Kentucky Tonight - Republican Candidates for U.S. Senate

by John Gregory | 04/22/14 2:51 PM

The Republicans challenging incumbent Mitch McConnell for his U.S. Senate seat appeared on Monday's edition of Kentucky Tonight. The program featured Matt Bevin, Brad Copas, and Shawna Sterling discussing their backgrounds and explaining the positions on a number of issues.

Although the senior senator did not appear on the program, his name was invoked multiple times by the other candidates who criticized McConnell on topics ranging from bank bailouts to coal mining jobs to Obamacare funding.

Here's a recap of what the challengers had to say about themselves and several key issues facing Kentucky and the nation.

Matt Bevin grew up the second of six children in rural Shelburne, N.H. He says he shared a bedroom with his three brothers in the family's small, unheated farmhouse. The highlight of his childhood was his involvement in 4-H and the annual county fair. With no television at home, Bevin says he read many books, especially biographies and autobiographies. He says he was moved by the stories of the founding fathers, and by reading "The Federalist Papers."

Bevin says strong Christian values were another important part of his upbringing. He claims those values shaped him, and continue to define his worldview and how he makes important decisions. He also says growing up on a farm helped give him a strong work ethic, and taught him the value of an honest day's pay for an honest day of work.

Bevin attended Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Va., and then entered the Army, where he served as an officer. He left the military about 20 years ago and went into business. He says he now owns all, or parts of, 10 companies, ranging from metal stamping, to medical device production, to investment management services. He is married with five biological and four adopted children.

Brad Copas is from Hickory Ridge in Monroe County, where family has lived in the Cumberland River valley for more than 150 years. He says he started following politics and world events as a seven-year old during the Iranian Hostage Crisis. Even at that young age, Copas claims he disapproved of President Jimmy Carter's handling of the crisis, and supported President Ronald Reagan's “willingness to stand up for America.” He says he was also influenced by growing up in what he calls a “staunchly Republican county,” with family members active in local party politics.

Copas joined the Army when he as 18 he says, on the day that Iraq invaded Kuwait. He's a combat veteran of the first Iraq War. After staying in the military for seven years, Copas left the service and attended Western Kentucky University and joined the Kentucky National Guard.

The 9/11 attacks occurred during his final semester at WKU. His guard unit was mobilized, and Copas says he returned to Iraq in 2005 as a platoon leader. After his duty in the Middle East, Copas was involved with several international programs for the National Guard, working in Ecuador, Argentina, and Africa.

His wife is a native of Guadalajara, Mexico, and they have two children.

Shawna Sterling hails from Bath County and says she has degrees in the humanities and religious studies, and has backgrounds in education sciences and school psychology. Although a life-long Republican, she campaigned for President Barak Obama because of his stance on health care, saying struggling families need access to good medical insurance. She says she fell out with the president over his calls for stronger gun controls.

Sterling calls herself a "strict Constitutionalist." She has an adopted daughter from Guatemala.

On the Issues
Immigration reform: Bevin says the country needs a healthy immigration process that addresses both low-skilled as well as high-skilled workers, but he staunchly opposes amnesty for any illegal immigrants. He also says that those in the country illegally should not receive any welfare benefits.

Copas says he doesn't believe illegal immigrants are taking jobs away from Americans, and says he has no problem with people legally coming to the United States. While he is against amnesty, he emphasizes fiscal policies that would strengthen the economies of Mexico and Central America as a way to stem the tide of illegal immigration.

Sterling says illegal immigrants need to follow the rules to be legal citizens, but that politicians should be more focused on helping Americans first.

Poverty and Health: Copas says he supports agricultural programs (including the reintroduction of hemp) that would help boost the incomes of rural Kentucky families. He wants more career training that would focus on preparing students to work in high-tech industries. Copas also says that as senator, he would be aggressive in helping to lure new business to the commonwealth.

Sterling says the government should do more to alleviate poverty, and to address obesity. She also opposes genetically modified foods.

Health Care: Saying Obamacare is "the flaw of the land," Bevin supports an entire repeal of the Affordable Care Act. He says there are more effective ways to give people greater access to health care coverage at a better price, including allowing individuals to buy insurance policies across state lines or pay for them with pre-tax dollars.

Sterling says families must have access to good health care even if the current legislation needs to be fixed.

Education: Bevin says the new Common Core Curricula standards are a "disaster," and an "extraordinary invasion of the Fourth Amendment privacy rights of individuals" that “will turn children into spies on their parents.” He believes Kentucky parents should have a choice in where they send their children to school and advocates for charter schools.

Gun Ownership: While he personally owns no guns, Copas says he is against any limitations on gun ownership or sales of high-capacity magazines of bullets.

Sterling says she fully supports the Constitutional right to own guns, and claims her positions would earn her an A rating from the National Rifle Association. She says parents should be able to protect their children as well as the president's children are protected.

Bevin says he unequivocally supports the Second Amendment - he is a concealed-carry gun owner, and recently gave his wife an assault rifle for her birthday. He contends none of the gun control legislation proposed in the past year would have prevented the mass shootings that have occurred.

Watch the full Kentucky Tonight program.