Campaigns butt heads over Sannie Overly's exclusion from lieutenant governor forum at Ky. State University

10/04/2015 01:31 PM

FRANKFORT — Saturday’s gubernatorial forum hosted by Operation Turnout at Kentucky State University provided some familiar shots and one-liners among the candidates, but the real fireworks occurred before the event started.

Republican Matt Bevin’s campaign objected to a late attempt by Democrat Jack Conway’s team to add Rep. Sannie Overly to a section of the program in which candidates for lieutenant governor fielded questions from moderators.

Jenean Hampton, Bevin’s running mate, had the stage to herself as she addressed a variety of topics at the historically black university, such as drug testing welfare recipients and government workers, gun-control measures in light of a mass shooting at an Oregon community college and Common Core education standards. Overly, the House majority caucus chairwoman, could only watch from the front row.

Bevin’s campaign said before the forum that Conway’s campaign confirmed Overly’s attendance late Friday evening and past a deadline set by organizers. When asked if they would allow Overly a spot on the stage, the Republican nominee’s camp declined.

One of the moderators, Delano Massey of WKYT-TV and Key Conversations Radio, said Overly initially declined to attend because of a scheduling conflict.

“On Friday we were notified that she no longer had a schedule conflict and she would be able to participate,” Massey said. “We took that to the Bevin campaign, which is customary in situations like this, and they objected to her participation in the debate, so she will not be participating today.

“But we just wanted to make that clear that we did not know until yesterday that she was actually going to be in attendance.”

After the event, Overly said she was dismayed that she could not share her views on a number of topics.

“It’s very disappointing to be excluded from the Democratic process this way,” the Paris Democrat said. “You know, we need to have fair, balanced conversations about our plans for the future of our commonwealth, so to not be able to participate at that level was extremely disappointing.”

Conway immediately left following the gubernatorial forum.

Bevin said if Overly wanted to participate in the forum, though, the Conway campaign should have committed before the deadline and not played “head games with people.”

“They asked did we want to make an exception because they had told her that if she didn’t commit that she would not be a part of it,” Bevin said after the debate. “Did we want to make an exception? We said no. You stick by your rules. You made the rule, we complied with it, she didn’t. Stick with it.”

The late attempt to appear at KSU comes the same week that Conway’s attorney general office issued an opinion that that Gov. Steve Beshear’s appointments to the University of Louisville Board of Trustees did not meet legal requirements regarding minority representation.

Conway’s office said Beshear should resolve the matter, and trustee Steve Wilson stepped down so that a second minority can be appointed to the board.

Overly said that ruling played no role in her attempt to participate in the forum at the historically black institution.

“I believe that all of the debate that were scheduled this election cycle are important because I think that the candidates need to be out talking to folks in communities across the state,” she said.

Bevin, in response to a similar question, took the opportunity to again criticize Conway’s actions regarding the Democratic governor’s racially disproportionate appointments to the UofL board.

“He has done nothing to resolve this situation,” Bevin said. “What Gov. Beshear has done is illegal. It is against the law. It should be challenged by our attorney general. Our attorney general has said, ‘Yeah, he’s not doing things things according to the law,’ but he’s not challenging him.”

Kevin Wheatley

Kevin Wheatley is a reporter for Pure Politics. He joined cn|2 in September 2014 after five years at The State Journal in Frankfort, where he covered Kentucky government and politics. You can reach him at or 502-792-1135 and follow him on Twitter at @KWheatley_cn2.


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