Political news

Five pastors and a deacon met with Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear's chief of staff on Tuesday to again urge the outgoing governor to accommodate Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis' wishes to not issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

The ministers from four counties gave the governor's office a petition they said had 1,700 names on it asking the governor to call a special session of the state legislature so lawmakers could pass a law exempting Davis and others from issuing marriage licenses.

Beshear cannot run for re-election because of term limits. Beshear's chief of staff told the pastors the governor would not call a special session because it would cost too much money for an issue that only affects a few county officials.

Tuesday's meeting comes three weeks before Kentucky's election for governor.

As Kentucky’s gubernatorial campaign enters the final three weeks before the election, the latest poll shows Democrat Jack Conway with a very slim lead over Republican Matt Bevin. 

Statewide, 43% of likely voters support Conway while 41% back Bevin.  Six percent favor Independent Drew Curtis and ten percent are undecided.  Conway’s 2  point lead over Bevin is well within the survey’s margin of error of plus-or-minus four percentage points.

The survey, conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling and Research, shows Conway has slightly better positive name recognition.  However, Bevin is getting a stronger party cross-over vote, which is crucial for a GOP candidate to win statewide in Kentucky.  Democrats outnumber Republicans among registered voters by more than 430,000. 

The poll was taken October 6-8 and questioned 625 registered Kentucky voters by phone.

Attorney General Candidates Square Off on KET

Oct 13, 2015

The two candidates competing to be Kentucky's next attorney general have differing views on the state Religious Freedom Restoration Act as it relates to the highly publicized actions of Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis. Davis went to jail after refusing to grant marriage licenses for same sex couples.

Some Davis supporters have called on the governor to issue an executive order rendering an option for clerks who have religious based objections. Democrat Andy Beshear says his father, Governor Steve Beshear, made the right call by not issuing an order. “It’s law school 101 that the governor cannot change an explicit section of a statute by executive order,” said Beshear.

Republican Whitney Westerfield believes some attempt should be made to accommodate clerks who have religious objections. “And the frustrating part, frankly, is less that nothing’s been done, it’s that nothing’s been tried,” said Westerfield.

Somerset businessman Michael Keck is joining the race to replace outgoing state senator Chris Girdler in the 15th District senate seat in Pulaski, Lincoln and Boyle Counties.

Keck is a Somerset High School and WKU graduate who now works as a business broker for a local financial group helping to facilitate the buying and selling of companies.

He says he’s running because of what he sees as the untapped economic potential of Kentucky. He’ll be running on a platform of job creation and tax reform.

Keck joins local insurance agents Don Moss and Rick Girdler and Somerset optometrist Dr. Joshua Nichols in the race for the 15th district senate seat.

A nationwide poll taken by Centre College in Danville shows a majority of Americans favor equal treatment under the law over respecting individual religious beliefs when the two come into conflict. 

About two-thirds of Americans feel individuals should be required to serve alcohol, fill prescriptions, and hire gay workers even if doing so would violate their conscience. 

On the heels of the Kim Davis saga, 65% of those questioned feel county clerks should be required to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, despite their religious beliefs. 

Centre Political Science Professor Benjamin Knoll says fewer respondents felt the same way toward providing wedding ceremony services.

"For example, less than half of Americans agreed that wedding photographers and bakers should be required to offer services to same-sex marriage ceremonies," Knoll told WKU Public Radio.  "Only about a quarter of Americans felt pastors and priests should be required to perform marriage ceremonies."

The poll questioned 487 Americans between September 24th and October 1st.  The margin of error is plus or minus 4.5%.

The same poll also gauged Americans' opinions on the 2016 presidential race.  The full survey can be found here.

Credit Rayburn123 / Wikimedia Commons

The new director of the Kentucky Legislative Research Commission says he’s ready to make changes to the state agency after a years-long sexual harassment scandal and complaints of low morale. 

David Byerman started his job last week.

