56th Dist. candidates seek to carve out their niches at first forum of special election

05/22/2013 11:38 AM

Speaking to a familiar crowd at the Woodford County Farm Bureau on Tuesday night, independent candidate in the 56th House race John Mark Hack showed off his agriculture policy experience but also his opposition to a key initiative for many horse owners in that district.

The forum was the first time Hack, Democratic nominee James Kay and Republican nominee Lyen Crews met to face voters in the special election race to represent voters from Woodford County, western Lexington, and eastern Franklin County. The election to succeed former Democrat Rep. Carl Rollins of Midway is June 25.

Hack, who worked as the director of agriculture policy for Democratic Gov. Paul Patton starting in 1998, had a rapport with the board from previous presentations. At the forum, Hack spoke in the most detail on agriculture and other policy issues.

The candidates found common ground in several areas, such as more accountability for special taxing districts.

But where their differences most stood out was on an issue that has been atop the list for many in the equine industry. That industry has a huge presence in the 56th District. Woodford County includes some of the Bluegrass’s most famous and sprawling horse farms and the western Lexington portion of the district contains Keeneland Racetrack.

But Hack has been staunchly opposed to expanded gaming and is known for serving as spokesman for the group Say No to Casinos.

Candidates were asked what they could do for the equine industry overall and if they supported expanded gambling. (Watch the video below for their responses)

Each candidate used his time to try to carve out a niche.

Crews, who lost to Rep. Carl Rollins of Midway in the 2010 race by less than 1,000 votes, talked to establish his financial credentials as being the only Certified Public Accountant in the legislature, if he’s elected.

The 51-year-old Crews mentioned his age in a move likely to draw contrast to his 30-year-old Democratic opponent, and to tout his work history with hospitals, universities and accounting.

The three main areas Crews said need to be addressed in Frankfort are state financial issues, healthcare, and education.

He said with a background in those areas it makes him “uniquely qualified” to represent the district and take on the “hard issues.”

Hack sought to position himself as the change agent and third party candidate for voters dissatisfied with the politics of Frankfort.

“This two-party system is failing our state, and if you are satisfied with how things are going in Frankfort you can tune out right now. You don’t need to listen to me anymore,” Hack said. “I’m running to change a culture of arrogance and self interest that has taken hold of the general assembly in ways that we would have never imagined 13-years ago.”

Democratic candidate Kay is an attorney from Woodford County, and his pitch to the farmers was his own upbringing on a tobacco farm.

“We need somebody to represent the good people who work hard like our farming community and do a good job everyday,” Kay said.

Kay told the group that he would be a voice for the people of the community, and asked the voters to contact him with their concerns. Kay’s message on the issues was that he will take his direction from the voters of the district.


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