By Rachel Gilliam
The Winchester Sun
The Clark County Candidates Forum included candidates for national office for the first time during the 2012 event Thursday night.
Republican challenger for the Sixth District Congressional seat Andy Barr faced state auditor Adam Edelen, standing in for incumbent Ben Chandler. Candidates fielded questions submitted by the audience on state and national issues, including the economy, health care and the coal industry.
“Our country faces enormous challenges right now — unemployment, national debt. The answer … is to return power back to the American people,” Barr said in his opening statement.
It was a sentiment echoed by Edelen, speaking on behalf of Chandler.
“This country is in trouble because we have politicians who shout at each other,” Edelen said. “Ben Chandler is a politician who is about making records.”
He pointed to funding secured by Chandler to helped Kentucky River Foothills provide a bus service in Clark County, and efforts to maintain 300 jobs at the Winchester Leggett and Platt plant.
Both also spoke about the need to tackle the national debt, with Barr advocating what he called the “yellow pages” plan. If a service provider can be found in the yellow pages, Barr said, the federal government should not provide that service.
Edelen called the national debt a “great moral crisis,” because of the burden it will place on future generations. He advocated bolstering education, and placing more responsibility on the wealthiest members of society so “those who can’t afford to contribute aren’t called on to pay more.”
Barr and Edelen expressed similar views on heath care reform. Edelen noted that Chandler voted against the reform because of potential negative effects on rural health care, and Barr called it a “job killer.”
Coal has been a major focus of the campaign, with both candidates vying for industry support. Edelen said Chandler is a supporter of the coal industry, earning the endorsement of the United Mine Workers Association. Barr downplayed the endorsement, claiming the UMWA does not represent the majority of mine workers.
Barr said he is against cap-and-trade, and called EPA oversight of the coal industry “over regulation.”
Like Barr, Edelen said Chandler would fight “regulations that defy common sense.”
Independent candidate Randolph Vance joined the debate late, but spoke about the coal industry in his opening statement.
“The economy is not driven by money, but by available sources of energy,” Vance said.
Although Vance pledged support for the coal industry, he also called for more investment in nuclear power.
Vance also joined Barr and Edelen for the last question, about the effectiveness of No Child Left Behind.
Barr said he supported more money for education and more autonomy for individual schools and teachers.
Edelen spoke about education reforms that have already taken place that have improved Kentucky’s national ranking. He called the education model he grew up under, “Thank God for Mississippi,” referring to the Deep South state’s lower national ranking. Like Barr, he called for more autonomy.
Vance said he wanted to focus on individual students, not test scores or overall school achievement.
“Let’s focus on individual achievements and goals,” Vance said.