Watkins hit by Washington GOP group claiming his legislation will lead to meth epidemic

10/24/2014 04:19 PM

The race for 3rd District state House has become contentious with 11 days to go as a Washington D.C. based Republican group is targeting Democratic freshman Rep. Gerald Watkins of Paducah over a piece of legislation aimed at reducing the prison population in the state.

In the mailer sent out by the Republican State Leadership Committee , a national GOP group focused on electing Republicans in down ballot state races around the country, says Watkins “will turn our meth problem into an epidemic.

Here is the ad:

The citation the group used is based on legislation Watkins introduced in the 2014 session, House Bill 49 , which no action was take on.

The legislation, if passed and signed into law, was intended to reduce the prison population in the state by reducing penalties on certain drugs including methamphetamine precursors — or the combination of household chemicals needed to manufacture meth. People caught with the products would also be put into mandatory treatment programs.

In a phone interview with Pure Politics Friday, Watkins said the idea was to focus on treatment for addicts for those within the “personal possession limits.” He said drug dealers would still go to jail.

Wakins said he “couldn’t believe” anyone would distort the legislation and claim that it could lead to an epidemic.

Challenging Watkins in the race is Republican Randy Bridges, who said while he does not agree with the way the message was delivered he does believe there could be serious effects from the legislation.

“I’m not crazy about the graphics, but I do feel my opponent is going lax on drug issues,” Bridges told Pure Politics in a phone interview.

Bridges said the Washington based GOP group, which cannot coordinate messaging with the candidate, was free to make the claim though he was unsure of the “epidemic” term being used.

House Judiciary Chair Rep. John Tilly, D-Hopkinsville, defended Watkins attempt in an editorial penned for the Paducah Sun.

I am compelled to respond to the recent attacks on State Rep. Gerald Watkins, a valuable member of the House Judiciary Committee. I consider Gerald a personal friend, an honorable man, and a devoted public servant.

For the decade ending in 2010, Kentucky’s prison population was the fastest growing in the nation, growing at a rate almost quadruple the national average, resulting in soaring corrections costs. Over that same time, Kentucky’s drug problems got worse, not better. Rep. Watkins understands that drug treatment is the only way addicts can escape the revolving door of prison. He knows that treatment is our best option to improve public safety, reduce reoffending, and provide those suffering from addiction with an opportunity to transform themselves from tax burdens to taxpayers.

Rep. Watkins understands that we have to be smart on crime, and remain tough on criminals. That means we have to use proven, evidence-based policies that provide treatment for nonviolent drug offenders while still holding drug traffickers accountable. A felony drug possession conviction can be an economic death sentence, often contributing to a return to crime—a bad outcome for our communities. That is why Rep. Watkins advocates so strongly for treatment for nonviolent drug offenders over incarceration.


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