This blog publishes coverage by students in an advanced journalism course in the School of Journalism and Telecommunications, part of the College of Communication and Information at the University of Kentucky. The instructors are John Winn Miller and Al Cross.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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
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.
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
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.”
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.
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
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 Fark.com, which she has run for
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
for a statewide needle exchange program
broadband networks to all corners of Kentucky
mental health issues to keep guns away from mentally unstable, and
voting rights to 180,000 non-violent released convicts.
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