Kentucky Tonight - Democratic Candidates for U.S. Senate

by John Gregory | 04/29/14 5:28 PM

Two candidates running in the Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate from Kentucky appeared on Monday's edition of Kentucky Tonight. Gregory Brent Leichty and Tom Recktenwald answered a range of questions from host Bill Goodman and from viewers. Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, another Democrat in the race, declined to participate.

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

Greg Leichty is a professor of communication at the University of Louisville, where he has worked since 1991. A native of Louisville, Leichty has two degrees in communication from the University of Kentucky. He calls himself a "citizen candidate."

Tom Recktenwald grew up in the Portland neighborhood of west Louisville, where his first jobs were mowing lawns and delivering newspapers. He served in the Navy during the Vietnam War, and retired from the former Naval Ordnance Station in Louisville.

Jobs and the Economy: Recktenwald says he would stimulate job growth by giving employers a one-year moratorium from having to pay Social Security taxes on each new full- and part-time employee they hire. He would fund the incentive by requiring wealthy individuals to pay into the Social Security system. Reckentwald also supports increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour over three years. Under his plan, future increases to the minimum wage would be indexed to inflation.

Leichty also agrees on hiking the minimum wage, but he would index future raises to national productivity rather than inflation.

Campaign Financing: Citing the exorbitant cost of political campaigns, Leichty blames much of the gridlock and polarization in Washington on the need for politicians to solicit donations from outside their home states. Those fundraising duties create elected officials that Leichty describes as "highly paid telemarketers." He believes campaigns should be made less costly, and focus on re-enfranchising the political center of the electorate. Leichty says leaders should be willing to negotiate on behalf of their constituents, and that politics should be competitive but not warfare.

Recktenwald says he will not accept any campaign contributions and wants to be known as "the Senator who can't be bought."

Education: To improve access to higher education, Recktenwald proposes offering free online degree programs to the poor. Tuition for all other students would be on a sliding scale based on their abilities to pay.

Leichty says the current approach to student loans needs to be overhauled so that the government doesn't profit from those seeking a college degree. He also wants to strengthen education programs in science, technology, engineering, and math.

Health care: Leichty believes Obamacare is good in that it offers people with pre-existing conditions the ability to get health insurance. He suggests letting states with smaller populations band together so they can combine their risk pools and expand their coverage networks. He also supports reducing medical malpractice litigation costs by allowing for a mediation process to resolve disputes.

Recktenwald wants to move Americans to the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program, which he says would give all citizens good, affordable coverage.

Both candidates believe that health care services for veterans and the mentally ill need to be improved. Recktenwald says it's a travesty to bring soldiers home, when many of them have post-traumatic stress disorder, and then forget about them.

Energy Policy: Recktenwald supports exploration of renewable sources of energy. Leichty believes issues surrounding the environment and global warming have gotten too little attention in Washington. He proposes efforts to increase energy efficiency in existing buildings and homes.

Taxes: Leichty advocates for a tax simplification strategy that would eliminate many existing deductions and loopholes while lowering tax rates for individuals and businesses. Recktenwald says a flat tax would be a workable solution. He believes the current system puts too much burden on the poor and middle class.

Watch the full Kentucky Tonight program.

Next Monday at 8 p.m., candidates in the Democratic primaries for the 5th and 6th Congressional districts will appear.