Candidate forum draws few

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By Robin Bass

The judge executive candidates were walking to their seats as Patty Davis reached down into her purse and pulled out a pen and a small pad of paper. Taking notes had become a habit, she explained; a way to confirm if she heard correctly. And in the case of Friday’s Primary Election Forum, Patty wanted to remember every word.

As for her husband, David Davis, he was more focused on what he did not want to hear – anything that would involve increasing his taxes or spending more taxpayer money.

“The answer is not spending more money. If the jobs and manufacturing are in place, then everything takes care of itself,” said David.

The Elk Creek couple agreed it was important for them to attend the candidate forum. It was a natural thing for two people to do who consider themselves informed voters.

“We really wanted a bigger crowd so they would continue having these forums,” said Patty as she looked at the empty wooden bleachers.

Roughly 130 people, comprised mostly of people seeking office and their supporters, were spread thinly along one side of the high school gymnasium. Standing at center court was forum moderator Duane McClain flanked by five of the six judge executive candidates. During the final moments before 6 p.m., some of the candidates were glancing at their notes one last time. Others sat back calmly gazing up into the audience – occasionally waving at a familiar face.

After leading the audience in the pledge of allegiance, McClain explained why one of the candidates was missing.

“David Jenkins underwent gall bladder surgery Thursday afternoon,” said McClain to the audience. “He is at home tonight recovering from the procedure.” 

Jenkins would not be the only candidate absent from the political forum. Magistrate candidates Russ Cranmer (D-Taylorsville, Dist. 1), Thomas Morsey (D-Elk Creek, Dist. 3), Bill Shelburne (D-Elk Creek, Dist. 3), Ronald “Woodie” Cheek (R-Campbranch, Dist. 4), Donna Jewell (D-Campbranch, Dist. 4) and Robert M. Shelburne (D-Campbranch, Dist. 4) would also forego the opportunity.

Showing up in force were all four candidates for Kentucky Senate Dist. 20 – the seat soon to be vacated by retiring Sen. Gary Tapp. Democrats David Eaton and John E. Spainhour as well as Republicans David Glauber and Paul Hornback took turns introducing themselves to the audience. Also addressing voters were Rep. Kent Stevens (D-Dist. 55) and his opponent Republican Kim King.

Rep. Brad Montell made an appearance early in the program, but did not speak. Montell is running unopposed in Kentucky House Dist. 58.

During the two and a half hour program, judge executive and magistrate candidates in contested primary races used the majority of the time answering prepared and spontaneous questions. There was little interaction between the candidates in their replies. Only judge executive candidates David Hesse and John Riley engaged in some verbal sparring.

The subject was how to continue operating the county’s emergency medical services during a time of financial difficulty. Republican challenger David Hesse suggested that instead of using a full EMS crew to transport Signature HealthCare patients to doctor’s appointments, the county could hire a driver and use a less expensive van.

“Mr. Hesse, you show a lack of understanding of the entire process here,” said Riley, when he had the opportunity to speak.

Later, Hesse came back with, “All I did was give out a suggestion to save money. You did not come up with any suggestions to save money. Obviously John didn’t hear what I said. That is the problem with people in office. They are not listening to what we are saying.”

Riley also corrected Hesse when the wrong dates were used in a discussion about the implementation of occupational taxes.

“I feel obligated to point out when there is rhetoric instead of facts. And there is a lot of it out there,” said Riley. “David, I know that fiscal court had a contract with your firm and that contract was on a retention basis. If the county implemented some savings that you found, your firm would be paid a percentage of that savings. I thought that was a good contract to enter into and I was hoping you would find something, but you didn’t.”

Due to the forum format, Hesse was not permitted to respond to Riley’s last comment Friday night. But in a statement Monday morning, Hesse said, “Due to a conflict of interest, I was not on that contract. It was an not audit. It was a management consultant contract.”

Savings were found from the limited financial documents that were made available to Tichenor and Associates, said Hesse, but the nine recommendations were not acted upon.