Candidates for Kentucky State House District 8 debated Monday night in Hopkinsville, expressing differences in a wide range of topics including healthcare, PAC donations, minimum wage, unemployment, opioid crisis, taxes and much more.
Democratic Incumbent Jeff Taylor and Republican challenger Walker Thomas spoke to a full room in an event hosted by the Hopkinsville League of Women Voters.
Taylor defeated Thomas in a special election earlier this year prompted by the resignation of Democratic Representative John Tilley. Both parties have their sights on the Democrat-led Kentucky House, which could flip to a Republican majority in November. The 8th District covers portions of Christian and Trigg Counties including Hopkinsville.
Listen to the forum:
Here's where they stand on the issues as expressed:
Thomas: Says the money in his campaign from the community and volunteers, implying outside support from his opponent.
Taylor: Criticized Governor Bevin's conservative agenda and outlined his differences on issues like senior care and education and implied Thomas would share similarities to Bevin.
Biggest Problem Facing Kentucky:
Taylor: Most 'urgent' problem is the pension. Adds that income inequality and poverty in Hopkinsville and eastern Kentucky alike.
Thomas: Said 'obviously' the pension issue. Said he wants to 'bring traditional families back to Kentucky' and 'get God back in families'. Said regarding transgender issues: "boys and girls sharing bathrooms and stuff that doesn't sound very Godly to me."
Tax-supported, tuition-free college:
Thomas: Supports community college. Says education is the future. However, he said he's not in favor of more tax dollars sending kids to college. Too many tax burdens funding pension and infrastructure.
Taylor: In favor. Said is shouldn't take 40 years to pay off a college loan. Need to invest in education to compete in global economy.
Taylor: Doesn't want them 'handpicking' best students out of public schools. Wants to invest that money in public schools.
Thomas: Said charter schools are public schools. Would be "phenomenal" in other places in state like Louisville, not necessarily in Christian County. Said statistics show educational benefits to kids in charter schools.
Thomas: "Healthcare is eating us up alive." Said it's a big issue. Cited the 'burden' of paying for an increased number of people on Medicaid. Said Bevin's plan asks for a 'small co-pay' in recent changes. Added that 'nothing is free.'
Taylor: Supports Kynect. Said Bevin's plan to scrap it was 'vindictive' against President Obama.
Donations through PACs:
Taylor: Supports campaign finance reform. Said money in his campaign from out-of-state organizations and unions a "necessary evil in this environment." Regarding Kentucky Family Values, he said he has 'nothing to do with them.' Said he has called his opponent twice and has publicly denounced it.
Thomas: Said there's 'nothing valuable' about what Kentucky Family Values stands for, adding that they are pro-abortion and from Louisville. Said Republican PACs like GOPAC is 'the only defense' where they can get the word out in a 'nice manner.'
Thomas: An 'entry level position.' Entry level can be a stepping stone. Said if minimum wage increases, businesses will make kiosks their new employees, showing a photo of self ordering kiosks at Panera Bread. Said minority youth has large unemployment already and could be worse if minimum wage increased.
Taylor: Citing other places that have raised minimum wage: California, Louisville and Lexington as successful. Supports minimum wage increase up to 12 dollars an hour. Said a slight increase will help people in poverty.
Taylor: Two year college right direction to go. Need more investment in skilled trade and labor. Said when he has a particular need he calls people with technical skills. Said retired military should have skill training that should be transferrable.
Thomas: Said community college doing a good job training workforce development. Supports less regulation, 'let businesses be their business.'
Thomas: Need to keep track of roads, especially if there are safety issues. Said I-69 a phenomenal project that will help Hopkinsville. Needs to keep roads and bridges safe and will need to find the money somewhere.
Taylor: Many bad bridges in Kentucky. Infrastructure important to workforce education.
Increase gasoline tax:
Taylor: Would not support this. Said we're taxed enough.
Thomas: Would not support higher taxes. Said gas is cheaper in Tennessee because of the gas tax. Raising it could help border states instead of Kentucky.
Thomas: Drugs a problem in minority populations and 'a problem everywhere.' Spiritual-based programs work to get people off of drugs. "If God is the center" people can turn their lives around. Would support funding the state's drug court.
Taylor: Drug issues not only among minorities. Plans to pre-file a bill on limiting opioid prescriptions. The first bill he will file.
Taylor: Co-sponsored House Bill 40 for felony expungement. Said while Bevin approved it, has not approved an application. Said class d felonies need to be adjusted and invest money in rehab. Said his opponent is 'not in touch with his constituents" and stressed a need to be compassionate and understand base.
Thomas: Already passed expungement bill, why water it down? Supports Marsy's Law - rights for crime victims. Believes in redemption and if people serve their time they should be able to get back into the workforce. Hopes Marsy's Law gets a vote in the next session.
Thomas: Not for taxes, but believes choices need to be made by people. Tired of Washington "ramming things down our throat" but would support people voting on this issue on a ballot.
Taylor: Said this issue comes from Frankfort not Washington. Would vote in favor of a referendum and leave it up to the communities. Would personally vote against it as a resident.
Local option sales tax:
Taylor: Doesn't support this. Said the way to improve a community is through workforce education and attracting jobs and education not taxes.
Thomas: Stresses he's not for tax increase. Supports putting power back to people. If a sports-plex is something wanted, he'd leave it up to the voters to decide. Said 'sunset clauses' never actually set.
Right to work bill:
Thomas: Supports right to work. Said Kentucky is surrounded by states that are right to work, adding that Clarksville got Google. Said right to work means you still can join a union as a choice. "It should not be forced down you" for instance: why would an advocate for pro-life put money in a pro-abortion union.
Taylor: Already have a right to work, adding that it's a 'misnomer.' "What they're looking for is a good workforce and a good building." Said if right to work is such an issue, why are so many businesses coming to Kentucky?
Coal mining vs climate change:
Taylor: Said "climate change is real." Coal fleet should stay usable. Should continue to seek federal dollars. Supports green energy, but warned that in the event of a natural disaster, people would wish to have the coal fire units back. Said one coal plant in Muhlenberg County powers Nashville and would take a lot of solar panels and wind turbines to replace that. Touted an endorsement by United Mine Workers.
Thomas: Said his opponent aligns with people who want to 'end' the coal industry. A lot of coal still in the ground - the lifeblood of Kentucky. Said trying to regulate so fine they don't have tools that can measure the amount of pollution. Let states out west and California "regulate cow farts," but said it's hard to regulate the amount of pollutants in the air. Said Alliance Coal Company sent him money in the special election.
Thomas: Already have early voting, but have to be absent on Election Day. For example: would you go to college for a semester, skip the last month and take the test? Wants people 'as educated as they can on the candidates' so they can vote.
Taylor: Early voting could be enhanced. Supports same day registration and said rest of the country ahead on the issues. Large voter disenfranchisement in Kentucky.
Taylor: Said opponent issued challenge on transparency and eh accepted the challenge. Said his opponent pivoted on a challenge on higher education. Proud of his D- from the NRA because he has a "clean conscience" related to national violence.
Thomas: While opponent moves to the right during the race, he is "the true conservative" endorsed by Kentucky Right to Life, Commonwealth Policy Center, Marsy's Law and an 'AQ' rating with the NRA.