Kentucky Politics

In the race for Kentucky’s 3rd Congressional District, incumbent Democratic Rep. John Yarmuth squares off against real estate agent and Republican candidate Rhonda Palazzo.

As the Republican candidate in a solidly blue district, Palazzo faces an uphill battle. She’s aligned herself with the politics of President Donald Trump, pledging to restore “law and order” and make Louisville great again, according to her website.

Similar to the president, Palazzo has little former experience in politics but knows real estate. She previously ran and lost during the 2018 primary. She co-owns Palazzo Realtors LLC with father Raymond and has spent 25 years as an investment advisor and broker, she said.

Yarmuth is running for an eighth term in Congress, a career which began with his election to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2007. During the current term, Yarmuth has served as chairman of the House Budget Committee.

Coronavirus Response 

With about 220,000 Americans dead from COVID-19 and case numbers increasing, particularly throughout the Midwest and Rocky Mountains, the president’s pandemic response has been at the forefront of political debate ahead of the election.

Yarmuth described Trump’s coronavirus response as “deplorable,” saying the federal government has not taken the steps necessary to combat the virus. Trump has severely mishandled messaging on the virus, he said.

“This has been just one of the worst and most irresponsible communications efforts of any president in history, in terms of crisis,” Yarmuth said.

Yarmuth would like to see another round of coronavirus relief that includes unemployment benefits, small business and government assistance, and rent and mortgage relief that includes landlords, he said.

Rhonda Palazzo Campaign

Palazzo said she too would like to see another round of relief payments, though that’s where the similarities end. She praised Trump’s handling of the pandemic, saying he tried not to create panic, established a strong team and shut down travel to China.

Palazzo also repeated a number of incorrect and misleading claims about the virus. She falsely claimed that “masks don’t help” and touted the benefits of hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19 against the advice of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Were she to win, Palazzo would push to end all coronavirus restrictions in the state, she said.

“Open the state back up, get back to business, colleges, schools back in, no mask mandate, and let the free-market system work,” she said. 

Health Care

Palazzo’s free-market approach also applies to her views on health care. She supports Medicaid but said a “wide-open free market” and transparent pricing would create a competitive system that would benefit America.

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Yarmuth, alternatively, said he supports some kind of universal coverage whether that be Medicare for all or a similar program. In 2009-10, Yarmuth served on a committee that helped design the Affordable Care Act.

“So I have a great deal of appreciation for how much difference Obamacare has made in the lives of millions of Americans. We can do more. I’m one that believes we ought to have some kind of universal health care,” Yarmuth said.

Policing and Other Issues

On a number of other issues, Yarmuth and Palazzo’s policy ideas fall largely along party lines. Palazzo opposes federal efforts to combat climate change, most firearms restrictions and federal policing reforms.

On the subject of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and other high-profile killings of Black men and women by police, Palazzo said the media has blown these stories out of proportion.

“I believe it’s meant to disrupt America and create racial problems,” Palazzo said.

Yarmuth supports police reform legislation that passed in the House in June. It bans no-knock warrants in drug cases, blocks funding for departments that continue to use chokeholds, and requires federal law enforcement to use body cameras, among other reforms.

He also supports universal background checks for the purchase of firearms and said combating climate change is a priority.

Both candidates said they would support some kind of legalization for marijuana. Palazzo supports medicinal usage, while Yarmuth said he supports full legalization.

Ryan Van Velzer is WFPL's Energy and Environment Reporter.