WKU hosting gubernatorial debate next week

Trey Crumbie

WKU will serve as the battleground for three politicians vying to be Kentucky’s next governor.

The Republican Kentucky gubernatorial debate takes place Tuesday inside Downing Student Union auditorium at 7 p.m. Matt Bevin, James Comer and Hal Heiner will try to convince Republican voters to vote for them in the May 19 primaries. The fourth Republican candidate, Will T. Scott, will not be in attendance.  

Americans for Prosperity Kentucky, the National Review and the WKU political science department are hosting the event.

Scott Lasley, associate professor of political science and the Warren County chair for the Republican Party, said WKU was picked because of a combination of factors, including practicality and significance of the location.

“You can make the argument that Bowling Green is the political capitol of the Commonwealth,” he said. 

Bowling Green has several connections to both state and national politics. Sen. Rand Paul (R), who recently announced his candidacy for presidency, practiced ophthalmology and lived in Bowling Green. Jody Richards, a member of the Kentucky House of Representatives, lives in Bowling Green and was a former Speaker of the House for Kentucky.

Lasley said there are many topics that could be discussed during the debate, including coal, jobs and education. 

Bowling Green senior Zachary Imel, chairman of the WKU College Republicans, said he hopes education is discussed, as he believes Kentucky education needs revamping, especially at the high school level.

“I really do think it’s important that we provide the best education system in the country so that Kentucky can become a leader in the United States,” he said.

Saundra Ardrey, head of the political science department, said the debate will allow the campus community to make an informed political decision.

“This is another opportunity for students to understand where the candidates stand in the gubernatorial race on the Republican side,” she said. 

The candidates have a variety of political backgrounds. Comer currently serves as Kentucky’s Agriculture Commissioner. Bevin serves as president for the Bevin Brothers Manufacturing company and ran against Mitch McConnell for the U.S. senate last year during the primaries. Hal Heiner is a former councilman from Louisville and ran for mayor of the city in 2010.

Lasley said debates allow for the community to learn more about candidates, but that debates themselves may be overemphasized.

“Most of the problems that are faced in the state are not answered in one to two minute sound bites,” he said. 

Imel said it was “extremely important” for students to get involved in the political process. 

“Because if not, we’re just killing ourselves,” he said. “We have no say. It’s just other people making the decisions for us. And to me, that’s just not good for the youth of Kentucky and especially the youth of America.”

Doors open at 5:30 p.m. and admission is free. As of press time, Ardrey said more than 400 people had asked for tickets.