Incumbents and new candidates vying for state and county positions introduced themselves and their platforms during the first event of the political season.
The McCracken County Farm Bureau hosted a "Measure the Candidates" forum on Tuesday night at the St. John's Knights of Columbus Hall. Moderator Ricky Greenwell asked the candidates to introduce themselves and address the idea of metro-government or the combining of the city and county. Overwhelmingly the speakers were against the concept because residents had voted the measure down previously.
The three candidates for the District 2 Senate seat, Republican David Hoffman, administrator at the Innovative Ophthalmology Clinic, Republican Danny Carroll, president and CEO of Easter Seals West Kentucky, and Democrat Jeff Parker, McCracken County school board chairman and local business owner, attended.
All three men spoke about embracing a challenge and keeping the focus on the people of western Kentucky. Parker and Hoffman emphasized their work as local small business owners and the perspective that would provide them. Carroll spoke about his career of lifelong service, first as a Paducah police officer and then leading many positive developments with the Easter Seals organization.
Incumbent Van Newberry will face Democrat Jeff Hines when he files for the judge-executive position on the Independent ticket. Newberry pointed to job creation, the emphasis on pay increases for the sheriff's department staff, and keeping or lowering taxes each year. His opponent promised a focus on stretching each tax dollars and on building unity between commissioners and with other departments.
For McCracken County commissioner District 1, Ronnie Freeman, the Democratic incumbent, pointed to his hard work for 16 years and an active approach to make positive changes without raising tax dollars.
Two of Freeman's challengers - Republican Larry Wilson, a barber, business owner and employee of McCracken County Schools, and Republican J.W. "Bill" Bartleman, chief of staff at Mid-Continent University - spoke. Wilson said he plans to emphasize job growth, higher education development and openness with Fiscal Court documents. Bartleman emphasized his experience as a community watchdog while working as a newspaper reporter and the need for increased accountability, transparency and unity among elected officials.
Current District 2 McCracken County Democratic commissioner Jerry Beyer pointed to the development of the new Murray State regional campus, new industries moving into the area and the low tax rate while he has served on the court. His Democratic challenger Randy Otey, retired county clerk, spoke about the importance of job creation in the area.
In McCracken County Commission District 3, Democratic candidate Scott Wathen, currently in his first term as District 3 constable, said he will focus on infrastructure upgrades, education and public safety. His Democratic opponent John "Erick" Harris, a supervisor for Arkema Inc. in Calvert City, promised an open minded, common-sense approach.
For county clerk, two current long-time employees of the clerk's office, Julie Griggs and Tracy Jones, both Democrats, spoke about their ideas to streamline the in-person and on the phone wait times. Fellow Democratic candidate Zana Renfro, currently the District 3 county commissioner, spoke about her 20 years of experience in city and county government and her passion to increase the level of efficiency in the clerk's office.
Republican candidate Becky Bowers, a write-in candidate in the 2010 county clerk election, emphasized her plan to reduce wait times and install a 24/7 registration phone system.
Nancy Bock, current Democratic property valuation administrator, emphasized the success of her 21-year tenure in the position and the passion she feels for the office. Republic opponent Bill Dunn, a local Realtor, said he wants to bring a new prospective to innovate and reshape the office.
Incumbent Sheriff Jon Hayden; incumbent Democratic jailer Bill Adams, who will face Republican Mark Kidd; Samuel Clymer, the Democratic county attorney candidate and current family court prosecutor; Jeremy Ian Smith, candidate for district judge who owns his own law practice; and District 1 constable candidate Dennis Gibson, retired TVA and McCracken County police officer who will face Democratic incumbent Mark Hayden, also spoke.
Contact Kathleen Fox, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8651 or follow @kathleendfox on Twitter.
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