Lieutenant governor candidates debate issues

By Chase Sanders

Thursday evening, the three candidates for lieutenant governor in the state of Kentucky participated in a debate in Lexington’s KET studios.

The candidates each presented their arguments for why they feel they are best suited for the position. Each of the candidates discussed issues including tourism enhancement, jobs and agriculture in Kentucky.

Only one of the candidates, Richie Farmer, who is running with Republican David Williams, has experience as a state official in the lieutenant governor’s bracket in the election.

“I think the fact that I’ve run the department of agriculture for the last eight years is beneficial,” he said during the debate. “I understand the differences between the different geographical areas in Kentucky like Eastern, Western and Northern Kentucky.”

Jerry Abramson, the former mayor of Louisville and running mate for Democratic incumbent Gov. Steve Beshear, said he believes his experience with local government will help him if Beshear is re-elected.

“I would focus in economic development, keeping kids in college and working with the cities and counties since that’s where I have experience,” Abramson said. Independent Lt. Gov. candidate Dea Riley said she has the desire to make Kentucky a better place.

“My role as a mother is the greatest achievement of my life,” she said. “My champion for people’s rights here in Kentucky.”

The candidates discussed tourism in the commonwealth. “Kentucky doesn’t do enough to promote itself,” Riley said. “This is right up my alley. Kentucky is beautiful and the resources here need to be highlighted over the world. We need to have a public- private sector partnership to accomplish those goals. We should not be totally dependent on the budget.”

In particular, the lieutenant governor candidates voiced their opinions about what they would like to do with Lake Cumberland. “We used to have the best parks system in the country,” Abramson said. “It is a great source for economic development. That is an area that has not gotten the funding it deserves as the legislature has met.”

Farmer was concerned with how Lake Cumberland has been supported. “I absolutely don’t think enough has been done to promote Lake Cumberland,” he said. “We need to do more to promote tourism in Kentucky in general.”

Debate over how to solve the jobs and tax problems took up a large portion of the hour- long dialogue.

“The issue is quality jobs,” Abramson said. “The quality of life issue plays a role. You don’t just work on creating the job, you work on the education so students are prepared to enter the workforce after they graduate.”

Farmer disagreed with Abramson’s suggestion that Kentucky is currently a place any company would like to bring jobs to. “You cannot do anything anywhere when you are taxing people out of business,” Farmer said. “Unemployment has risen, and we have to create an environment where we can attract business to the state.”

Abramson rebutted Farmer on his position that tax reform is immediately “necessary” in the state to attract jobs and keep the finest workers in Kentucky and pointed out that the state “was ranked 19th in the nation for having a business-friendly tax system by the National Tax Foundation.”

“When you change the tax code you will always have winners and losers,” Abramson said. “Now with the economy in its fragile state, now is not the time to restructure. There will be a time in the future when we do need to restructure.”

The candidates spoke about what they hope to do with the state’s agricultural system.

Riley and her runningmate Gatewood Galbraith, Independent, are already activists within the agricultural sphere.

“I am the chair of the Kentucky Hemp Initiative.” she said. “We can be a leader in the world with energy development.”

Farmer showed his knowledge of the state agricultural system and mentioned the Kentucky Proud program he instituted as Kentucky’s Agricultural Commissioner.

“It’s over a $4 million industry for Kentucky,” he said. “It’s a part of our heritage. We have to add value to the things we already produce, and that’s the key.”

The candidates discussed why they believe this election is so important to UK students to participate in.

“I would impose, upon higher education, a program that helps keep students in the state through our economic development program to keep students in the state after they graduate,” Riley said after the debate in an interview with the Kernel.

Farmer said it is “imperative that college students vote and recognize the difference between the candidates.” He also referenced state funding and support for the potential new arena in downtown Lexington, and said that Louisville’s new arena, which Abramson was a main factor in jumpstarting, would be a good model.

“Obviously it’s very costly, and we would have to figure out how to pay for it,” Farmer said. “You can look at the YUM! Center in Louisville as an example.”

Abramson encouraged UK students to go out and vote because it will have a direct effect on their lives.

“Now more than ever it is important for college students to get engaged, because the issues of the future are their issues,” he said.