Frankfort, KY – For the first time in this year's race for Kentucky governor, the three candidates appeared together in a debate. The hour long political event at Eastern Kentucky University featured, as predicted, produced accusations, assertions, and rebuttals
Within the brand-spanking-new, EKU Center for the Arts, Governor Steve Beshear, Republican David Williams, and Independent Gatewood Galbraith each stood at a podium beneath three oversized American flags. Throughout the gubernatorial campaign, Williams and Galbraith have been critical of the incumbent for avoiding similar forums. After Governor Steve Beshear gave opening remarks, Galbraith took another shot.
"I told you David. I told you that was him. I told you it looked like him. Thanks for showing up governor. Thanks for having me Gatewood. You're welcome," said Galbraith.
Galbraith said partisanship is killing us,' adding we need an independent executive.'
In his opening, Williams, who's president of the Kentucky Senate said the state doesn't need a caretaker or manager, but someone with bold leadership. With good leadership, Williams maintains compromise can be found in Frankfort.
"I would submit that it's going to take weekly meetings with the legislative leadership, republicans and democrats to bring together a concensus on these particular issues."
The three candidates took questions, recorded earlier by a number of reporters. A Louisville reporter asked about adequate training for manufacturing jobs.
For his part, the governor maintains Kentucky has fared better during recessionary times than many other states. Beshear also predicted economic conditions will improve.
"The good news now is that this state is finally turning around and the economy is beginning to climb and go back up and I'm looking forward to the next four years of building on that foundation and leading this state into the future," said Beshear.
Beshear added General Electric and Ford plants in Louisville are advancing the Commonwealth's overall economy
"With G-E, we have brought appliances back and jobs back from Mexico and China to Kentucky and to Louisville. With Ford, they are gonna invest another 600 million dollars and add a third shift over at the assembly plant," added Beshear.
Galbraith then criticized the Governor's use of tax breaks such as those given the proposed Noah's Ark' amusement park in northern Kentucky. The independent argues such businesses don't generate high value' jobs.
"Most of those jobs are eight dollar an hour jobs. That doesn't create any new tax base. We can't tax those people. They are gonna be on food stamps, because they are the working poor. That incentive money is going in the form of dividends into people that own that park, generally out of state landlords," said Galbraith.
A key plank in Williams campaign platform is the elimination of corporate and personal income taxes replacing them with a statewide sales tax. The Republican argues that's the way to create major economic benefits.
"You can't create enough jobs by these individual plants that try to overcome the structural barriers that we have in our state. You have to change the tax system, the un-employment insurance system, the tort reform system," said Williams.
Each candidate then responded to a question on expanded gambling. Since coming into office, Governor Beshear has pushed for casinos at Kentucky race tracks .arguing slot machines will generate much needed revenue. But, Beshear says, as head of the state senate, Williams has been an obstructionist .
"We've got Kentuckians who are going out of state to spend their entertainment dollars including senator Williams. I want senator Williams and everybody else that likes this kind of entertainment to spend it right here at home in Kentucky," said Beshear.
Williams has made no excuses for his opposition to expanded gambling He retorted, "if the governor owned a horse, he would call it cheapshot." After the debate, Williams expounded on his point..
"So Steve Beshear is a cheapshot artist and it's typical of why he doesn't deserve to be governor of the commonwealth of Kentucky any longer. Because he doesn't have a plan, he doesn't have an agenda, and he wants to cheapshot somebody all the time," contended Williams.
Near the end of the debate, Galbraith offered an unsubstantiated claim. If re-elected, the independent candidate alleged Governor Beshear would resign in two years. Galbraith says that would clear the way for former Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson, who would be lieutenant governor, to take over from Beshear. While refusing to identify his source, Galbraith later said the information came from a reporter..
"It makes perfect sense to me. There's no other reason for Abramson to run except he wants to be governor and he knows the state is not going to elect a Louisville mayor as governor straight up," said Galbraith.
Although the governor was not available for questions after the debate, the accusation by Galbraith brought a quick response from Matt Erwin, who's with the Beshear campaign.
"It's a preposterous rumor that he made up. It's ridiculous. Mayor Abramson was chosen as a running mate because he's been a friend and colleague of the governor for 30 years," explained Erwin.
Erwin adds the two Democrats have worked together in government and Abramson's been a successful mayor of the state's largest city. The three gubernatorial candidates are scheduled to appear again on Halloween night for another debate.