For the first time, Kentucky voters had a direct comparison between the three candidates vying for governor when incumbent Democrat Steve Beshear, Republican David Williams and independent Gatewood Galbraith shared a debate stage.
There were few surprises in the hour-long forum, but the candidates took several jabs at one another while defending their platforms.
State Senate President Williams repeated his plans to revise the tax code to attract jobs to the commonwealth. Beshear touted the accomplishments of his first term. But Galbraith attempted to paint his opponents’ incumbency as a negative.
“These people have been in office all this time. It is amazing how educated they’ve become to the problems of the state of Kentucky, but never seems to come to the fore until election time comes around,” Galbraith said.
The independent frequently revisited his anti-Frankfort statements. Williams and Beshear both touted their bipartisan work in passing legislation while criticizing each other.
Beshear’s record was the target of several criticisms during the forum. When asked how he would create jobs in Louisville, Beshear stood by previous claims that his work in office helped bring jobs to the city, especially at Ford and GE.
However, Williams and Galbraith questioned the governor’s record.
“What we do is give big incentives to companies and low paying jobs to the individuals that start working now. Wages will go up when there’s competition for jobs and that will be done by changing Kentucky’s work environment and we can do it with a bold plan,” said Williams.
Williams also referenced an investigation in the Lexington Herald-Leader which found that many of Beshear’s claims of job creation were exaggerated or inaccurate.
The state Senate President continued criticizing Beshear’s record when asked about bridges and infrastructure.
“If you believe that there’s going to be a spade in the ground to break ground on the Ohio River Bridges Project in 10 months when there’s not a finance plan in place, there’s even no approach or theory as to one of the forms they’re going to use,” said Williams about the plan to build two new bridges over the Ohio River and rework Spaghetti Junction in Louisville. “They’ve drug their feet on this project. If you live in Louisville, you ought to be mad as fire about this situation.”
Beshear, however, said there has been more progress on the ORBP under his time in office than in the preceding four decades. Beshear appointed three of the 14 members to the Louisville and Southern Indiana Bridges Authority. The authority was created during Beshear’s first term, though Williams took partial credit for helping spur the project along.
Several times in the debate, Galbraith trumpeted his outsider status. When asked about coal, diversity and education, the Lexington attorney pointed out that is the only candidate to oppose mountaintop removal coal mining, he is the only candidate sharing the ticket with a woman—Dea Riley—and he is the only candidate proposing a freeze on college tuition.
On the tuition question, Beshear said he has done what he could to make college affordable.
“While we’ve cut our budgets nine times over the last three and a half years and cut over a billion dollars in spending, we have not cut student financial aid,” he said. “We have not cut the KEES scholarship. Because that’s so important, that our students afford a college education.”
The CPE has allowed tuition increases for several years. Further, university presidents have previously said the lack of increased state funding has made tuition hikes necessary. Williams blasted Beshear for being misleading in his statement.
Beshear holds a 31-point lead over Williams in the polls, but has taken criticism for turning down invitations for other debates. He will appear again with Williams and Galbraith on KET October 31st.