Kentucky Youth Advocates hosted a virtual forum Saturday afternoon that featured 13th House District candidates Rep. Jim Glenn and former Rep. DJ Johnson.

KYA is an independent voice for the state’s children and lobbies lawmakers about issues that affect kids. The agency also produces the annual Kids Count data book, which measures counties’ childhood poverty rates and other indicators of well-being.

“Kids can’t vote, so they rely on the adults in their lives to vote on their behalf,” Terry Brooks, KYA executive director, said in a press release. “When considering our local, state and federal leaders, we must keep the needs of kids front and center. These forums give constituents and concerned child advocates the opportunity to hear directly from candidates about their vision to make Kentucky the best place to be a kid.”

The candidates were asked identical questions.

Glenn, who teaches at Owensboro Community & Technical College, said his No. 1 issue is childhood hunger.

“You don’t learn in school very well if you come to school and you’re hungry,” he said. “That happens in our society too much. In a society this rich, it goes on too often.”

Education is another issue he’s passionate about.

Johnson said adoption and foster care top his list of concerns. When he served as a state lawmaker in the past, the adoption process proved too difficult and costly.

“When there are so many children that were waiting to be adopted and so many parents that wanted to adopt, and yet, for some reason, it took years for that to happen,” Johnson said. “So that became one of my priorities.”

Both candidates were asked how they would help alleviate some of the Republican-Democrat tension in Frankfort.

“For some reason, we think we’re opponents,” Glenn said. “We live in this world together. We’re in the same boat. Wherever the front of the boat goes, the back of the boat goes. We have to get used to rowing in the same direction together.”

Johnson feels his view of politics at the state level may be unique.

“We don’t agree on policies all the time, but if you look at every single bill that passed in the last few years and did a percentage check on which ones were bipartisan, it’s like 87% to 90% of the bills that pass with bipartisan support. But, of course, we’ve got those issues that we’re very passionate about, and so that’s what gets the attention,” he said.

Toxicity among lawmakers is not good, he said, but the legislative process was designed with checks and balances for a reason. The process wasn’t created to be easy.

“When it’s difficult to make things happen, the private citizen gets protected,” he said.

In closing statements, Johnson said he is concerned that Kentucky ranked 37th nationwide on child well-being.

Along with making the adoption process less cumbersome and expensive, juvenile justice is an area he’s starting to look into and become passionate about.

Glenn said he would focus on jobs, health care and education.

Renee Beasley Jones, 270-228-2835, rbeasleyjones@messenger-inquirer.com

Renee Beasley Jones, 270-228-2835, rbeasleyjones@messenger-inquirer.com

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