LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - Two candidates for lieutenant governor squared off Tuesday night, tackling a variety of issues, including education, healthcare and their opinions about Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis.
The hour-long debate at Midway University pitted Republican Jenean Hampton against Democrat Sannie Overly.
The candidates largely touted the platforms of their running mates, however, there were a few times when they took the opportunity to take shots at each other's campaigns.
Hampton is campaigning with Republican Matt Bevin; Overly is on Democrat Jack Conway's ticket. Independent candidate Heather Curtis, running mate of Drew Curtis, did not meet criteria to participate in the debate, which was sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Kentucky, WKYT and WLKY.
The moderators, WKYT's anchor and political editor Bill Bryant and WLKY anchor Vicki Dortch, kicked off the debate by asking the candidates about the most pressing issue in Kentucky. Hampton said it was the state's $34 billion pension shortfall, which has "potential to derail everything else we do in Kentucky." She said Bevin, a Louisville businessman, has a company that manages pensions in other state, and he would be capable of addressing that shortfall.
Overly pointed out that she and Conway are "running as a team and we will govern as a team" so they will solve these problems together. She said they were focused on providing the state with more -- and better -- good paying jobs.
The candidates were then asked their views on Kentucky's Common Core, how to help college students who leave school saddled with massive amounts of debt and ideas for closing the achievement gap that plagues so many of Kentucky's schools.
Both candidates acknowledged the importance of obtaining a high quality education. But they did not agree on the path to get there. Overly said she and Conway are in favor of Common Core because "we have to ensure that Kentucky students are competitive with other students across the country."
She said Common Core has measurable success and, during her rebuttal, said that Bevin has "enriched himself" by companies that use common core software.
Hampton, who was raised in the inner-city, noted that education was key to her escape.
"There's no question about that," she said. "I understand the need for education. I do not support common core; it dumbs down the curriculum and our students are better than that."
Hampton went on to say that Bevin would find something that would be better and bring that back here. Their campaign is concerned about providing more control on the local level and Common Core, which uses federal standards, works "from the top down."
Both candidates agreed that Kentucky needs to improve the health of its residents, from eating well and exercising. And discussed a state-wide smoking ban. But they discussed at length what they would do with Kentucky’s Medicaid Expansion.
Overly pointed out that Kentucky has largely been considered the standard for states that opted to accept the federal government's offer to expand Medicaid.
"Kentucky has been heralded as the number one state in implementing the program,' she said. "We are committed to continue the Kynect program."
Hampton, however, attacked that issue. She said Kentucky's program was merely a "portal" and it would need to be moved over to the federal government to reduced costs the state would eventually incur. The federal government agreed to pick up the full cost of the program for the first few years. The state will have to pay 5 percent in 2017, gradually rising to 10 percent in 2020. Hampton asked where Conway's team would get the money to cover that.
"Kynect is a redundant system and we simply don't have the funds to continue it. It's like Travelocity for healthcare," she said.
Overly told the moderators it would cost an estimated $23 million to make the change.
"I would ask ... where would we come up with that?" she said.
The moderators asked about gun control, referencing Joseph Ponder, a state police trooper who was killed earlier this month during a traffic stop.
Overly said more needs to be done to make sure law enforcement officers have the training and resources they need to do their jobs. She said Conway had established relationships with police departments and he can be an advocate for them. Hampton said she was opposed to taking guns away from people. She said there needs to be more education. She also said there needs to be more communication between police and the communities they serve.
The candidates were asked how, if they had been governor, they would have handled the situation with Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, who stopped issuing marriage licenses after a June ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court made same-sex marriage legal across the country. Davis, a Christian, has said it would violate her conscience if she is forced to issue licenses to same-sex couples.
Overly said "passions are running very high" but "no one is above the law."
“We are a nation of laws, she said. "No one is above the law. And no one can ignore the order of a federal judge.”
She said that they would not be in favor of a special session that would cost taxpayers thousands of dollars, but they would be in favor of a narrowly defined resolution that could address the matter for both parties.
Hampton said there's questions about whether the US Supreme court "is the final arbiter" on the law.
“This is an issue of religious freedom. These questions need to be asked, first of all, is whether the Supreme Court — one of three co-equal branches of government is the final arbiter of anything because if that was true I would still be a slave,” she said.
The real fireworks erupted when discussing sexual harassment, an issue in many workplaces and even at the state Capitol.
Hampton: “First of all when Jack Conway was asked a similar question last week he made a joke and said something about his female dog which I found just a little trifling.”
Overly: “What I found reprehensible about that discussion last week was Matt Bevin’s false attacks on me. That’s why even Kentucky Republicans call Matt Bevin a pathological liar.”
On Oct. 25, the gubernatorial candidates will debate at Eastern Kentucky University in a statewide televised event sponsored by the three partners.