Familiar refrains and new advertising promises emerge from latest debate

10/06/2015 10:51 PM

DANVILLE — Candidates for governor appeared on the same stage for an hour on Tuesday in a rehash of the well-worn issues in the race with one exception — Medicaid.

In the historic Newline Hall in the Norton Center for the Arts, where Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan faced off in 2012, Republican nominee Matt Bevin and Democratic Attorney General Jack Conway again showed their disdain for one another in the debate moderated by WAVE-TV anchor Scott Reynolds.

Independent candidate Drew Curtis did not meet polling criteria to appear on the debate stage, but he did attend the debate.

“If I had a table in front of me to repeatedly bang my head against the entire hour I would absolutely would have been doing that,” Curtis said of the debate.

The sharpest elbows came as the major-party candidates argued over the current economic conditions of the state, with Bevin saying Kentucky is not a good place to do business, pointing to a drop in the total number of people in the job market since the recession.

Conway countered by saying that the state now boasts unemployment figures at 5.2 percent in September, the lowest since April 2008 when the jobless rate was 5.9 percent.

“Kentucky is a good place to do business, but it could be an even better place to do business.” Conway said. “All is not doom and gloom.”

He added that he would “build upon what Gov. (Steve) Beshear has done.”

But what viewers never heard was a question on Medicaid expansion in Kentucky at the debate sponsored by AARP — a fact that left Conway “very disappointed.”

“I would have thought that would come up,” he said. “I think there’s such a sharp contrast on this issue between the two of us. I think my opponent has really been conflating kynect and Medicaid for, you know, nine months now, and the fact is the kynect website … works much better than the federal exchange.

“It would cost $23 million to switch the federal exchange,” Conway continued, chiding Bevin for “not giving a straight answer” on how his move back to the federal government and dropping the eligibility below 138 percent of the federal poverty guideline would not result in healthcare coverage losses.

After the debate, Bevin said he was “not disappointed” with the lack of questions on Medicare and kynect, saying he thought it “was a fantastic debate.”

Curtis on the other hand said he was surprised, because of the debate sponsors and their input into the questions, adding the reason could be “everyone is tired of hearing them not answer the question.”

Reynolds stopped the debate to accommodate a commercial break, which featured a new ad released by the Conway campaign attacking Bevin and closely resembling one of the attacks U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell ran against the GOP candidate in the 2014 U.S. Senate primary.

That ad, which aired on WLEX-TV, can be viewed here:

Urging the media in attendance in a post-debate press conference to call for an end to negative campaigning, Bevin said that the “people of Kentucky don’t deserve more of that tripe,” adding he intended to stay positive through the end of the campaign on air.

“I don’t intend to take that path. … I don’t think it’s necessary,” Bevin said. “If ultimately we only want to elect men and women who lie about other people and that’s what we hold up we want more of, we’re going to get the government we deserve.”

Bevin released his third spot of the general election last week in a mainly positive message reintroducing himself to voters. The GOP gubernatorial nominee’s campaign took a hit recently when the Republican Governor’s Association stopped buying airtime in support of Bevin.

The RGA ran $3 million in negative advertising against Conway in benefit of Bevin, but he did not answer a question from the Lexington Herald-Leader on whether he would repudiate those ads.

Conway said he’s been running an issue-based campaign since the beginning, adding that he too started by running positive ads, but the “undisclosed corporate money from out of state came in and tried to make this race about something it was not, so I deserve the right to defend myself.”

The Democrat said he intends to finish the next three weeks of the race talking more about his accomplishments, both on the airwaves and on the campaign trail.

Bevin closed his on-stage remarks by asking Kentuckians watching at home and in the audience, “Who do you trust?” before launching into an attack on Conway on his campaign ads, which Conway countered by noting Bevin’s lack of transparency on releasing his tax returns and history of tax delinquencies.

Voters will have their opportunity to answer that question on Nov. 3.


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