Tackett campaign seeks to have attack ad pulled from airwaves; Ky. Opportunity Coalition questions candidate's salary as magistrate

03/03/2016 06:52 PM

UPDATED: As the stakes for the House of Representatives increases with four special elections set for Tuesday, candidates are defending their records as attack ads return to the airwaves.

That was the case on Thursday as the campaign for Democratic nominee Chuck Tackett sought to defend his time in office at the local level.

In the 62nd House District special election, Tackett, a former Scott County magistrate, farmer and businessman, is trying to vindicate his record against attacks from the Kentucky Opportunity Coalition, a 501(c )(4) non-profit organization that helped with the re-election of U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell in 2014 and is seeking to help GOP candidates flip the state House this year.

In radio and television ads, the Kentucky Opportunity Coalition claims Tackett, who served as a Scott County magistrate from 2007 to 2014, is a “government insider” who “forgot who he was there to help.” The group also attacked Tackett over salary increases during his time in office.

Tackett’s campaign claims his opponent, Republican nominee and political newcomer Phillip Pratt, has help from the coalition and others who are flooding the airwaves with “outrageous, false accusations,” relating to his time in office and his salary.

The ads in question claims Tackett’s salary grew “four times faster than the average Kentuckians.”

“His salary grew 41 percent while the rest of Kentucky barely saw an increase at all. That’s a government insider for you,” a narrator in the ad says.

In response to a request from Pure Politics for factual backup Kentucky Opportunity Coalition’s senior advisor Scott Jennings said the group looked at Tackett’s starting salary from 2007 through 2011, which happened to be his highest salary. A breakdown of the salary range from 2007 to 2013 from the coalition is below.

The campaign for Tackett, also offered their own breakdown of his earnings, which shows a starting salary of $18,072 and ending salary of $21,457 in December 2014.

Tackett’s campaign defended the 2011 spike in pay as having additional dollars because of two stipends for mandatory continuing education as a magistrate in the same fiscal year.

The campaign also provided a copy of Tackett’s earnings as a magistrate without the stipend provided to the campaign by the Scott County Treasurer’s Office from 2007 to 2011, the year’s the coalition are targeting in their ads.

From 2011 to 2014 Tackett’s salary decreased nearly $6,000.

View the ad running in the Lexington market below.

After a day of fighting over the content in the ads, television and radio stations have the spot on the air, though they are requiring the Kentucky Opportunity Coalition to revise the source at the bottom portion of the advertisements to clarify that the year range is 2007 through 2011 and not Tackett’s full time in office which stretches to 2014 and ended on a salary decrease.

At one point the radio ad may have been removed from the air according to an email sent to Tackett’s campaign by Clear Channel, but a representative for the station who could not be quoted told Pure Politics Thursday that the spot was still running.

Tackett’s campaign said that as a magistrate, his yearly salary was based upon the Consume Price Index, or CPI.

Jennings defended the ads in a statement sent to Pure Politics as “just a depiction of the data provided to us by the Scott County Treasurer’s Office and the federal government,” Jennings said he “appreciated” Tackett bringing more attention to his increase in salary.

“The fact is his salary went up a whopping 41% between 2007 and 2011,” Jennings said. “He should be thankful for what we didn’t have time to say – that government insider Chuck Tackett, while taking the big salary increase, also took a massive retirement benefit increase!

“His retirement benefits more than doubled from 2007 to 2013, and that’s during a period in which the average worker was taking a beating on wages and their 401k’s,” Jennings continued. “It’s a shame that government insiders think they can get away with taking more and more taxpayer money while average workers are suffering, and we are happy to shine a light on this sort of behavior when we get the chance.”

Tackett said the attacks are proven false and he went on the offensive over the group’s involvement in his campaign.

“Voters need to understand that my opponent’s Washington-based attack ads are not only totally false, these super PACS are funded by big corporations and Wall Street investment firms that couldn’t find Owen, Scott or Fayette counties on a map,” he said in a statement. “They don’t care about us, our families or our communities. If my opponent is anything but a partisan rubberstamp, he will apologize to the voters of the 62nd District for waging a campaign of distortion and lies.”

On Tuesday, Kentuckians in four special elections will cast their ballots to fill four vacancies in the state House, but when they do they could also be setting up a change in the majority of the lower chamber as Democrats cling to a 50-46 majority.

About Nick Storm

Nick Storm is the Anchor and Managing Editor of Pure Politics, the only nightly program dedicated to Kentucky politics. Nick covers all of the political heavyweights and his investigative work brings to light issues that might otherwise go unnoticed, like the connection between the high profile Steubenville, Ohio rape and a Kentucky hacker whose push for further investigation could put him in federal prison. Nick is also working on a feature length bio documentary Outlaw Poet: A documentary on Ron Whitehead. Follow Nick on Twitter @NickStorm_cn2. Nick can be reached at 502-792-1107 or nicholas.storm@twcnews.com.

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