Republican Will T. Scott and running mate disagree on expanded gambling but united otherwise

01/23/2015 05:00 AM

Expanded gaming’s divisiveness isn’t simply a partisan matter.

Just ask Republican gubernatorial candidate Will T. Scott.

One of the principle planks of his campaign platform is to fund Kentucky’s depleted pension systems through proceeds from casino gambling. But if their bid for election is successful and if the General Assembly passes such a constitutional amendment, Scott’s running mate says he will vote against the ballot measure.

The two agree on every other aspect of the ticket’s agenda, both candidates told Pure Politics in phone interviews Thursday.

“We’re just exactly like every Kentucky family,” said Scott, a former Kentucky Supreme Court justice who resigned the bench to run for governor. “We disagree, but the thing about it is, we’re open and honest about it. And let me tell you — I love (former Menifee County) Sheriff Rodney Coffey. I mean, he adds so much to this ticket.”

Scott, 67, said he and Coffey discussed their views on expanded gambling before they announced their bid Jan. 13. They’re seeking the Republican gubernatorial nomination in the May 19 primary against slates headed by state Agriculture Commissioner James Comer and former Louisville Metro Council member Hal Heiner, notwithstanding others who may enter the race before 4 p.m. Tuesday.

Despite their opposing stances, Scott insisted the hot-button issue wouldn’t sour their partnership, offering the pair as a microcosm of Kentuckians’ views on casino gaming.

“I hope you tell the people that we’re running a ticket that’s open about our beliefs,” he said. “I mean, it’s the same fracture that we have in Kentucky, and Kentucky has to address it, and they need to know we’re exactly like them.”

Coffey, a former president of the Kentucky Sheriff’s Association, said he and Scott respectfully disagree on the topic. He commended his running mate’s attention to the state’s pension woes and said he would favor appropriating gaming revenue largely to public retirement funds, even if the cash comes from a means he opposes.

“I agree if the legislature passed that and the people voted on it, we should use that money to go to that debt and not any programs,” said Coffey, 44. “But me personally, I don’t think gaming is the right thing for Kentucky and that’s my opinion.”

The tax revenue generated from gaming may be nice at first, he said, but casino gambling “may bring some other issues to our state.”

He, too, said their views on the subject wouldn’t doom the GOP hopefuls after about a week in the race, noting his support for other aspects of their platform. Scott, in his campaign launch and position papers, also advocated for charter schools in struggling districts, expanding the role of drug courts in treating addicts and lowering the corporate income tax rate, for example.

“As far as being on the ticket together, I believe what he stands for. I believe Justice Scott has some tremendous ideas for our state,” Coffey said.

Scott is fine with his running mate’s hypothetical vote. After all, Coffey wouldn’t be alone.

“I’m just saying give them the right to vote, let Kentucky address it,” Scott said. “But now Rodney’ll vote against it. He’s open and honest with me, and I’m fine with that. There’ll be a lot of Kentuckians vote against it for the same reason.”

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 kevin.wheatley@charter.com or 502-792-1135 and follow him on Twitter at @KWheatley_cn2.

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