Before they can square off against the Democratic candidate in the general election for Kentucky governor, Republicans will have to convince their party that they are the right candidate for the job.
During this political cycle, Republicans will be making the pitch that they are the best candidate for the job at WKU.
Matt Bevin, James Comer, Hal Heiner and Will T. Scott will square off in a debate taking place at Downing Student Union on April 28.
Scott Lasley, associate professor of political science and the Warren County chair for the Republican Party, said in an email interview that WKU secured the Republican primary debate for the governorship based on Bowling Green’s increasing importance in politics.
“(Bowling Green) is quickly becoming the political capital of the Commonwealth especially in Republican politics,” he said.
The conservative Americans for Prosperity group reached out to WKU’s Political Science department to set up the event.
According to Lasley, this is the first time he can recall WKU hosting a debate of this political importance.
Senior Dalton Workman, the public relations chair for WKU’s College Republicans, said he believes the debate offers an opportunity for WKU students to get involved in politics.
“Any point that a young person can be involved in the political process, I think, is good,” Workman said.
When the debate occurs in April, Lasley said he predicts that the discussion between the Republican candidates “will be spirited.”
“This is a great opportunity for Republicans to retake the governorship and exercise some much needed leadership to address the problems facing the state,” Lasley said. “It is historically significant that the Republicans are having [a] meaningful primary which has a very good chance of producing the next governor while the Democrats have essentially an uncontested primary.”
For WKU students that are thinking about attending the debate, Lasley said that it is important that they pay attention to Kentucky politics.
“As students at a state university and many soon to be graduates who will be looking to stay in the state, who leads the states matters,” Lasley said. “A governor that is able to create a climate that creates jobs, promotes education and grows the economy will have a positive impact on the future of WKU students.”
The WKU College Republicans will take on various volunteer positions to help put on the debate event, Workman said.
In the past, Workman said southcentral Kentucky has often been “left out” of Kentucky politics, and so, he said, this is why it is important that WKU take on an event like this.
“Over the last couple years, we have a lot more candidates coming here to visit Bowling Green, and I think the debate highlights the importance of this area,” Workman said.
Workman attributed the increased prominence of Bowling Green to the work of Sens. Rand Paul and Mitch McConnell in the past few years.
Sophomore Studen Government Association Senator Hunter Peay, who supported Republican candidates in Kentucky in the past, said he is planning on attending the debate and he thinks other students should come as well.
“Even if someone is not a Republican, this may be a candidate they can vote for in the general election. It is good to become familiar with the candidates as soon as possible,” Peay said in an email interview.
During this upcoming election, Workman said he hopes WKU students will go out and get engaged in the political process, including attending the debate.
“Even if you don’t get involved in campaigns at least go vote and participate in the political process,” Workman said.