Political news

On a 3-2 vote, the Owensboro City Commission has approved a measure that does away with primary elections for city offices.  Mayor Ron Payne says city primaries are unnecessary in non-partisan races.

"With a two-year city commission term, under the present system, you're elected one year and you're filing in January and starting to run again," Payne tells WKU Public Radio.  "You spend one year devoted to city business and the other year campaigning."

Opponents of the new Owensboro ordinance argue that primary elections allow candidates to interact more with voters. 

A state law that took effect in January allows cities to eliminate primaries. The law does not affect primaries for county, state, or federal offices.

Bowling Green voted last year to eliminate primary elections for city offices.

Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear says he will not call a special legislative session to address county clerks who have refused to issue marriage licenses since the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo urged the governor to summon members of the General Assembly back to Frankfort to pass legislation on the issue.

In response, Beshear said it was “time for everyone to take a deep breath,” and that the legislature could take up the issue during the regularly-scheduled session in January.

Clerks in Casey and Rowan Counties say that their religious convictions prevent them from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Both clerks are denying marriage licenses to all couples to avoid being accused of discrimination.

Four couples, represented by ACLU Kentucky, are suing Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis for refusing to issue marriage licenses to them.

One of Kentucky's top Democratic leaders is asking for a special session of the state legislature after some county clerks of court stopped issuing marriage licenses in response to the U.S. Supreme Court legalizing same-sex marriage.

But it's unclear what House Speaker Greg Stumbo wants the legislature to do. Stumbo said Tuesday he is drafting legislation to help address the issues some of the state's county clerks are having. But he did not say what that was, and a spokesman for his office declined to elaborate.

The legislature adjourned for the year in April. Only the governor can call them back in session.

At least two county clerks have stopped issuing all marriage licenses after the Supreme Court's ruling, citing religious objections. The ACLU has sued in federal court.

Hundreds of Kentucky State Engineers Get Sizable Raises

Jul 7, 2015

About 550 engineers in the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet have received raises averaging 20 percent in a plan to curb high turnover and costly contracts for private engineers.

The Lexington Herald-Leader reports that the pay increase took effect June 16 and will cost about $7.8 million a year.

The salary increase follows an order from Kentucky's 2014 General Assembly for the state to make the Transportation Cabinet salaries more competitive with similar jobs in surrounding states and private businesses.

Cabinet spokesman Chuck Wolfe says the money is expected to come from savings in personal-service contracts used to hire outside engineers.

Transportation Secretary Mike Hancock says among the 11 categories of engineers who received pay raises, the departure rate in 2014 was 33 percent, compared to 22 percent throughout state government.

A state lawmaker is calling for a refund of all but $10,000 of the $46,000 paid for development of a new Tennessee state logo.

The Knoxville News Sentinel reports Rep. Martin Daniel made the request in a letter sent last week to executives of GS&F, the Nashville advertising firm that developed the logo, with copies to Gov. Bill Haslam and state General Services Commissioner Bob Oglesby, whose department oversaw the firm's contract with the state.

In his letter, the Knoxville Republican said the company was "substantially over-compensated for its work on the project."

GS&F official Gregg Boling says the agency presented multiple concepts and stands behind its work. Haslam spokesman Dave Smith says the governor's office is aware of Daniel's concerns.

The square logo featuring the white letters TN on a red field above a blue bar has drawn criticism for its price tag and for being simplistic.

Critics Blast Hiring of Cabinet Official's Husband

Jul 6, 2015

The hiring of a Kentucky cabinet official's husband has been questioned by critics who say the hiring represents a conflict of interest and a misuse of funds that could be better spent on helping overworked and underpaid social workers.

The Courier-Journal reports that Bob James, the husband of Teresa James, the commissioner of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services' social service agency, has been hired for the new role of assisting the cabinet's Inspector General's office.

Cabinet spokeswoman Jill Midkiff said in a statement that officials see no conflict in having Bob James work at the same cabinet as his wife.

Julie Denton, a former state senator from Louisville, says Bob James' $50,000 salary should instead be going toward fixing the problem of high turnover among state social workers.

Two women are running this year for Kentucky’s second-highest office.  Jenean Hampton of Bowling Green is the lieutenant governor nominee on a Republican ticket headed by Matt Bevin. 

Hampton ran unsuccessfully for State Representative Jody Richard’s seat in 2014. 

Hampton touts her private sector experience and says she and Bevin will focus on making Kentucky a right-to-work state and addressing the state’s pension shortfall, which she believes threatens economic development.

"It could have a dampening effect on everything we do," Hampton told WKU Public Radio.  "Let's say we do everything else right.  We get our tax code revamped and we become a right-to-work state.  If a company is looking at our balance sheet and sees that we do not have a viable plan to address our $34 billion shortfall, they still may not come."

Hampton is a former businesswoman and Air Force veteran.  If elected, she would become Kentucky’s first African American statewide officeholder. 

On the Democratic side, State Representative Sannie Overly is on a ticket headed by Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway.

Lightning Strikes Monument Honoring Confederate President

Jul 3, 2015
Kentucky Department of Parks

As Kentucky officials began considering what to do with a statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis in the state Capitol, lightning struck a concrete obelisk that stands at his birthplace in Western Kentucky.

WHAS-TV reports chunks of the obelisk went flying when it was struck in Fairview, about 200 miles away from Frankfort.

Spokesman Gil Lawson of the Kentucky Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet said the monument had minor damage from the strike Friday but no structural damage. No injuries were reported.

A day earlier, the state Historic Properties Advisory Commission agreed to seek input from the public and art and history experts about the fate of the Capitol statue.

Several state leaders have endorsed moving the Davis statue in response to a shooting rampage that killed nine black people in a South Carolina church.

Kentucky's two major party candidates for governor are not taking a day off for Independence Day.

Republican nominee Matt Bevin and Democratic nominee Jack Conway will be traveling the state on Saturday to participate in a variety of Independence Day celebrations as both seek to become Kentucky's next governor. Incumbent Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear cannot seek re-election because of term limits.

Bevin and Conway are scheduled to participate in the Campbellsville Fourth of July celebration, which includes speeches and a parade. Bevin will then walk in the Fort Mitchell Parade at noon while Conway will walk in the Lexington Fourth of July parade at 2 p.m.

The two candidates are scheduled to appear together on July 23 at the Measure the Candidates forum at the Kentucky Farm Bureau.


U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell weighed in on the 2016 presidential race at a luncheon in downtown Lexington Thursday. 

The Senate Majority Leader warned against the crowded field of Republican candidates getting too contentious. There are fourteen politicians jockeying to secure the Republican nomination for president next year.

McConnell warned against the race becoming unnecessarily brutal.

“You saw in the Kentucky governor’s primary if you get into a fight with somebody else in a multi-field candidate you could end up taking yourself down and whoever you’re feuding with down and somebody else benefits from it.”   

Former Republican candidates for governor Hal Heiner and James Comer launched attacks at one another, and on Election Day got bested by Matt Bevin, who stayed out of the fight for the most part. McConnell never made an official endorsement in the primary. It was widely speculated he and Bevin didn’t get along-- Bevin never endorsed McConnell after getting beaten by him in last year’s U.S. Senate race.