked Conway.

In an interview with Kentucky Public Radio, Bevin told host Ryland Barton, “Jack Conway supports the idea of bankrupting the coal industry.” Conway notes that he is the only Democratic attorney general who has sued to block the Obama administration’s regulation of greenhouse gases from coal-fired power plants.

While Bevin may lack evidence to back up this attack, it suggests he will keep up the heat as the race heats up.

Perhaps the most personal attack from Bevin was about race.

Bevin, who has adopted four black children from Ethiopia and chose Jenean Hampton, a black conservative activist, as his running mate for lieutenant governor, used race to question a lack of action from Conway on Gov. Steve Beshear’s appointment to university boards.

“I would question whether or not it's racially motivated that our governor and attorney general have no qualm with, even though its statutorily required, having no blacks on the University of Louisville board,” he said in the debate. Conway has said he would correct that.

Returning to his favorite argument, about the Rowan County clerk’s stand against gay marriage, and Conway’s non-appeal of a ruling that led to the Supreme Court’s legalization of it, Bevin said, “We have an attorney general who is once again turning a blind eye. We’re quick to put a Kim Davis in jail for not doing her job; we tell her to quit or do her job. We have an attorney general that repeatedly does not do his job, and a governor in the same boat. We cannot have a double standard in this state."

Conway replied that the law gives him discretion not to appeal, an appeal would have been futile and wasteful, and “the good-paying jobs of the future” will come to states that are inclusive. “I think Kim Davis went to jail because she defied a federal court order. I have sympathy for her, but we are a nation of laws.”

Matt Young is a student in Covering the Governor's Race, a course in the University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications, taught by Journalist In Residence John Winn Miller and Associate Extension Professor Al Cross.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

As Bevin and Conway debate Medicaid, taxes and truth, Curtis gets the limelight

By Jerry Seale, Kevin Erpenbeck and Ben Johnson
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications
With seven weeks to the election, all eyes were initially on Democrat Jack Conway and Republican Matt Bevin during the gubernatorial debate in Louisville Tuesday night -- but independent candidate Drew Curtis may have stolen the show.

In a debate that covered a wide range of issues, Curtis got off to a quick start separating himself from the other bickering candidates with jokes and a sharp focus on how he would fix the state’s problems.

Conway criticized Bevin for his stance on Medicaid that he says would kick half-a-million people off Medicaid, the federal-state program to provide health care for the poor.

Bevin, who backed off that stand in late July, said Tuesday night that he would apply for a federal waiver that would let Kentucky customize Medicaid to save money.

Curtis said he is in favor of keeping the Medicaid expansion as it is, citing a state study that it will pay for itself by adding health-care jobs.

When Conway chided businessman Bevin for not releasing his tax returns -- insinuating Bevin has something to hide, Bevin called his claims a “smoke screen.” He said voters should “pay attention to what really happens, not what comes out of Conway’s mouth.”

When Conway claimed Bevin said Kentucky should “let the road funds go to zero and audit it for the last 10 years,” Bevin hotly denied it.

“So much of what comes out of your mouth, Jack, is absolutely made up,” Bevin replied. “I’ve never once called for letting anything go to zero and auditing it. You literally just make lies up on the fly.”

The Conway campaign did not respond to requests for documentation of the claim.

Another contentious exchange was over the jailing of Rowan County Kim Davis for ignoring a federal court order to issue marriage licenses after the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage.

Bevin said that trampled Davis’s freedom of religion, and Gov. Steve Beshear could have avoided the controversy with an executive order.

Conway, who is the state’s attorney general and has said Beshear does not have the power, said he sympathized with Davis but she needed to follow federal court orders.

Once again Curtis, standing between the other two men at Bellarmine University lecterns, drew laughter with his response.

“I think you all are both wrong,” he said. “It is the job of the executive to back up even the laws they don’t like.”

The three also differed significantly on how to deal with the economy, particularly in Eastern Kentucky.

“We need a governor who can take a look forward and anticipate problems before they actually occur,” Curtis said. “I don’t think we currently have that, no offense to these guys here. I don’t think it’s been done in American politics before. That is the thing I’m looking to change.”

Bevin said the problem isn’t just in Eastern Kentucky, but the whole state. “If there’s a hole in the boat, all our feet are going to get wet.” he said.

Conway endorsed the Shaping Our Appalachian Region initiative of Beshear and 5th District U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers.

