WKU hosts Republican Gubernatorial Debate

Lashana Harney

Education, health care, jobs and taxes ruled the discussion during Tuesday’s Republican gubernatorial debate.

Three out of the four Republican candidates for governor attended the debate in the Downing Student Union auditorium at 7 p.m. Tuesday. Candidates Matt Bevin, James Comer and Hal Heiner were in attendance and candidate Will Scott could not attend the debate.

The debate was co-sponsored by the Americans for Prosperity and the National Review and the WKU Political Science Department.

Hal Heiner described himself as an unlikely candidate, one with a civil engineering background and a multitude of jobs.

“If you could name a job, I probably had it,” Heiner said. “To dishwasher to janitor to surveyor to cutting lawns as I went through college.”

Matt Bevin described himself as a husband, father of nine children, a military veteran and a small business owner.

“I’m doing this because I love Kentucky,” Bevin said. “…I look forward to the day when everyone asks ‘Why is everyone moving to Kentucky?’ instead of the other way around.”

James Comer received a bachelor’s degree in agriculture from WKU in 1993 and currently serves as the Agriculture Commissioner.

“I’m running for governor because I want to do the same thing across the board with the transportation cabinet and the education cabinet,” Comer said. “We can operate government more efficiently.”

Eliana Johnson, Washington Editor for the National Review and panelist, asked the first question of the night: “Would you repeal the Medicaid expansion that took place under Obamacare and if so, how would you limit eligibility in a way that serves both the needy and the taxpayer?”

Bevin and Comer said they would dismantle Kynect, which helps facilitate the purchase of health insurance in Kentucky.

In addition to dismantling Kynect, Comer said he would change the Medicaid eligibility requirements. He said wants to get people off of Medicaid and onto private healthcare by improving Kentucky’s business climate.

All candidates agreed Kentucky needs to become a right-to-work state, meaning individuals would not need to belong to a union to work.

Comer said becoming a right-to-work state would grow Kentucky’s economy.

“We have to create jobs in the state and that’s not going to happen until we become a right to work state,” Comer said.

Johnson asked a question near the end of the debate regarding the candidates’ opinion on using state funds to help students attend community college.

Bevin said it’s imperative a program is implemented to aid students, but noted that college may not be for everyone.

“The idea that every single person needs to go to college is nonsense,” Bevin said.

Joel Turner, assistant professor in the Department of Political Science and panelist, asked “What would you do as governor to help address the initial out of pocket costs of attending college.”

Comer said he wants to focus on creating jobs for graduating students by improving Kentucky’s business climate.

Heiner said he wants to make funds available for students choosing to pursue vocational training or certification programs. He said often students are left out from continuing education because of the lack of funding.

Bevin was the only candidate to mention the Common Core standards, a set of academic standards.

“I’ve made very clear that I will lead the cause of repealing Common Core in the state of Kentucky,” Bevin said.

Grayson county junior and College Youth In Government Vice-president Chase Coffey said debates such as these are important to get involved in.

“It’s something that is going to impact us at all levels, going into the job market after we graduate, as well as, tuition while we’re here,” Coffey said.