Some tough talk as the Kentucky gubernatorial candidates head into the home stretch. Monday night the three men running for Kentucky governor met in Lexington for the final debate of Campaign 2011.
Spirits were high as the candidates arrived. Supporters for both Governor Steve Beshear and Senate President David Williams surrounded the entrance to the debate site, and independent candidate Gatewood Galbraith made his way inside as well. From the start of the debate Williams and Beshear struck hard at each other.
"You haven't created any jobs other than the jobs for Jerry Abramson's friends that you brought over from Louisville," Williams said, referring to Beshear's running mate, "It's the private sector that creates the jobs, sir, and we have to take down the barriers, the tax structure, the unemployment insurance -- the things that you either are too disingenuous to admit or don't understand, and it's scary either way."
"Do away with all of your income taxes, personal income tax, corporate income tax," Beshear said, mocking the Williams plan, "but he won't tell you how he's going to replace that money because that's 43% of the general fund. That's the money that we spend on supporting education and senior citizens and other folks."
As Beshear and Williams fired away, Galbraith noted the bitterness between the two, "I think that the audience can see just how far away these two sides -- the partisanship between the democrats and the republicans -- are," Galbraith said, "They're never going to fix the tax code, folks, as long as this kind of partisanship stands in the way."
The debate covered issues from education reform to crime, but jobs and the economy dominated an event marked by pointed exchanges.
"The governor wants to pick and choose and get personal about these sort of things," Williams said, "You know, that's the mean-spirited side of the nice Steve Beshear."
"Kentucky's starting to come out of this recession," Beshear said defending his record, "and I think because of what we've done, it's going to come out of it a lot faster and a lot better off than most other states."
Despite debates like this one, election officials sense little interest in the race, with some predicting as low as 25 percent voter turnout. Kentucky's Secretary of State has based that 25 percent voter turnout estimate on early voting through absentee ballots. Early voting is down 75 percent from this point in the 2007 election when Beshear was first elected.