On education funding, Conway said it would be a top priority, but Curtis said he couldn’t address that issue until the state’s pension problems are fixed and its finances are in better shape. He predicted twice that a recession is coming.

Bevin did not address elementary and secondary education, but said higher education needed to be better stewards of state funds and do more to prepare people for jobs.

That answer was a theme for many of Bevin’s answers in the debate.

The candidates had different opinions on how to shore state pension plans, which are the second most underfunded in the nation.

Conway said the problem is starting to take care of itself and will take some time for the full effects to be seen. To the contrary, Bevin said, the state is only “digging deeper and deeper into the hole,” and that major change will be needed.

Curtis has proposed his own plan, which would involve a line of credit, which could be tapped into when needed and paid back when times were better. Bevin criticized this plan, and said officials in Frankfort should not be trusted with such a system.

Conway was asked how he would fund the early-childhood education plan he proposed this month. He cited his record in office, saying he has returned over $300 million to the treasury, as assurance that he can find the money. Bevin and Curtis were skeptical.

Conway also pointed to his work against drug abuse and said he would put a plan in place to bring more treatment and drug education to Kentucky.

Curtis endorsed a statewide needle exchange program but Conway only backed the current local option, and Bevin did not provide a clear answer to the question.

The candidates found a rare moment of agreement on expunging the records and restoring voting rights for non-violent drug offenders who have served their time.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Major-party nominees leave independent Drew Curtis plenty of room to run in their first debate

By Matthew Young
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

When you are polling at only 8 percent, you can afford to take some risks. This is the position in which independent candidate Drew Curtis entered Tuesday night’s gubernatorial debate, the first among the three candidates.

Being the long-shot provided Curtis insulation from attacks by Republican Matt Bevin and Democrat Jack Conway. When candidates were given time to ask each other questions, neither of the two major party candidates directed theirs toward Curtis, leaving him free to state his case largely unchallenged. Happy to let Conway and Bevin take shots at the other, Curtis also provided comedic relief.

The political circus surrounding Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, whose refusal to issue marriage licenses following the Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage landed her in jail for five days, provided Curtis with his first of many memorable lines.

Drew Curtis
“I think you’re both wrong,” Curtis told his foes to an uproar of laughter. Bevin had reiterated his view that Conway and Gov. Steve Beshear should provide some accommodation for Davis’s religious freedom – a step they say they have no power to do.

Curtis said, “As the executive you have an oath to uphold the laws of your land ... When the rule of law is not upheld society falls apart at the seams.”

When Conway asked Bevin why he had not released his tax returns, Bevin dodged the question, complaining that this was only a distraction from issues unfavorable to Conway.

Curtis again cut the tension with a joke: “So, I’ll actually answer this question.” Curtis had to wait a few seconds for the laughter in the room to subside before saying he will also release his tax returns, and offered anyone a tour of his house to prove his transparency.

When Curtis was asked about the state’s underfunded pensions, he had another line ready for Bevin: “You know you have been trying to ignore me, and I appreciate that.”

Curtis then asked for specific math on how Bevin’s proposed pension plan would work. When Bevin again sidestepped a specific answer Curtis used humor to display his displeasure. “On a math base the money is not there. [We] can’t convert everyone to a 401k plan right now and we cannot start putting new hires into it because the revenue bankrupts the system a good year earlier; and I’ll make a spreadsheet and send it to you.”

To fix the pension system, which is underfunded by over $9 billion, Curtis would create a line of credit for the state by issuing $5 billion in bonds. During years when annual return on the invested pension funds is lower the credit line could be tapped to fund the pension fund at 100 percent. During years when the return is high the accrual could be used to pay down the line of credit.

Bevin’s plan is to move all newly hired employees into a new 401(k) system of defined contributions – a type of savings where the employee and the state make contributions.

Perhaps Curtis’ most memorable line of the night came in response to a question about why he chose his wife Heather as his running mate, given the history of governors and lieutenant governors not getting along even after running together as they have since the early 1990s.

“I’ve been surprised by the number of people who think that it's a strange thing. I'm really starting to question all the rest of your marriages,” Curtis said.

He explained that while his strength is strategy, his wife’s is operations, pointing to the success of, which she has run for years.

When he wasn’t lightening the occasion with his wit, Curtis used the stage to make voters more familiar with his positions, which include:
●            Using data analytics to make state government more efficient
●            Support for a statewide needle exchange program
●            Bringing broadband networks to all corners of Kentucky
●            Addressing mental health issues to keep guns away from mentally unstable, and
●            Restoring voting rights to 180,000 non-violent released convicts.

