By Brenna Angel, Kentucky Public Radio
The race for Kentucky Secretary of State features four candidates—two Republicans and two Democrats—who want the job of overseeing the commonwealth’s elections and business filings.
Kentucky Public Radio’s Brenna Angel takes a look at the two Democratic hopefuls, Elaine Walker of Bowling Green and Alison Lundergan Grimes of Lexington.
Fifty-nine year old Elaine Walker is the incumbent candidate, although she has been Secretary of State for only a few months since Governor Steve Beshear appointed her to the position after Republican Trey Grayson left for a job at Harvard.
She previously served as mayor of Bowling Green.
“I’m the only experienced candidate with the proven leadership of creating jobs. And I think that means a lot to voters when they know that someone is qualified, someone is experienced,” says Walker.
Alison Lundergan Grimes is a 32-year-old attorney from Lexington. This election is her first attempt to seek public office but says she is very familiar the Secretary of State’s core functions.
“My experience I believe speaks for itself. I think our prior secretaries of state have been attorneys for a reason,” says Grimes. “Our county clerks need and deserve to have someone in this office that they trust, knows the laws inside and out, not only about voting and elections, but business as well.”
When it comes to business, Walker says she can relate to small business owners, because she and her husband operate a company called Peridot Pictures.
“I remember vividly forming that company in 1994. And there’s a lot of paperwork and that’s one of the reasons why I am absolutely adamant about streamlining the process,” says Walker. “We’ve actually completed the streamlining of the Secretary of State’s process and we’re now working on taking that statewide.”
Walker wants to build on the One Stop Business Plan passed by the General Assembly this year, which would allow business owners and entrepreneurs to take care of much of their filings with the state through an online location.
Grimes sees areas for improvement in updating some of Kentucky’s laws.
“Our non-profit statutes, for instance, have not been updated in over a decade. So we have people doing charitable work across our borders in Ohio, Indiana, and Tennessee. We need to update our laws so we have that charitable work being done here in Kentucky,” she says.
On the elections side of Secretary of State duties, both Walker and Grimes say they would work to make sure every vote is counted. Walker thinks having online training or interactive training of county clerks could be a good way to save money and she wants to have a review of voting machines.
“I want to do an internal assessment of all the voting machines to find out what are the weaknesses and what we need to do to ensure that each of those machines is handled properly,” says Walker.
Grimes says more emphasis should be placed on civics education in Kentucky schools. She also wants to see voting protections for victims of domestic violence who are fearful of their address being listed on public voter rolls.
“So that when they go to the polls to exercise their right to vote, they aren’t worried that the person they sat across from in the courtroom is in their living room that night,” says Grimes.
Grimes has the advantage when it comes to fundraising and endorsements. Her father is former Kentucky Democratic Party chairman Jerry Lundergan. But Grimes says she is campaigning on her own work and reputation.
Walker isn’t discouraged by the fundraising totals. During her first run for mayor, Walker defeated an incumbent candidate who had outspent her 8-to-1.