The first step to replace retiring 2nd District state Sen. Bob Leeper comes in less than three weeks as Paducah Republicans Danny Carroll and David Hoffman fight for their party’s nomination.
During his 23 years in the state legislature, Leeper hit for the cycle as far as party affiliation goes. Initially a Democrat, he switched to Republican before finally becoming an Independent in 2005. After that change though, he still caucused with the Republicans. Some would say that would give the winner of next month’s Republican primary the inside track to the hearts and minds of the 2nd District.
Republican hearts and minds were hard to come by, however, at last week’s “Meet the Candidates” event organized by Ballard Chamber of Commerce director Myra Hook.
“The Republican population is growing here. You know, if I could find you somebody right off the bat, I would,” Hook said, trying to point out a registered Republican. “I was looking around. There’s one lady who might be but I don’t see her right now.”
Of the 22 candidates set to speak at the event held at Ballard Memorial High School, exactly two were Republicans: Carroll and Hoffman. It wasn’t clear if anyone was there to hear the would-be Senators that could actually vote for them next month, besides themselves.
The candidates still delivered their messages, though, sandwiched at random between 20 Democratic candidates for Ballard County sheriff, jailer and magistrate.
Carroll, a former policeman and now president of Easter Seals West Kentucky, said he’s most proud of his work he has accomplished thus far with the nonprofit.
“We were in danger of closing some doors and in a period of less than four years we were able to turn that organization around to a fiscally stable and thriving organization today,” Carroll said. “We did that through good management, strong leadership, fiscal responsibility, accountability.”
Carroll was quick to point out during his remarks that he is a lifelong resident of the 2nd District, unlike Hoffman, a retired police officer from Anchorage, Alaska. He moved to Paducah a little more than a decade ago to be with his now-wife he met while on vacation.
“I was playing golf at Drake Creek Golf Course and I was on the driving range hitting some golf balls and a golf ball went flying past me,” Hoffman said. “I thought it was my brother messing with me, so I turned around and it wasn’t him. But there was a very attractive young lady on the first tee, so I picked up that golf ball and took it back and introduced myself and we’ve been married about 13 years.”
Hoffman is the chief financial officer of his wife’s medical practice and he said that small business management experience sets him apart in the race. Hoffman is also touting his endorsement by the National Rifle Association.
“I mean, it’s a Republican primary and I’m running as a conservative,” Hoffman said. “I think it does highlight some differences between myself and my opponent in that, yeah, I’m going to defend all of your second amendment rights as it pertains to your right to keep and bear arms.”
Carroll received a “D” from the NRA upon taking their questionnaire, which he said took him by surprise. He said he “absolutely” supports the second amendment, but was graded down mostly because of concealed carry questions in which he erred on the side of caution.
“The main thing I want people to carry from that is that there’s pressure to tell folks what they want to hear to get their endorsement,” Carroll said. “That’s not who I am as a person and who I want to be as a candidate. I want people to know that I’m always going to answer those things honestly and you’re always going to get a straight answer from me.”
The candidates dovetail when asked what the number one issue is for them in the campaign.
“The main things I’m looking at is the economy and trying to get us moving in that direction,” Carroll said.
“The number one priority is jobs,” Hoffman said. “You know, legislatively looking at burdensome regulations, our corporate tax policies and doing the things we can do to make ourselves more competitive.”
Even their potential general election challenger agrees.
“The top priority is jobs, jobs and more jobs,” said Paducah Democrat Jeff Parker, who gets to sit back and watch, not having a primary opponent.
Though all three candidates carried the “jobs” talisman with them at the lectern, none offered any concrete plans as to how these jobs will be created. But one job – that of 2nd District state senator – will be filled on the 4th of November.