At the end of the night each candidate got what they wanted from the debate, said Bill Stone, former Jefferson County Republican Party chairman. Curtis benefited from his exposure to the spotlight, which has been hard for him to find as the independent.

Fact-checking statements in debate: Conway can't back up his Road Fund claim

By Anthony Pendleton
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

As the candidates for governor covered numerous topics in an hour-long debate Tuesday night, some questionable statements were presented as facts. Here are a list of statements those that have been fact-checked.

Democrat Jack Conway claimed Republican Matt Bevin said the Road Fund should “go to zero.” We could find no evidence that Bevin said this. The Conway campaign cited several Bevin statements about infrastructure but none of them had the "zero" element or mentioned the Road Fund. The closest was a remark during last year's Senate race, when Bevin said the time for government involvement in public works projects had ended, apparently meaning the federal government.

When Herald-Leader political writer Sam Youngman asked Bevin about his change in position on the Medicaid expansion – from ending it immediately to how he would tweak the program, Conway replied as if Bevin had not changed his position, calling Bevin “callous” and acting as if he still wants to end the expansion.

When Conway said Bevin's plan to put all new state pension plan members into 401(k) accounts wouldn't work for teachers because they don't participate in Social Security, Bevin said "We can change that." But that would require the state to match teachers' payroll deductions for Social Security.

Conway said he’s “been supported by the NRA in the past.” Bevin said Conway has a “C” rating with the NRA. According to RealClearPolitics, Conway received an “A” rating from the NRA Political Victory Fund in 2011 for his attorney general re-election campaign. According to, the NRA gave Conway a 43 percent rating in 2015. UPDATE: The State Journal of Frankfort confirmed that Conway has a C rating.

Bevin said his running mate, Jenean Hampton of Bowling Green, is the first African-American woman “to ever run for governor or lieutenant governor.” In 1999, Naliah Jumoke-Yarbrough of Louisville was the gubernatorial nominee of the Natural Law Party.

Bevin said coal “powers 90 percent of the electricity in this room,” but then said “38 percent of the electricity in this state” comes from coal. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, 92 percent of Kentucky’s net-electrical generation came from coal in 2014. The EIA says 39 percent of the nation’s electricity was coal-generated in 2014.

Candidates keep making news after the debate

By Cheyene Miller
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The three men running for governor battled on stage for an hour at Bellarmine University but put on smiles for reporters afterwards, and kept making news.

During the debate Republican Matt Bevin accused Democrat Jack Conway, the state’s attorney general, of not enforcing the law that says university boards should be racially and politically inclusive, in reference to the University of Louisville board of trustees having no black members despite the city being more than 20 percent black.

Conway, who has said he would correct that, put some distance between himself and Democratic Gov, Steve Beshear as he spoke with reporters afterward.

“I’m disappointed in the governor that he didn’t put African Americans on the U of L board … and when I’m governor I’m going to rectify that,” Conway said.

Independent candidate Drew Curtis told reporters that he thinks he can win because Democrats and Republicans aren't enthused about their candidates and may not vote. "All of my people are coming," he said.

Curtis said that if he were not in the race he would vote for the Republican slate of Matt Bevin and running mate, Jenean Hampton, because of her.

“She’s a huge nerd, just like me, and we talked about who was the best Batman,” said Curtis to a group of reporters after the debate.

Phillip M. Bailey, an African American who is a reporter for The Courier-Journal, asked Bevin if he is receiving negative feedback from the eastern and western parts of the state for having an African American running mate who would be Kentucky’s first black statewide elective officeholder.

“It may be unconventional, but let me tell you something, it’s 2015, it’s time,” said Bevin, who said liberal Democrats often support inclusivity and diversity, but that for his campaign “the proof is in the pudding.”

Bevin is the father of four adoptive children from Ethiopia, and has pointedly said he is not running against President Obama, whose race has been a factor in opposition to Obama from Kentucky voters, according to exit polls.

After the debate, Conway repeated his criticism of Bevin for not releasing his tax returns, a major talking point for Conway and Kentucky Democrats.

“I have an opponent who’s the number one tax delinquent in his region and now won’t release his tax returns,” Conway told reporters. Fact-checkers found in 2013 that Bevin’s tax delinquencies were the result of a change in mortgage companies and the troubles of a business that he was not operating at the time its taxes went delinquent.

