Lieutenant governor candidates battle over women’s issues

By Cheyene Miller

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UK witnessed history Tuesday night as three female lieutenant governor candidates squared off in a debate at the Athletic Auditorium in W.T. Young Library.

While the three male gubernatorial candidates have dominated the state headlines in recent weeks, Tuesday night was all about the women, who discussed a range of issues affecting Kentucky.

Democratic candidate Sannie Overly said she and running mate Jack Conway “have a record of bringing folks together from both sides of the aisle” to get things accomplished, as well as her experience in engineering and as a member of the Kentucky House of Representatives.

Republican candidate Jenean Hampton talked about her experience living in an impoverished area of Detroit and working her way up to being a plant manager.

“I rose from the ashes of the inner city and accomplished a lot,” Hampton said.

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Making her first appearance on the debate stage was independent candidate Heather Curtis, wife and running mate of Drew Curtis. She talked about her experience as a therapist and willingness to put scientific, practical and well-researched solutions over partisan politics.

“I like experts, I like people who know what they’re doing,” Curtis said. “I like science.”

Many of the questions focused on issues facing Kentucky women and children, such as public education and the minimum wage, as two-thirds of Kentucky minimum wage workers are women.

Overly said she and Jack Conway released a detailed education plan, and intend to create a “historic expansion of early learning opportunities” for Kentucky children, while criticizing Bevin for not supporting early childhood education.

Hampton said Head Start programs are not doing their jobs and many Kentuckians have substandard literary abilities.

“I believe that is unacceptable, apparently my opponent does not,” said Hampton, who said Kentuckians must be better stewards of the dollar.

Curtis said the biggest problems with education are inequality and poverty. She promoted a concept called “scaffolding,” which she described as teaching children a step at a time, and it would be “a great place to start.”

Regarding the minimum wage, Hampton said inflating the minimum wage would be “a disaster waiting to happen,” and she had to work her way up the ladder when she worked a low wage job.

“The minimum wage was never meant to be a living wage,” Hampton said.

Overly said she and Conway support raising the minimum wage on the state level to $10.10 an hour over a period of three years, and criticized Hampton’s running mate Matt Bevin for not wanting to give Kentucky workers a living wage.

Curtis posited potentially offering an exemption for small businesses, which she said tend to get hit the hardest by minimum wage hikes.

On addressing poverty in Kentucky, which is often ranked as one of the poorest states in the country, Hampton touted creating more economic opportunity while Overly pushed education, a central issue in her and Conway’s campaign.

Editorial: Overly wins debate with governmental experience

“The single biggest thing we can do … is increase opportunity,” said Hampton, who proposed making Kentucky a right-to-work state and looking into restructuring the state’s tax code.

Overly said we should “invest in education,” as a way to combat poverty.

“Our (Overly and Conway) education plan addresses education from top to bottom,” Overly said.

Curtis said Kentucky politicians should look to experts and scholars such as the ones at UK for solutions on the state’s poverty dilemma.

The latest Bluegrass Poll released Sept. 30 showed Conway in a slight lead over Bevin with 42 percent of the respondents saying they would vote for Conway compared to 37 percent for Bevin. Seven percent said they would vote for Drew Curtis and 15 percent remain undecided.

The election is on Tuesday Nov. 3.