Local News Politics

Candidates Again Clash on Economy in Final Gubernatorial Debate

by Stu Johnson, Kentucky Public Radio

The economy dominated an often contentious gubernatorial debate hosted last night by Kentucky Educational Television.

It was the second time all three candidates appeared together in a forum. Incumbent Democrat Steve Beshear has declined to attend several other debates. As he has previously, the governor repeated that, thanks to his work over the last three years, Kentucky’s economy may pick up quicker than other states.

“Kentucky is starting to come out of this recession and I think because of what we’ve done, is gonna come out a lot faster and a lot better off than most other states,” he said.

The governor touted the economic incentives his administration has offered to businesses that are considering moving to Kentucky. But independent candidate Gatewood Galbraith hasn’t been impressed.

Local News Politics

Non-Partisan Group Says Gubernatorial Candidates Lack Courage

All three candidates for governor of Kentucky have failed to turn in a survey put out by the non-partisan group Project Vote Smart.

The Political Courage Test quizzes candidates on a variety of issues, including abortion, education and taxes. To encourage participation, candidates are not allowed to use the results of the survey in campaign ads.

Project Vote Smart issued a statement Thursday saying neither incumbent Democrat Steve Beshear, Republican David Williams nor independent Gatewood Galbraith returned the survey. Beshear and then-Governor Ernie Fletcher did not respond to the survey during the 2007 election, either.

Requests for comment to the Beshear and the Williams campaigns were not returned. Galbraith’s running mate says the campaign never official received the survey, but will return it shortly.

Project Vote Smart is a nonprofit group based in Montana.

Local News Politics

Gubernatorial Debate Offers Few Surprises

For the first time, Kentucky voters had a direct comparison between the three candidates vying for governor when incumbent Democrat Steve Beshear, Republican David Williams and independent Gatewood Galbraith shared a debate stage.

There were few surprises in the hour-long forum, but the candidates took several jabs at one another while defending their platforms.

State Senate President Williams repeated his plans to revise the tax code to attract jobs to the commonwealth. Beshear touted the accomplishments of his first term. But Galbraith attempted to paint his opponents’ incumbency as a negative.

“These people have been in office all this time. It is amazing how educated they’ve become to the problems of the state of Kentucky, but never seems to come to the fore until election time comes around,” Galbraith said.

The independent frequently revisited his anti-Frankfort statements. Williams and Beshear both touted their bipartisan work in passing legislation while criticizing each other.

Local News

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Environment Local News

EPA Responds to Beshear’s Letter

This morning, the Environmental Protection Agency responded to an email asking for comments on a letter Governor Steve Beshear sent to President Barack Obama earlier this week.

In an interview, Energy and Environment Cabinet Secretary Len Peters expressed frustration with the EPA’s requirements for permits. He says Kentucky worked with the regional EPA on a template for future permits and came to an agreement, but the deal was rejected by the EPA headquarters.

In the response, the EPA didn’t respond directly to a question about why the agreed-upon template was rejected. In the statement, the agency said:


“EPA appreciates the State of Kentucky’s efforts to work with us to reduce water pollution and public health impacts from coal mining that impact waters used for drinking, fishing, swimming, among other recreational activities.  We have made significant progress with the State of Kentucky in identifying improvements to mining permits that are consistent with the requirements of the Clean Water Act and emerging science.  As we have done in the past, EPA continues to be willing to reach common sense agreements to mine coal while avoiding permanent environmental impacts and protecting water quality. The EPA’s number one priority is to protect the health of all Americans and to allow the people of Kentucky and other states the choice of both healthy waters and a healthy economy.”

Environment Local News

Beshear Calls for Consistency in Coal Regulations From Federal Government

Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear has sent a letter to President Obama asking for more consistency and clarity in regulation of the coal industry. The letter was a follow-up to a brief meeting between Beshear and President Obama at the Cincinnati airport last week.

Since the Environmental Protection Agency announced it would be scrutinizing surface mining permits in 2009, coal companies and regulators have complained about uncertainty. It’s expensive to apply for a permit, and no one was sure what the government would approve.

The questions should have been cleared up by a document the EPA issued earlier this summer that gave final guidance on permits for surface mining. But in his letter, Beshear says the EPA’s policies are still unclear to state regulators.

Energy and Environment Cabinet Secretary Len Peters says part of that is due to inconsistencies in the state’s dealings with the regional EPA and the headquarters in DC. He says Kentucky worked with the regional EPA on a template for future permits.

“We had come to an agreement with Region 4 about a permitting process that we felt was reasonable, we felt was fair and we felt we could use with the coal companies in a meaningful way,” he said.

Peters says the template included substantial concessions on the part of the state, including additions like a biological monitoring requirement. But the agreement was rejected by EPA headquarters.

Peters says the process is frustrating.