The big words and the best quotes from the debate

The best quotes from the candidates at tonight's first debate between the three candidates for governor of Kentucky, as compiled by Megan Ingros of the University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications:

Democrat Jack Conway: "I have an opponent here, Mr. Bevin, who said that we ought to let the Road Fund go to zero and audit it."

Republican Matt Bevin: “So much of what comes out of your mouth, Jack, is literally made up. I have never once called for letting anything go to zero and auditing it. You literally make lies up on the fly.”

Conway, later: "He said what he said." (Conway and his campaign did not respond to email and telephone requests for documentation of his claim.)

Drew Curtis, independent: "I haven't talked to any coal companies because they don't invite me to any debates they don't announce. I don't know why, probably because I won't sell them laws."

Conway: Mr. Bevin is fond of going around asking, 'Who do you trust, who do you trust to be the next governor?' I don't think you trust someone who has had his own problem with tax issues and won't release his tax returns."

Bevin: "It's interesting that when Jack Conway tries to get you to focus, on things like, my tax returns, which are not required to be released. It is a distraction from that fact that he did not defend this state's constitution. It's a distraction from the fact that he doesn't support life, which two-thirds of Kentuckians do. It's a distraction from the fact that he refuses to enforce the requirement from the University of Louisville board among others, to be racially and politically balanced."

Curtis: “So, I’ll actually answer this question. … I’m not sure why anyone wants them, but I’m okay with releasing my tax returns.”

Curtis, on making the Capitol safer for women:  “I’m a firm believer in diversity, and I think I’m just going to leave it at that because I don’t feel like attacking anyone right now.”

Saturday, September 12, 2015

In a quiet race, gay marriage steals the focus from other issues; first debate with all 3 candidates is Tuesday night

By Matt Young
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

In 2004 Kentucky voters passed by a 3-1 margin a state constitutional amendment defining marriage to be between one man and one woman. You’d be forgiven for assuming the initiative was on the ballot again this year.

The governor's race between Republican businessman Matt Bevin and Democratic Attorney General Jack Conway has been conspicuously quiet. “People like to know their governor, and I don't think either of these guys have done that with the people of Kentucky yet,” House Speaker Greg Stumbo told cn|2’s Pure Politics.

The lack of focus on the Nov. 3 election has left Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis to fill the attention the news media and voters.

Bevin called a federal judge’s jailing of Davis for defying his order to issue marriage licenses “utterly ridiculous,” saying that there is no need to jail someone for First Amendment beliefs, and called on Conway and Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear to take action to remove clerks’ names from marriage licenses. They said the law doesn’t allow them to do that.

Conway has exercised caution, waiting until after Davis was jailed to make his first comment. He said on Twitter, "I understand that passions are high on both sides of this issue, but we are nation of laws and no one can defy an order from a federal judge."

Asked by the county attorney to appoint a special prosecutor to look into an official-misconduct cases against Davis, Conway first did not respond. After Davis was released on condition that she not interfere with her deputy clerks’ issuance of marriage licenses, Conway said he would not name a special prosecutor because the matter was in federal court.

Conway has been largely mute lately, as he concentrates on raising money and wondering how much personal wealth Bevin will put into the race. His public appearances and media outreach have been almost non-existent since the Aug. 1 Fancy Farm Picnic.

Traditionally the governor’s race heats up after the Labor Day weekend, with a more intense schedule of debates and forums. Conway and Bevin will have their first face-off with independent candidate Drew Curtis at Bellarmine University in Louisville at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 15. The debate will be televised on Louisville’s WHAS-11 and Lexington’s WKYT-27; it is sponsored by the stations and their newspaper partners in the Bluegrass Poll, The Courier-Journal and the Lexington Herald-Leader.

The latest Bluegrass Poll, taken in late July, showed Conway leading Bevin 43 to 38 percent, with an error margin of plus or minus 3.7 percentage points (which applies to both numbers). Curtis had 8 percent.

Each side has turned up the rhetorical volume, with new TV ads.

Americans for Prosperity, a ”super PAC” supported by the Koch Brothers of Wichita, is attacking Conway for his support of federal health reform, or “Obamacare,” which it blamed for "a crisis in our hospitals” and “skyrocketing” insurance premiums.

The Kentucky Hospital Association says Obamacare has been a small part of its problems, but worries about future impacts. A national analysis by the National Conference of State Legislatures found that the average premium increase from 2014 to 2015 was effectively zero, while premium increases in the last decade have averaged about 10 percent. Kentucky rate increases for 2016 range from a 25 percent increase by the Kentucky Health Cooperative, which has sold most of the policies on the state’s Kynect insurance exchange, to an 11 percent decrease from WellCare. Other increases are between 5.2 and 12.2 percent.

