Democratic Primary for Governor

By John Gregory | 4/28/15 10:13 AM

Candidates running in the Democratic primary for Kentucky Governor and Lieutenant Governor appeared on Monday’s edition of Kentucky Tonight on KET. Here’s a summary of what gubernatorial contender Geoffrey M. “Geoff” Young and his running-mate Johnathan D. Masters said about what they see as key issues in the contest.

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A native of Massachusetts, Geoff Young has lived in Lexington for 33 years. He has degrees in economics and mechanical engineering, and he worked for more than a decade as assistant director of the Kentucky Energy Office on energy efficiency issues. In 2014 Young ran in the Democratic primary for state’s 6th district congressional seat.

Key Issues
Young says that Kentucky is one of the most politically corrupt states in the nation, so he would make cleaning up that corruption a top priority. He has sued the state Democratic Party because he claims Chairman Patrick Hughes violated party bylaws for endorsing fellow gubernatorial candidate Jack Conway before the primary election. Young says it is “unethical” and “illegal” for the party to favor one Democrat over another.

Other top issues for Young include energy and environmental policy. He says it’s “nonsense” to think the state can’t move away from coal to more sustainable sources of energy like solar and hydropower. Young says he also wants to change policies that govern pollution.

“The fundamental, ethical principle behind pollution regulation should be the polluter should pay the cost,” Young argues. “The polluter should not be allowed to dump the costs of their operation, whatever it is, onto the public without paying.”

Finally Young says he wants to fight racism in the commonwealth. He says the issue isn’t so much individual prejudice but institutional racism that comes from people and institutions in positions of authority.

Health Care
Young credits Gov. Steve Beshear for expanding Medicaid and establishing the state health exchange, Kynect. He says he would keep both and would work to make them better.

The Democrat also supports legalizing medical marijuana, which he says has been used as a medicinal herb for thousands of years.

Tax Reform
Young contends the only way the state can afford to provide more Kentuckians with health insurance and properly fund the public pension system is to update the tax system. He says he would lower taxes on low- and middle-income families, and increase taxes on the states richest citizens. Young points to how Minnesota’s Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton successfully raised the income tax on residents of that state who make more than $150,000 a year.

Young also says he would consider abolishing the state sales tax, which he argues is regressive and a burden to the poor. He says those revenues could be replaced through higher taxes on the wealthy.

Jonathan D. Masters
Young’s running-mate for lieutenant governor in the state’s Democratic primary is Johnathan D. Masters. He was raised on a farm in northern Kentucky and graduated from the University of Louisville. Masters says he’s held about 40 working-class jobs, and served as a campaign coordinator on Ralph Nader’s 2008 presidential bid. He also worked as a community organizer for the Working America initiative of the AFL-CIO.

Poverty and the Economy
Masters says poverty is one of the biggest challenges facing the commonwealth. Even as business exports and the state’s gross domestic product increase, Masters thinks more should be done to help low-income individuals and families in Kentucky. As an example of the state’s income inequality problem, Masters says that University of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino earns more than 350 Owsley Countians combined. (Owsley County has been noted for having the lowest median household income in the nation.)

To boost the state’s economy, Masters suggests several ideas: He wants to create a trash-to-electricity program. That’s based on a Swedish model where the nation’s waste is burned to generate electricity. Masters also suggests legalizing marijuana, which he contends would take Kentucky from being one of the poorest states in America to one of the richest.

Another part of Masters’ economic stimulus platform is for the state to get into the gasoline business. He points to the success of a city-owned gas station in Somerset, and says Kentucky should operate 10 such stations around the commonwealth. Masters contends that would generate revenue for the state and result in lower pump prices in communities that have little competition in the wholesale gas market.

Finally, Masters says he’s open to the idea of expanded gaming, but he says he wouldn’t necessarily push for it. “I think [people] have a right to gamble,” Masters says. “You have a right to throw your money away if you want to.”

Education
Masters says he agrees with idea of having Common Core standards, but admits he might want to “tinker” with some parts of the curriculum. He says the idea of having a common curriculum that raises academic standards for students is part of what makes us Americans. Masters dismisses the opposition to Common Core as “anti-Obama talk.”