“We’re struggling to try to find out what a reasonable permit is, what an acceptable permit is after that template was denied by headquarters,” he said.

A decision is expected soon on 55 Kentucky permit applications that are awaiting federal action.

Requests to the Environmental Protection Agency for comment weren’t returned early this evening.

Local News Politics

GOP Group’s Ad Criticizes Beshear on LGBT Support

An outside political group is running a radio ad criticizing Governor Steve Beshear for once earning support from LGBT rights groups and for protecting state employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation.

The ad was paid for by the Restoring America Campaign Committee, which is also running television ads blasting Beshear on a number of issues and promoting GOP candidate David Williams.

“Williams believes marriage is a sacred covenant between one man and one woman,” says the ad. “Governor Beshear received the support of gay and lesbian rights organizations and has created special protections for gay and lesbian state employees.”

“We’re disgusted by the ads but aren’t surprised Senator Williams’s cohorts would employ such hate-mongering tactics in a difficult, uninspired and uphill campaign for the Senate President,” says Fairness Campaign director Chris Hartman.

The committee’s donor list hasn’t yet been published, and filings with the state list two men from Ohio and one from New York as officers. A call to Williams’s campaign was not returned, but a campaign spokesman previously told the Courier-Journal he knew nothing about the Restoring America ads.

The Fairness Campaign endorsed Beshear’s first bid for governor, but has not yet endorsed a candidate in this year’s elections. Hartman says Beshear and independent Gatewood Galbraith are the only candidates for governor to answer a survey on LGBT issues.

“Certainly there are Republicans, Democrats, independents, libertarians, Green Party [members] and more who are all members of the Fairness Campaign’s Political Action Committee,” says Hartman. “So it certainly seems shortsighted for the Senator not to seek votes in every area.”

The campaign’s endorsements are expected next week.


Local News

Galbraith on Education, Mountaintop Removal, Same-Sex Marriage and More

Independent candidate for governor Gatewood Galbraith says he would support lifting Kentucky’s constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, but he won’t campaign on the issue.

In an interview with WFPL News, Galbraith said the issue is divisive, and he won’t make it part of his platform.

“I don’t even want to know. If people want to make that commitment to each other, that’s fine with me,” he says. “Right now we have a constitutional prohibition against it, if it comes down to a referendum, depending on the wording of the referendum, I could probably support it.”

The full interview:

Audio MP3

When asked whether he would support a statewide ban on discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation, Galbraith said he’s against discrimination, but doesn’t want to give anyone special rights. He met with the Louisville Fairness Campaign this week. Campaign Director Chris Hartman says Galbraith told the group he would support a statewide fairness law.

Incumbent Democrat Steve Beshear won the Fairness Campaign’s endorsement in the last election. Republican candidate David Williams did not return the campaign’s survey on LGBT issues. The campaign’s endorsement in this election is expected next week.

Local News

Ford Plant Prepares to Begin Manufacturing Escape

Gov. Steve Beshear and Louisville Ford Assembly Plant Manager John Savona.After a $600 million renovation, Louisville’s Ford Assembly Plant is almost ready to begin production.

The plant is cavernous. There aren’t many people—or cars—around, because the plant hasn’t restarted production yet. But the robots are working, demonstrating how the bodies of the new Ford Escape will be welded, and how the dashboards will be installed.

John Savona is the plant manager.

“What we’re doing differently is we’re installing the instrument panel in a new vehicle with an automated system, with an automated robot. When in the past, we picked up the instrument panel with a couple of operators and we had to go into the vehicle like that.”

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer and Governor Steve Beshear were on the tour. Beshear says he’s excited to see what Ford is contributing to the state.

“Well, this is an amazing process and to see it actually coming to fruition is a very satisfying feeling for me. What this means for the commonwealth of Kentucky is that Ford’s going to be here for a long, long time to come.”

The plant is designed to be flexible—Savona says settings can be tweaked and workers can begin producing an entirely new model within a few hours if need be.

Local News

KET Debates Begin Tonight

The first of eight special election episodes of Kentucky Tonight will air on KET this evening.

All candidates for statewide office this year have agreed to appear live on the show. Monday, the candidates of Agriculture Commissioner will debate. Democrat Bob Farmer and Republican James Comer will appear for one hour starting at 8 pm.

Next week, the three candidates for State Treasurer will debate. That show will feature Libertarian candidate Kenneth Moellman, who was the only treasurer candidate not to speak at last month’s Fancy Farm picnic.

The candidates for other offices will appear in the following weeks. Two shows with the gubernatorial candidates have been scheduled, however, Democratic incumbent Steve Beshear will only participate in one. He will forgo the September 26th debate on education. Republican candidate David Williams and independent Gatewood Galbraith will appear without him. All three will debate on KET on October 31st.