Matt Bevin picks up support from Ky. Pastors in Action Coalition for pro-charter school stance

10/28/2015 08:52 PM

Republican gubernatorial candidate Matt Bevin has earned the support of the Kentucky Pastors in Action Coalition for his stance on charter schools, urging a crowd of about 30 in Louisville’s West End on Wednesday to vote based on their values and not their party affiliations.

Pastor Jerry Stephenson of Midwest Church of Christ pointed to failing schools in that particular area of Louisville in making the case for charter schools during a gathering at Feed the City. He said almost 2,000 West End residents had signed a petition supporting the coalition’s stance on education within two weeks of its Sept. 2 start.

“We’re tired of politicians coming and telling us what they’re going to do for us,” he said. “We have looked at what is the need in our community, and we’re saying to them this is the priority.”

“Education is the number one issue,” he continued. “There is no other issue on the ballot. There is no other issue that confronts West Louisville and the black community and the low-income white community.”

Bevin, an advocate for charter schools and school-voucher programs, asked those gathered to spread the pastors’ message. His running mate, Jenean Hampton, said charter schools would help low-income areas of Appalachia and elsewhere in Kentucky.

A grandmother, Toni Livers-Jones, later noted that she is a registered Democrat but “will be voting for value.”

That’s a message Bevin pressed in his remarks, appealing to the crowd to spread the message that “next Tuesday you have the choice to chart a new direction.”

“Six days from today you’re going to choose a new governor, but bigger than this one race is this issue and so many others than affect your community,” Bevin said.

“And if we leave you with nothing else, I would ask of you, I would beg of you on behalf of this state, the Commonwealth of Kentucky, this nation, but more importantly your local communities, your pastors, your churches and the principles upon which this nation was built, I’m asking you to vote your values and not your party. … Transcend the partisanship.”

Democratic Attorney General Jack Conway’s campaign spokesman Daniel Kemp said the candidate supports initiatives like charter schools “as long as resources and funds aren’t diverted away from Kentucky’s public schools and these schools abide by the same high standards.”

“Jack is also the only candidate in this race who has made education a core focus of campaign, unlike Matt Bevin and Jenean Hampton who have made it clear exactly how little they care about early childhood education — stating that it ‘serves no purpose,’ is a ‘non-issue’ and that it wasn’t even on their radar,” Kemp said in a statement to Pure Politics.

While he said his group did not assemble “to tell anybody who you’ve got to vote for,” Stephenson said the pastors would “let everybody know who is with us and who’s not with us.”

“We will let people know that Matt Bevin has come here and declared that he is with us,” Stephenson said. Discussing Conway’s education plan, Stephenson said, “I want to know how many more five-year plans are we going to get?”

But time for KPAC’s support to permeate is limited with just six days before voters hit the polls on Tuesday. The nonpartisan pastors’ group in January endorsed Republican Hal Heiner, who finished third in May’s GOP primary, largely based on his support for charter schools.

When asked about the issue’s effect in Democrat-heavy Jefferson County on Election Day, Bevin said it would depend, in part, on those in attendance on Wednesday.

“I think it matters a lot to so many folks that are here in this immediate community and communities like it,” he said. “I think it will have an impact. How it will impact people at the vote will really be determined by the people that were here — how moved they were, what was their thought as it related to the opportunity before them.

“They’ve been presented with an opportunity. Thomas Edison once said most people in life miss opportunity because it usually shows up in overalls and looks like hard work. There’s hard work ahead of us. Can we do it all in six days? We’ll see.”


Subscribe to email updates.

Subscribe and get the latest political intelligence delivered to your inbox.