Campbell County judge-executive candidates disagree on tolls for new bridge

04/22/2014 06:14 PM

WILDER — In some primaries, it’s hard to find differences between candidates on major issues. The May 20 race for Campbell County judge-executive is not one of those.

Incumbent Steve Pendery and challenger Kevin Sell offered voters Tuesday different approaches to making progress on a new bridge to carry interstate traffic across the Ohio River, as well as different philosophies toward economic development competition.

The two candidates debated Monday in Wilder in the first of three Northern Kentucky Judge-Executive debates sponsored by the Northern Kentucky Business PAC.

Overall, Pendery said his experience of running the county for 15 years and his 31 years of public service is reason for voters to re-elect him to a fifth term, while Sell said he wants to bring more businesses and jobs to Campbell County — even if it means beating out Kenton or Boone counties to get them.

But the plans for a new bridge continue to cast a long shadow over Northern Kentucky politics.

Pendery said it is imperative for the region to get a new bridge and tolls have to be part of the equation to pay for it.

“Our legislative caucus has ducked by saying we don’t want tolls and the world is interpreting that to mean, well, you must not want a new bridge,” Pendery said.

Sell cautioned the audience of about 75 that there’s no need rush to build the bridge with tolls partially paying for it.

“There’s just a lot of unanswered questions with the simple conclusion that tolls is the answer,” Sell said. “I’m not ready to accept that because at the end of the day, the entire burden is passed onto the citizen.”

In economic development, Pendery believes a regional approach facilitated by Campbell, Boone and Kenton counties is the best way to attract new businesses to the Northern Kentucky region.

“It’s one big region and to try to confine everything to a single county is folly,” Pendery said.

Sell took a more competitive approach. He said Campbell County must — and can — go up against Boone and Kenton counties, in some cases, to attract businesses to locate in the county.

“Campbell County has to come first,” said Sell. “What I’m hearing is the people do want jobs. They want to work here and live here and i think it’s my role as as the judge-executive to see that that happens.”

As for the top state issues affecting Campbell County, Pendery is greatly concerned about the liability of state pensions.

“The legislature is under the impression that they’ve acted to reform them,” Pendery said. “They have not done anything more than level out the rate of increase in the indebtedness.”

Sell agrees that more work needs to be done on pensions but feels making Kentucky a Right to Work state and reforming prevailing wage should be a top priority.

“I feel that the lethargic nature of the General Assembly is going to put us at a point where, by the time we pass Right to Work, we’re going to be the 49th or 50th state, and, when that happens, the competition is over and its too late,” said Sell.

Pendery acknowledged that his opponent’s message of change can sound enticing, but he reminded the crowd that his experience is a huge benefit in running the county. Sell said experience in county government doesn’t necessarily translate into bringing jobs.

The Northern Kentucky Business PAC will sponsor the Boone County Judge-Executive debate tomorrow in Florence.

The Kenton County debate will take place Tuesday, April 29 in Park Hills.

About Don Weber

Don Weber joined cn|2 when it launched back in May 2010 and soon became a reporter for Pure Politics. He is a graduate of Northern Kentucky University and has spent many years covering everything from politics to sports. Don says he loves meeting new people everyday as part of his job and also enjoys the fact that no two days are the same when he comes to work. Don Weber can be reached at


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