The Republican Governors Association has been attacking Conway along the same lines, while Bevin hasn’t run ads of his own. Conway’s first attack ad builds on the “East Coast con-man” moniker that U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell applied to Bevin last year in their primary battle.

The ad shows Bevin making statements on the campaign trail, then apparently walking them back. It starts out showing Bevin saying, “I was opposed to the Farm Bill because it was an insult to farmers.” The screen then splits and shows him saying that that was “a misrepresentation of what he said.” He has a case; he objected to the bill’s spending for non-farm programs (most of its funds are for nutrition) and the money it funneled to big agribusiness.

The ad gets right that Bevin has backtracked on his opposition to the Medicaid expansion in Kentucky. He initially said that he would end it, but now says he would scale it back.

Beneath the fray is Curtis, CEO of Without the big money that comes with a party nomination, Curtis has been unable to air TV ads, but being an independent underdog comes with its advantages; he can ignore partisanship, and be free to talk about the issues. Curtis has released the most detailed plan to address the state’s underfunded pension system.

As the race heats up expect all three candidates to address other important issues. There will be sparring over the tax code, and how to create additional revenue the state needs; education, including the Common Core standards; and “right to work” legislation, which forbids employers from requiring union membership as a condition of employment.

However, if this summer can be used as a crystal ball for the fall, expect Bevin to continue his defense of Davis, and Conway’s refusal to appeal the gay-marriage ruling that was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. State law allowed Conway to do that, but Bevin accuses him of hypocrisy.

Candidates use religious values: Bevin on Rowan clerk, Conway on Bevin's attitude toward Medicaid expansion

By Cheyene Miller
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

The big job at stake this year is Kentucky governor, but the headlines and sound bites suggest that the Nov. 3 election is about religious values.

In a race that doesn’t seem to be gathering much public interest, Democratic Attorney General Jack Conway and Republican businessman Matt Bevin are using religion to appeal to Kentucky voters, who remain a highly religious voting base.

Bevin is using Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis’s jailing for refusing to issue marriage licenses to his advantage, saying Davis’s religious liberties and First Amendment rights are being violated.

Bevin criticizes Conway, who refused to appeal last year’s federal ruling that Kentucky’ same-sex marriage ban was unconstitutional, for not doing his job.

Conway said last year that he would not appeal because the lower-court judge got it right, an appeal would be on the wrong side of history, and good-paying jobs are going to states that allow marriage equality.

The independent candidate, CEO Drew Curtis, says clerks have the right to their own personal beliefs but must follow the law as public officials.

The Davis situation did not mark the first time Bevin spoke about Christian values, as he made it one of his primary talking points during Fancy Farm Picnic weekend July 31-Aug. 1. “We need to stop apologizing for the Christian principles, the great American values that make this country great,” he said at a Republican dinner.

Conway has found his religious angle with the Medicaid expansion and Kynect, the Kentucky health insurance market, established under federal health reform. The two functions have given coverage to about 521,000 people and helped Kentucky reduce its uninsured rate more than almost any state in the nation.

In his speech at Fancy Farm, Conway criticized Bevin for not applying his Christian values to his views on health care. He said voters should elect someone who “understands that the truly Christian thing to do is to say that we are our brother’s keeper and healthcare for our people makes us a healthier and better society.”

Bevin has said that he would dismantle Kynect, but has backtracked on plans to abolish the Medicaid expansion, saying he would adopt a less expensive program, perhaps like Indiana’s, in which clients can pay premiums to get better benefits and get refunds if they don’t use the benefits.

In addition to health care, Conway and Bevin have also sparred on Kentucky’s pension system, which is considered one of the worst in the country. 

Bevin cites his experience at managing pension-fund assets, but was unfamiliar with a key facet of the state’s pension system when questioned about it this summer. He advocates moving away from Kentucky’s current pension system in favor of a 401k-style system and offering incentives to current employees who switch.

Conway says he is committed to making the pension payments required by a recent law, and wants to find a designated source of revenue for that.

Curtis proposes issuing a $5 billion bond, structured as a line of credit, that can be tapped in years when pension funds aren’t keeping up with their obligations, and pay back the debt in years when it runs ahead.

Conway is focusing his campaign strategy on education and Bevin’s statement in the Republican primary debate that early childhood education’s effects disappear after the third grade.