Byerman says the LRC needs to get its “swagger back.”

The LRC runs much of the administration at the state capitol and also manages staffers who work for state lawmakers. It’s been embroiled in a sexual harassment scandal that broke in the summer of 2013 and brought about accusations of favoritism and opaque hiring practices.

Byerman said he’s going to create structure in the state agency.
“We have the right workforce, we just need for the level of leadership to rise to the level of performance we’re already getting from our employees.”

Byerman started last Thursday. He says some of the biggest changes probably won’t come until after next year’s legislative session, which ends in April.

A report released earlier this year found that the LRC had unclear hiring and compensation practices that were influenced by favoritism.

Byerman says that privately, LRC employees have reinforced the report’s findings, but reforming the LRC’s compensation system will take time.
“If you have people being overpaid, what do you do? Do you promote them? Do you make them do more work for the pay that they currently have? That’s one option. Do you fire them if they’re overcompensated for the job? I don’t know the answer to that yet”

The LRC’s troubles were made public when two staffers sued then-Rep. John Arnold, accusing him of inappropriately touching them. Arnold later resigned, was fined $3,000 by the Legislative Ethics Commission, and eventually settled the case with the women.

Former LRC Director Bobby Sherman was also a defendant in the case.

The major party candidates for governor Tuesday night argued over whether Kentucky should enact Right to Work legislation. Right to work would mean employees could work for unionized businesses without having to pay union dues

Republican candidate Matt Bevin said he wants to “un-constipate Frankfort” by making the state more business-friendly.
“These jobs will come when we pass right to work legislation, comprehensive tax reform, tort reform and fix our pension crisis. If we don’t fix these things, the jobs won’t come, the retirement savings won’t come”
Bevin says that companies looking to expand or relocate pass over Kentucky because it doesn’t have a right to work law on the books.

Democrat Jack Conway argued that the right to work issue is a “solution looking for a problem,” and said the state needs to focus instead on educating the workforce.

The major party candidates for governor also discussed whether Kentucky should drug test welfare recipients during the debate at Centre College last night.

Bevin said that while the state can’t indiscriminately drug test people, it should if it has probable cause.
“Why should people that are getting everything from those who are working every day and being randomly drug tested have no expectation of them on a similar front,”

Democrat Jack Conway, who posed the question about drug testing to Bevin, said that the testing would be expensive and unconstitutional if the state didn’t establish probable cause.

Conway has also stated the he supports drug testing some welfare recipients.

Monday is the deadline to register to vote in the November 3 election. 

Topping the ballot this year is the race for governor followed by other constitutional offices, including Secretary of State, Auditor, Treasurer, and Agriculture Commissioner. 

Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes says says it’s too soon to make turnout predictions.

"Our hope is that folks are not so inundated with the upcoming 2016 presidential election that they are forgetful of the duties and responsibilities on their shoulders for this election," Grimes told WKU Public Radio.

Turnout has varied in past gubernatorial elections from 37 percent in 2007 to 28 percent in 2011. 

Democrats outnumber Republicans in Kentucky by more than 430,000 registered voters.

County clerks’ offices throughout Kentucky will accept voter registration cards until the close of business Monday, October 5. 

Voters can find out if they are registered and check their current information online at www.sos.ky.gov.

Kentucky leads the nation in political spending on TV ads as it hosts the most competitive governor's race in the country.

Politicians and outside groups have spent $9.8 million on TV ads in Kentucky since Jan. 1, 2014, according to an analysis of ad spending by the Center for Public Integrity. The data includes spending through Monday and doesn't include money to produce the ads or money spent on radio, online, direct mail or TV ads that aired on local cable systems.

Hal Heiner is the top spender with an estimated $2.3 million. Heiner finished third in May's Republican primary after running a mostly self-funded campaign. Democrat Jack Conway is second with about $1.7 million, and Republican nominee Matt Bevin is third with $1.1 million.

