Monday, October 19, 2015

Major-party candidates for lieutenant governor debate education and other issues for an hour on KET

By Cheyene Miller
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

Early childhood education has been a recurring talking point for the Democratic gubernatorial ticket, but “wasn’t even on the radar” of the Republican slate, its candidate for lieutenant governor said Monday night.

Overly, left, and Hampton (Lexington Herald-Leader photos)
Republican Jenean Hampton and Democrat Sannie Overly rehashed arguments over education and several other key gubernatorial race issues for an hour Monday evening on KET’s “Kentucky Tonight.” Independent Heather Curtis was not invited.

Half the time was spent on schools. Overly said that she and running mate Jack Conway released a detailed education plan “to ensure that Kentucky kids get the very best education possible.”

The state representative from Paris said she and Conway want to oversee “a historic expansion” of early learning opportunities, and she criticized Hampton running mate Matt Bevin for saying that programs like Head Start serve no purpose because their impact disappears after the third grade.

Hampton said she and Bevin would take a close look at Head Start’s results and make sure that the dollars are being spent “effectively and efficiently.”

Hampton questioned the efficiency of Head Start and pointed out Kentucky’s low literacy rates. “That is simply offensive to even accept that,” she said.

According to Hampton, early childhood education was not the issue of choice for her and Bevin’s campaign. “This is a non-issue for us,” she said. “This wasn’t even on our radar.”

Overly said that there has been extensive research proving that Head Start “is the one thing that can break a cycle of poverty in a state like Kentucky,” said Overly, adding that there are stark differences between the two tickets on education, such as the Democrats’ support of, and Republicans’ opposition to, the Common Core State Standards.  “It’s not limited to early learning programs.”

The two women also sparred on how to improve business and the economy in Kentucky, one of the poorest states in the nation.

Hampton, an industrial-process specialist, said she and Bevin have more than 60 years of business leadership experience between them, and would make Kentucky a right-to-work state and improve its ways to attract businesses.

While the candidates largely agreed on promoting Kentucky’s tourist attractions, they took polar stances on raising the state minimum wage, which currently reflects the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour and $2.13 per hour for tipped workers.

“The minimum wage was never meant to be a livable wage,” said Hampton, who said that minimum wage hikes have “disastrous effects” on small businesses.  She said it was better to attract businesses and promote competition.

Ideally, Overly said, the federal government would raise the minimum wage nationwide, but she and Conway favor a bill that would raise the state minimum to $10.10 per hour over three years.

The candidates then tried to clarify for votes the reality of the current state of the Kentucky economy.

Overly cited Kentucky winning Site Selection magazine’s Governor’s Cup for expanded industry activity per capita in 2014 as a sign that Kentucky is improving under a Democratic administration.

 “Governor Beshear has marketed our state very well through difficult times,” Overly said of her fellow Democrat, who will leave office in December.

Hampton likened Kentucky’s financial status to the sinkhole that swallowed eight cars at the National Corvette Museum in her hometown of Bowling Green, saying it was “shiny on top but eroding underneath.”

Next Monday’s edition of “Kentucky Tonight” will features a debate between Conway and Bevin with Bill Goodman moderating. The night before, they will meet in a commercially televised debate at Eastern Kentucky University.

The election is Tuesday, Nov. 3.

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