GOP Treasurer Candidates Debate

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) - A Republican candidate for treasurer wants
to do more than sign checks for the state, she wants to write off
the office itself.
Her stance dominated a debate among three other Republican
candidates for the office Thursday night.
Melinda Wheeler, former head of the Kentucky court system's
administrative arm, wants to get elected so she can work to abolish
the office - a concept that didn't sit well with her opponents.
"I can make up things that I think sound good to the voters,"
Wheeler said during the debate broadcast live on Kentucky
Educational Television. "But the bottom line is there's nothing
that the treasurer's office does that benefits the commonwealth
anymore."
Four candidates, including Wheeler, are seeking the GOP
nomination in the May 22 primary. The others are state Reps. Lonnie
Napier of Lancaster, Brandon Smith of Hazard and Ken Upchurch of
Monticello.
Currently, the treasurer's office has a budget of just more than
$3 million and about 30 employees, Wheeler said. The treasurer sits
on different panels, while the office's primary responsibilities
are to write checks and handle unclaimed properties - duties other
state agencies could easily manage, Wheeler claimed.
"I don't really think that there needs to be a treasurer's
office," Wheeler said.
But her opponents disagreed.
Rather, the office could work to promote financial literacy
among Kentucky residents and help people learn to manage their
money, Napier, Smith and Upchurch said.
And the treasurer's office serves as a financial check in the
system, Napier said. As an elected official, the state treasurer is
in the best position to get in front of the financial literacy
issue and help people make investments, Napier said.
"I'm going to crisscross this state and we're going to have
financial education seminars," Napier said.
Smith said the office could also work to help women and military
families handle financial matters. It could also help youngsters
learn how to manage a checking account, he said.
"The state treasurer is the financial figurehead of the
state," Smith said. "The state treasurer is a very powerful
position out there and it needs to be utilized."
Upchurch said the treasurer also can serve as a safeguard of the
state's coffers.
Still, Wheeler said suggestions for expanding the duties of the
office were aimed at making the position sound more important than
it really is.
"Listen to Republicans talk about big government, that's what
they're doing...," Wheeler said. "We don't need the office of
treasurer, and I'm a fiscal conservative and I'm looking out for
your money."
Smith said he thought Wheeler's stance on abolishing the office
was unusual.
Napier also questioned Wheeler on the matter.
"If you think the office is not worth having, why are you
running?" Wheeler asked. "Why don't you just drop out of the
race."
Wheeler replied that the best way to change the office was to do
it from the inside.
The four candidates seeking the Democratic nomination are
Patrick Dunmire of Frankfort, L.J. "Todd" Hollenbach of
Louisville, former state Rep. Mike Weaver of Elizabethtown and
former district judge Jack Wood of Valley Station.
Incumbent state Treasurer Jonathan Miller is prevented by term
limits from seeking re-election and is a candidate in the
Democratic gubernatorial primary.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

AP-NY-05-03-07 2240EDT


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