Conway released his education plan on Tuesday, proposing early education for 3-year-olds with parents making up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level (the same level as those who qualify for the Medicaid expansion) to during his first year in office, and all 3- and 4-year-olds whose parents make up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level by the end of his first term.

Bevin is more conservative on education and favors charter schools.

On television, the candidates and their supporters have questioned each other’s integrity.  Conway has used recycled verbal jabs from the 2014 Senate Republican primary, in which Sen. Mitch McConnell’s campaign called Bevin an “East Coast con man” and a “pathological liar.” He also criticizes Bevin for not releasing his tax returns, which Bevin says he will do if elected.

Bevin hasn’t run TV ads in the general election, but outside groups supporting him are trying to tie Conway to President Obama,

All three candidates have female lieutenant-governor running mates, Democrat Sannie Overly, Republican Jenean Hampton and independent Heather Curtis, the candidate’s wife. Hampton would be Kentucky’s first black statewide elected official.

The most recent Bluegrass Poll, in late July, had Conway leading with 43 percent of respondents, Bevin with 38 percent and Curtis with 8 percent.

The first debate with all three candidates will be held Tuesday at Bellarmine University in Louisville, from 7 to 8 p.m. ET. It will be televised and streamed by WHAS-TV and WKYT-TV, and is also sponsored by The Courier-Journal and the Lexington Herald-Leader. The four news outlets sponsor the Bluegrass Poll.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Bevin: 'odds are increasingly high' he will win, and is vetting possible appointees and seeking suggestions

By Anthony Pendleton
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

Republican gubernatorial candidate Matt Bevin said Thursday “the odds are increasingly high" that he will win the Nov. 3 election, and is encouraging the public to submit considerations for cabinet positions through his website.

At a Commerce Lexington luncheon, Kentucky Coal Association President Bill Bissett asked the candidate, "Tell us what a Bevin administration would be like . . . Hiring practices? If you would win, it'd be a change in party as well. . . . So how would you handle that process?"

Bevin replied that he will be as "unencumbered" as Democrat John Y. Brown Jr., who also self-funded his own primary campaign, was in his 1979-83 term.

“One thing John Y. did well is, he brought together professionals,” Bevin said. “He was agnostic, as I will be, with respect to party. I don’t give a rip whether they’re Republican or Democrat. That's the thing that has been killing this state, and others, for far too long. Let's remove the partisanship, and let's start governing as if we're being good stewards of the taxpayers' money.”

Earlier, Bevin said, "There's not one person who has been promised a job. There is not one favor that needs to be paid back. There was not a single elected official - not one - who supported me or endorsed me during the primary. . . . This is wonderful! I've got no favors to pay back."

Bevin says people who have suggestions for cabinet positions should send him "the person's name, what their qualifications are, what you think they would be good at, and how I can get a-hold of 'em."
Bevin said he has "already started [candidates] through the vetting process" because he doesn't want to get behind. "One mistake that is often made is that you wait until you win, and then all of a sudden you gotta transition, and you gotta submit a budget. All of a sudden, you're upside-down."

Under Section 73 of the Constitution of Kentucky, the governor is inaugurated the fifth Tuesday after election, which will be Dec. 8. Newly elected governors have 15 legislative days to submit a budget, meaning it will be due on or before Jan. 26.

In replying to Bissett, and earlier in the luncheon, Bevin said the odds are increasing that he will be governor. When asked afterward what made him think that, he replied, "I think if you just look at the trends themselves - not only in terms of what people care about, the things they're talking about - but, frankly, polling as well."

Bevin added that "there's only been one poll done" that shows him behind. He said that poll was conducted by "a combination of several different media outlets who have been historically, sort of, lopsided in their thinking and historically wrong."

Bevin was referring to the Bluegrass Poll, conducted for Louisville’s WHAS-TV and The Courier-Journal, and the Lexington Herald-Leader and WKYT-TV. In its latest survey, July 22-28, Conway led Bevin 45 percent to 42 percent, and 43-38 with the inclusion of independent Drew Curtis, who got 8 percent. The only other public poll was conducted by Public Policy Polling from June 18-21. Bevin led 40-38 in that poll. Both results were within the polls’ margins of error.

The Bluegrass Poll sponsors are also sponsoring the first debate among the three candidates this Tuesday, Sept. 15, from 7 to 8 p.m. at Bellarmine University in Louisville. It will broadcast live on WKYT and WHAS, and will also be available on the sponsors' websites.