The Center for Public Integrity estimates outside groups have spent $3.2 million on the race so far, but the actual number is likely higher.

Republican gubernatorial nominee Matt Bevin said he wouldn’t vote for Kentucky U.S. Senator Rand Paul in next year’s GOP presidential primary.

In a debate on Kentucky Sports Radio Wednesday, Bevin said he would vote for Detroit neurosurgeon Ben Carson.

Paul is scheduled to speak at a Bevin rally on Saturday. Democratic candidate Jack Conway was quick to note the potential awkwardness during the debate.

“Wow, that’s going to make for a testy campaign event this weekend, Matt," Conway claimed.

Conway refused to say who he would vote for in the presidential race, except that he would vote for the Democratic nominee.

Independent candidate Drew Curtis said he would vote for Republican candidate Donald Trump.

Bevin later said via Twitter that he’s not endorsing any presidential candidates.

Kentucky's Republican Agriculture Commissioner James Comer says he'll run for Congress to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield.

Whitfield announced Tuesday he would not seek re-election after spending 20 years representing Kentucky's 1st Congressional District in Washington. The heavily Republican district consists of 35 counties in western Kentucky that includes Comer's hometown.

Comer lost the Republican nomination for governor by just 83 votes in May. But he won the 35 counties in the 1st District with 55 percent of the vote in the Republican primary.

Other Republicans who've shown interest in the seat include Michael Pape, who was Whitfield's district director, and Hickman County Attorney Jason Batts. A spokesman for the Kentucky Democratic Party said party officials are focused on electing Jack Conway for governor in November.

U.S. Congress

Kentucky's 1st District U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield has announced he is not running for re-election in 2016.

The announcement comes during Whitfield's 11th term representing the 35 counties of Kentucky's 1st Congressional district.

Whitfield's district director Michael Pape tells WKMS News in Murray he will be seeking the Republican nomination to fill the seat. 

Pape, 47, has been with the administration "since day 1" when Whitfield took office in 1994.  

Pape says a recent ethic investigation regarding the Congressman did not factor into his decision to not run again. 

Whitfield's office released the following statement regarding his decision not to run again:

Agriculture Commissioner James Comer said he plans to start a company and return to his native Monroe County once his term ends in December.

Comer spoke Monday at the Hemp Industries Association's annual conference in Lexington. Comer told the group he built his political career around hemp and said Kentucky is now the leading industrial hemp-producing state in the country.

Comer lost the Republican primary for governor in May by 83 votes. Monday, he said he would likely never get over the race but left open the possibility of running for another office near his hometown in the future.

Comer has endorsed Republican Matt Bevin in the governor's race. Bevin faces Democrat Jack Conway in the November general election.

Abbey Oldham

The wife of Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul is returning to South Carolina for a campaign swing on her husband's behalf.

The U.S. senator from Kentucky's campaign says Kelley Paul is in the Palmetto State on Monday for two stops.

Kelley Paul will give a keynote address at a luncheon hosted by the Hilton Head Island Women's Club. Then, she's going to Columbia for a meeting of the Richland County Republican Party at Doc's Barbecue.

On Tuesday, Kelley Paul is scheduled to go to the state Republican Party Headquarters in Columbia, where she will officially file her husband's papers as a candidate in the first-in-the-South primary.

Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush is the first person to file for Kentucky's presidential caucus.

Bush filed his paperwork on Thursday during a visit to Louisville for a state Republican party fundraiser. He also paid a $15,000 filing fee.

Kentucky normally has a presidential primary in May. But this year, the Republican Party of Kentucky voted to have a presidential caucus on March 5. That way, Kentucky U.S. Sen. Rand Paul could run for president and re-election to his U.S. Senate seat at the same time without breaking a state law that bans candidates from appearing on the ballot twice in the same election.

Despite Paul's advantage, other candidates have shown interest in the caucus. Thursday, Republican candidate Marco Rubio told Kentucky Sports Radio he planned to compete in Kentucky.