With just a week until Election Day, candidates for all of the state offices tried to sway Daviess County voters Tuesday afternoon making pitches at the Greater Owensboro Chamber of Commerce's "Red White and Blue Picnic" at the Daviess County Courthouse.
Although there are no contested local offices on the ballot, all the major state offices are up for grabs this year and the audience on the courthouse lawn heard from candidates for lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state, treasurer, auditor and secretary of agriculture.
But the evening had a number of notable absences. Incumbent Republican Gov. Matt Bevin and his Democratic challenger, Attorney General Andy Beshear, were already scheduled to hold a debate Tuesday night in Highland Heights. Also, the Democratic candidates for state auditor, treasurer and ag commissioner didn't appear at the event.
The most-watched and most-heated race on the ballot is for governor. With Beshear and Bevin debating elsewhere, lieutenant governor candidates Ralph Alvarado and Jacqueline Coleman tried to bolster their tickets by touting the experience and accomplishments of their running mates.
Alvarado, a Republican state senator, said the state has been turned around under Bevin's leadership. He said Indiana and Tennessee "passed us by in population and growth," which he blamed on decades of Democratic Party candidates controlling parts of government.
"For 95 years, we had bad liberal policies," Alvarado said, alluding to how Republicans took control of the state House of Representatives in 2016, putting the GOP in control of the House, Senate and governor's office. The Democratic Party had held the House since 1921.
"Kentuckians had sensed that bad policy for a long time," Alvarado said.
Under Bevin's administration, he said, the state has added 57,000 jobs and has received "$22 billion in capital investment."
Alvarado also linked Bevin's campaign to President Donald Trump, noting that Bevin had Trump's endorsement. Vice President Mike Pence is scheduled to campaign with Bevin in London on Friday.
"Matt Bevin is pro Trump policies," Alvarado said. Bevin has funded education, including the school's SEEK funding formula and teacher pension system, he said, and accused Beshear's father, former Gov. Steve Beshear, of having "short-changed the educational system."
"Let's continue to move this state forward with Gov. Bevin," Alvarado said.
Coleman, a public school administrator and Beshear's running mate, said Beshear has fought for citizens as attorney general and against some of Bevin's policies.
"He fought for public education. He's the reason my family still has (our) retirement," Coleman said, alluding to when Beshear's office sued to block a bill changing the pension systems for teachers and public employees passed by the General Assembly and signed by Bevin
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last year. The pension changes were contested by educators and the state Supreme Court ruled the bill had been passed improperly.
"When you go to the ballot box on Tuesday, you have to ask yourself: Who do you trust?" Coleman said, adding that Beshear has fought for health care for people with pre-existing conditions and against opioid manufacturers as attorney general.
"Think about how your family will be impacted by health care, by education, by a solvent public pension system," Coleman said.
The Beshear-Coleman ticket is endorsed by a number of organizations, she said, including the Kentucky Education Association, the state's teachers' union.
"I'm the only teacher in this race," Coleman said. "... Every single challenge we face in this commonwealth our teachers face in the classroom every single day."
In the attorney general's race, Republican Daniel Cameron and Democrat Greg Stumbo tried to position themselves as the most dedicated to fighting the state's opioid crisis.
Cameron, a Republican who worked as general counsel for U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, said he has worked to bring federal drug money to Kentucky law enforcement agencies and has partnered with local police and sheriff's departments, and with the FBI and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, "all the groups that, day in and day out, have committed to confronting ... the drug epidemic.
"I firmly believe this office should be the tip of the spear in confronting this drug issue," Cameron said.
The attorney general's office should be an advocate for law enforcement agencies, Cameron said, adding that the state Fraternal Order of Police was backing his campaign.
"They recognize I have the best interest of the law enforcement community at heart," he said.
Stumbo, a Democrat who was previously state attorney general and speaker of the state House of Representatives until being defeated in 2016, alluded that Cameron was not qualified to be the state's top law enforcement officer.
"The attorney general's office is not the place for on the job training," Stumbo said.
He said he has a record of bringing lawsuits against opioid manufacturers and he was the first attorney general to file a lawsuit against opioid maker Purdue Pharmaceuticals.
That lawsuit "was settled for then a record amount," Stumbo said.
In private practice, he said he is now working on nine cases against the "corporate criminals who brought this poison to Kentucky.
"I want to make them pay for what they did ... I've got the experience to do that," Stumbo said.
Families affected by opioid addiction "need closure" from opioid manufacturers, he said.
Both candidates for secretary of state, Republican Michael Adams and Democrat Heather French Henry, attended the event.
Adams, an attorney and former member of the state board of elections, criticized outgoing Democratic Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes for election-related issues in her office. Earlier this year, the Lexington Herald-Leader and ProPublica reported Grimes' staff had accessed the voter registration database and "targeted prominent state politicians, including (Democratic) gubernatorial candidate Rocky Adkins."
Grimes considered running for governor but decided against it. Grimes also had public battles this year against the state board of elections, and her father, Jerry Lundergan, was convicted earlier this year of making illegal contributions to Grimes' campaign for U.S. Senate in 2014.
"When Secretary Grimes ran for office, my opponent gave her a campaign contribution," Adams said. Henry is "not the right person to clean up this office, or clean up elections," he said.
He supports removing inactive voters from voting rolls and requiring photo identification to vote, he said.
"I'm running for this office to make it easy to vote and hard to cheat," Adams said.
Henry, who is former state commissioner of veterans affairs, said she is the only candidate in the race who has run a large state office. As veterans affairs commissioner, she said she increased voting opportunities for members of the military and veterans in a bipartisan manner.
"When Gov. Bevin came in, he personally asked me to stay on" as veterans affairs commissioner, Henry said.
The secretary of state is Kentucky's chief business official, she said, and she would work with businesses.
"I want to be there to help businesses start, and help businesses grow."
Other Republican candidates who spoke were incumbent state Auditor Mike Harmon, incumbent Commissioner of Agriculture Ryan Quarles and incumbent state Treasurer Allison Ball. Democrat candidate for auditor Sheri Donahue, Democrat candidate for ag commissioner Robert Conway and Democratic candidate for treasurer Michael Bowman were not at Tuesday's event.
"A lot of people don't understand what the auditor does," Harmon said. "... We work for you. We work to make government efficient, effective and ethical."
Harmon said his office has conducted audits that resulted in changes in operations and financial practices at the Administrative Office of the Courts, the University of Louisville and at the KFY Yum! Center in Louisville.
Ball said her office has uncovered and prevented millions of dollars in fraud, and under her leadership, the state has become one of the most transparent in the country through the creation of the transparency website. Ball said when the state has unclaimed accounts, her office works to return it to its rightful owner.
"I've returned more than $84 million in unclaimed property" being held by state government to residents, Ball said. "It's a record amount. I want to beat my record in the next term."
Quarles said he has grown the "Kentucky Proud" program as agriculture commissioner and has helped create an industrial hemp program that will result in $100 million in sales this year for farmers. The agency is also responsible for regulating gas pumps and has worked to reduce cases of scam artists "skimming" credit card numbers at pumps, he said.
"At the Department of Agriculture, we have put people behind bars for stealing people's identity" at no cost to taxpayers, he said.
James Mayse, 270-691-7303, email@example.com, Twitter; @JamesMayse