Lieutenant governor candidates duke it out at Midway

Megan Ingros

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Candidates for Kentucky lieutenant governor were divided on sexual harassment scandals, along with education, health care and other major issues in this year’s gubernatorial race.

Candidates Sannie Overly and Jenean Hampton debated Wednesday, Sept. 23 at 7 p.m. at Midway University’s Anne Hart Raymond Building Auditorium. The League of Women Voters prepared the questions for the debate.

Overly is campaigning with Democrat Jack Conway, and Hampton with Republican Matt Bevin. Independent candidate Heather Curtis, running mate of Drew Curtis, did not meet criteria to participate in the debate.

Following the first televised gubernatorial debate held last week, the lieutenant governor’s debate included its share of sharp moments. The sharpest being Overly denouncing Bevin for his “false attacks” in the prior debate where he indicated she turned her back on the female state workers who said they were sexually harassed by a former Democratic state lawmaker.

“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.

“I find it interesting my candidate fought very hard during the harassment case to have her deposition sealed,” said Hampton, who said Overly would not testify in the case until she knew her deposition would be sealed.

On the issue of education, Hampton spoke on a personal level.

“Education to me was the key to escaping the inner city, no question about that,” Hampton said. “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.”

Hampton said that she and Bevin do not believe in reinventing the wheel for creating a standard. She said Common Core is too driven from the top down and there is very little control at the local level.

“Kentucky kids deserve better than what they are getting,” Hampton said.

Overly took the opportunity to fire back at her Republican opponents.

“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,” Overly said. “I think the results speak for themselves, we’ve doubled the number of kids in Kentucky who are college ready at graduation.”

Overly said she and Conway, “support high standards for Kentucky students. Since the Kentucky core standards have been implemented our college readiness at high school has doubled, its gone from 31 percent to 62 percent, so we are on the right path.” Overly emphasized the importance of better early childhood opportunities.

As far as improving post-secondary education, Overly said she wants to hold colleges and universities accountable. She and Conway also want to offer a statewide apprentice program so students can ‘earn while they learn’ and afford the cost of higher education.

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

Health care was another major topic at the debate and both candidates discussed the financial burden it is for the state.

“Jack and I will monitor Medicaid and see if we can afford going forward,” Overly said.

According to Overly, Medicaid is predicted to pay for itself, create tens of thousands of health care jobs in the state, and put back $30 billion into Kentucky’s economy. Overly and Conway plan to continue the Kynect program to make sure that Kentucky has access to affordable health care.

Hampton disagreed and said Kynect is a redundant system Kentucky doesn’t have the money for. Hampton compared Kynect to Travelocity for health care and said the underlying premise is the belief people are incapable of making health care decisions.

“The Obamacare system says we’re incapable of making decisions for ourselves and our family,” Hampton said. Hampton said she and Bevin believe that Kentuckians are adults who can make their own decisions. Hampton didn’t further explain what she meant, whether it is the mandate or the rules for insurance policies.

“In our Kynect system there is a one percent charge. If we do away with that and go to federal exchange it’s going to go to a three and half percent charge, which in essence would be a tax increase for Kentuckians,” Overly said.

Overly said it would be a $23 million charge to make the change and do away with Kynect.

“Many people are seeing their premiums increase. 80 percent of people in essence signed up for Medicaid, now one quarter of all of Kentucky is on Medicaid,” Hampton said.

On the issue of the situation surrounding Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis the candidates for lieutenant governor disagreed as well.

Davis was jailed after defying court orders to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples.  She was released several days later.

Hampton said she and Bevin side with Davis and her practicing her religious freedom, while Overly said she and Conway believe Davis should have followed the order of federal judges.

“Because this is an issue of religious freedom, to say it’s the law of the land is questionable,” Hampton said.

Hampton questioned whether the Supreme Court is the final arbiter on anything, “because if that were true I would still be a slave.”

“We are a nation of laws and no one is above the law and no one can ignore the order of a federal judge,” Overly said.

When discussing one of the most significant issues the new governor will face the answers also varied.

“The $34 billion pension shortfall has potential to derail everything we do in Kentucky,” Hampton said. She and Bevin’s blueprint plan will address the downfall and how to resolve the pension crisis. Hampton repeated emphasis on growing the economy to fund programs.

“Growing more and better good paying jobs for the people here in Kentucky,” said Overly, who said she and Conway have released a detailed jobs plan that articulates how they plan on changing the environment in Kentucky.

The debate was co-sponsored by Midway University, CBS affiliates, WKYT-TV, Lexington and WLKY-TV, Louisville and the League of Women Voters of Kentucky.

WKYT anchor and political editor Bill Bryant and WLKY anchor Vicki Dortch moderated the debate.