More educators and women run for office

WKU history professor Dr. Patricia Minter lectures her American Legal History After 1865 class in Cherry Hall Friday, Feb. 2. Minter is running as a democrat to represent Kentucky’s 20th state house district.

When Donielle Lovell was a child, she never saw herself as a future politician. The New York native grew up watching family members participate in public office, but she saw her sense of service taking her in a different direction.

“It wasn’t just my dad or my grandfather [in politics]; my aunt was a public official; my uncle, two of my cousins have both been public officials, but for some reason I never transferred that to myself,” Lovell said.

However, Lovell, an associate professor of sociology at WKU’s Elizabethtown Campus, is now stepping into the political arena and launching her first campaign to win District 18’s seat in Kentucky’s House of Representatives.

As a woman and an educator, Lovell will not be alone in her campaign.

A record number of women, nearly 100, are running for Kentucky’s General Assembly, according to a release from kentucky.gov. An increased number of educators have also filed to run, according to the release.

The decision to run comes during a time when some feel women’s rights, such as access to abortion, have become threatened and funding for education continues to decrease. Kentucky currently has one abortion clinic open, and Gov. Matt Bevin has proposed 6.25 percent budget cuts for all state agencies.

Lovell said the increase in educators, which includes three WKU faculty, campaigning for office shows how educators feel about the decisions the state has made about the education system.

“I think that says something in general about how educators are feeling about the direction the state and the hits that we’ve taken, that it’s just really unfair,” she said.

Lovell, the Democratic candidate running against incumbent Republican Rep. Tim Moore, said education was one of the reasons she decided to campaign. She said she was bothered by the comments she heard about the education system.

“At the state level within the last year, there have been so many inflammatory comments made about our teachers, our education, whether it’s K-12, whether it’s higher education, you know, that really, really disturbed me,” Lovell said.

Lovell said education prompted her to consider running for office, but her platform also includes increasing workforce participation and finding solutions for drug addiction. She said District 18, which includes Grayson County and part of Hardin County, has a “pretty serious” workforce participation crisis that hasn’t been helped by current policies. She said she has also seen the toll addiction takes on families and law enforcement.

Lovell said she doesn’t have experience as a politician but her work as a sociologist focuses on community development and leadership, and she’s worked on projects that required her to organize the community. She said she’s spent time focusing on Kentucky’s policies and how to create public policy that serves the people. She said she understands making a decision involves thinking about the future, not just the present.

Patti Minter, a history professor, is another WKU educator and woman running for office. Minter is running in District 20, which includes part of Warren County. She is one of five running to be the democratic candidate. She will campaigning for the seat left open by current Democrat Rep. Jody Richards’ retirement, and the main part of her platform will be education.

“Education is the lifeblood of the state,” Minter said.

Minter said she plans to focus on funding for the education system as well as the pension system. Bevin’s proposed budget cuts are part of an attempt to help the state’s underfunded pension system.

“A pension is a promise,” Minter said. “Kentucky has made promises to its state employees from teachers to firefighters to police to city officials, and the promises must be kept, and they must be funded, not just for our current retirees and our current workers but also for our future workers so that we can continue to attract the best teachers we can have to lift the Commonwealth up and take it forward.”

Minter said her platform also includes job growth.

Minter served as WKU’s faculty regent for seven years and said this experience taught her how to “work across the aisle.” She has also worked with the Fairness Movement in Bowling Green since 1999.

“Fighting for one’s constituents is what every representative should do,” she said. “My work with the Bowling Green Fairness Movement and working with the inaugural Pride Festival shows a long-term commitment to equal rights and human rights and the rights that should belong to us all, but it also shows my commitment to working for the people in this community.”

Minter said those who may disagree with her work with the Fairness Movement can view it as a testament to her persistence and dedication. She said she plans to campaign just as hard for everyone in the district.

“Everybody doesn’t have to agree on everything, but I have the commitment to fight for people who need someone to bring their voice, whether it’s to city hall or to Frankfort,” Minter said.

Minter said she feels that she has to step up to fight for the people in her district and ensure they are heard in Frankfort. She said many people, primarily those in the middle and working classes, have suffered from state cuts, and Bevin’s current proposed cuts will only continue to harm them.

“I want to make sure that we lift up every person in Kentucky,” Minter said.

Like Lovell, Minter said she didn’t grow up seeing herself as a future politician, but she has always had an interest in civil rights. She said she would not have filed to run for office if Richards had run again, but she felt a responsibility to run.

“At this moment, this is what I need to do,” Minter said. “I stand with my fellow educators; I stand with other female candidates in the ‘year of the woman,’ but most of all I stand with all of the people in District 20 who have been represented very well, and I’m ready to fight for them; I’m ready to continue the tradition of excellent representation to Frankfort that Rep. Richards brought for 42 years in the 20th District, and I’m ready to fight for education, for pension promises to be kept and for jobs.”

While Kentucky’s pension crisis is part of Minter’s platform, it is the central point of Brian Strow’s platform. Strow, an economics professor, is running against Rep. Michael Meredith for the Republican nomination. He hopes to represent District 19, which includes Edmonson County and part of Warren County.

“I’m an economist, and our state finances are some of the worst in the nation, so I think I have something to add in that area,” he said.

Strow said he also plans to look at tax reform and ways to fill the hole in the pension system. He said as an educator, he also wants to fight for funding for the education system.

Strow said despite his knowledge about the pension system, his primary reason for running for office is the behavior of Meredith, the district’s current representative. Strow said information came out last year that alleged Meredith had been involved in a secret sexual harassment lawsuit settlement. Messages also surfaced showing inappropriate communication between him and a woman who was not his wife.

“It was after it became apparent that he has an inappropriate pattern of behavior that I decided to run for office,” Strow said.

The Legislative Ethics Commission is investigating Meredith, and both the governor and members of Meredith’s own party have called on Meredith to resign, Strow said.

“How he feels he can continue to be an effective leader for his constituents is beyond me,” Strow said.

Strow said he does have experience serving in politics and serving in public office. He served two terms as a city commissioner, elected in 2004 and 2006. His run in 2004 was also prompted by the behavior of others. He said city officials at the time were covering up an embezzlement scandal. He campaigned in part to make the government more transparent.

Strow said a campaign involves engaging in “voter outreach” by sending out mail, attending community events and speaking to groups. He said his campaign is still in its infancy, and he is working on setting up a website for his campaign.

All three candidates have created separate emails for handling their campaigns. Lovell said employees are not allowed to use WKU resources for their campaigns. When the College Heights Herald reached out to Lovell through her WKU email to request an interview, she replied using a Gmail account. Lovell said she uses her personal gmail account to separate herself as a private citizen running for office from her position at WKU.

“I feel like it’s really important that I’m cognizant of those lines,” Lovell said.

The primary elections, where both Stow and Minter will be listed on the ballots, will be held Tuesday, May 22. The general elections, where Lovell will be listed on the ballot, will be Tuesday, Nov. 6.

News reporter Emma Collins can be reached at 270-745-6011 and [email protected] Follow Emma on Twitter at @_mccain_emma_.