With one week until the primary election, Kentucky’s Democratic candidates for governor made their pitches for why they should be their party’s nominee during a debate on KET Monday night.
It’s the third televised event during this year’s race to see who will take on the winner of the Republican primary, which includes incumbent Gov. Matt Bevin and three Republican challengers. Democrats will participate in two more televised forums this week.
All three Democratic candidates voiced support for increasing state revenue to provide more money for state programs like public education, Medicaid and the state worker pension system, but candidates differed on how they would do it.
Attorney General Andy Beshear has campaigned on legalizing casinos and taxing their proceeds — a measure that hasn’t been able to win support in the legislature.
Beshear said the public will come around on gambling.
“I will tell you, if it keeps a promise to teachers, if it makes sure they have law enforcement in that community, they are for it and they will pass it and I’ll be the governor that will get it done,” Beshear said.
Kentucky has consistently struggled to make ends meet in its $11 billion per year state budget especially as the state has spent more money trying to shore up its ailing pension system in recent years.
Adam Edelen, a Lexington businessman and former state auditor, said that he supports legalizing gambling, but that it’s more important to reform the state’s tax code.
“Relying on the whims of the gaming public to support something as sacred as the pension promise seems to me to be an irresponsible gamble,” Edelen said.
Beshear criticized Edelen’s call for tax reform as “platitude without specifics.”
State Rep. Rocky Adkins pushed for getting rid of some of Kentucky’s tax breaks so the state has more money to fund raises for teachers.
“We need to put the money in the budget to filter down to the local school districts so they can make sure they get the pay increases needed,” Adkins said.
Adkins also advocate for phasing in an increase of the minimum wage.
Candidates for lieutenant governor, who run on a slate with the gubernatorial candidates, took part in an hour-long debate afterwards.
The candidates answered questions about their stances on abortion, an issue that continues to divide some Democrats in the state.
Jacqueline Coleman, Beshear’s running mate, described herself as a “pro-life Democrat” during a debate in 2014 when she was running for the state legislature.
But on Monday, she said that she supports the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion.
“I don’t believe the government has any business in a doctor’s office between a woman and her doctor,” Coleman said.
“We should have the right to privacy, to be able to make those decisions and we should trust women and we should trust their doctors.”
Steph Horne, Rocky Adkins’ running mate, also said she supports abortion rights. When asked if her views would “take the back seat” to Adkins’ anti-abortion leanings, Horne echoed her running mate’s response to the issue lately — that he would follow the “law of the land.”
“No, what I’m saying is when he took those votes he was taking that as a state representative and he was representing his constituents,” Horne said.
This year, Adkins voted in favor of a bill that would totally ban abortions in Kentucky if Roe v. Wade is overturned and another that would ban the procedure after the sixth week of pregnancy, earlier than many people even realize they are pregnant.
Gill Holland, Edelen’s running mate, said that his ticket has “always been very steadfast and unwavering in our support of a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions, period.”
According to a Pew Research study, 57 percent of Kentuckians think abortion should be illegal in most cases.
The primary election is May 21.