Candidates for the Kentucky House of Representative’s 70th District along with those seeking a seat on Maysville City Commission were on hand for a candidates forum Thursday.
In a bow to the COVID-19 pandemic, the forum did not include a live audience but was instead broadcast on Facebook Live.
The event was hosted by the Maysville-Mason County Area Chamber of Commerce in partnership with The Ledger Independent and WFTM with Publisher Rod Baker and Manager Robert Roe posing questions.
Craig Miller and William Lawrence, the Democrat and Republican candidates respectively for the 70th District took to the state to begin the forum after welcoming remarks from Chamber Director Kaci Compton, including her thanks to CrossPoint Community Church for helping to conduct the forum and information for voters from Mason County Clerk Stephanie Schumacher.
Miller, the third generation owner of Miller Lumber in Augusta, cited his experience in operating a small business and his service as a volunteer in many organizations, along with his community involvement in serving on boards in both private organizations and government as qualifications for office.
Miller, who currently serves as a Bracken County magistrate, said working to promote the Buffalo Trace Area is not something new for him.
“I’ve been spreading our message for 20 years,” he said.
Lawrence, who at only 31 years old began and operates a real estate development company in downtown Maysville which has rehabilitated and salvaged once abandoned buildings, said there is great opportunity in the area which inspired him to seek office.
“I ran for this office because I see great potential for this district,” he said.
Questions posed to the two candidates ranged from the handling by Gov. Andy Beshear of the COVID-19 crisis to how as a freshman legislator they plan to engage their constituents to better serve them in Frankfort.
Baker raised a question on Kentucky’s gas tax of 26 cents a gallon and how the tax will generate less revenue for the state as gas usage has fallen under the pandemic, meaning less money not only for state coffers but also for local governments which rely on state funds for road maintenance and improvements.
Lawrence said he is not in favor of tax hikes for 70th District residents or for any Kentuckians.
“We cannot continue to spend residents dollars and send the bill to the taxpayers,” he said.
But, Miller said, because the commonwealth’s gas tax is based on the retail price of gasoline, the available revenue has dropped and county and city governments are seeing less funding come through from the state. The loss to the state’s road fund totals $108 million annual, he said.
“We know no one wants to pay more when filling up..,” Miller said, although an increase in the tax has garnered bi-partisan support.
Both men were also questioned by Roe on their ability to work across party lines in an age when there exist a wider political divide than any time in recent memory.
Miller said he “absolutely” will, citing his work with former Bracken County Judge-Executive Earl Bush, a Republican and Augusta’s mayor.
“There is no “I” when we’re working for everyone,” he said. “We understand what a handshake is, working across the aisle, county-to-county.”
Lawrence said he grew up in this area which was traditionally Democratic and that many of his family members are Democrats. He said extending a hand to others is “not about party lines…or a political stance. I will work with anyone.”
However, there are some areas where he will not compromise, including his moral values and Second Amendment Rights, Lawrence said.
In his closing statement, Lawrence said he will represent the people of the 70th District with “hard work, faith and family values, is what we stand for. We need someone with energy and drive to see this through.”
Miller said there are other issues in addition to those addressed during the forum that he sees as primary to the future of Kentucky, including education, internet and broadband access, health care and funding for police and firefighters. He said a vote for him is a vote for “pro life and the Second Amendment.”
“I’ve served this area for 20 years as a volunteer and that has inspired and motivated me. I believe this election comes down to experience…and I believe that person is me,” he said.
Next to take the stage were candidates for Maysville City Commission who appeared in two groups of four with the second group isolated as the first group answered questions.
Those in the first group included incumbents Victor McKay, Andrew Wood and Jeff Brammer along with first-time candidate John Bess. The second group included incumbent Kelly Ashley, former mayor David Cartmell, along with candidates Stephanie Gastauer and Ann Brammer Each was given the opportunity to introduce themselves to voters and to give a reason behind their candidacy before facing a series of questions from Baker and Roe. Among those questions:
What aspect of a thriving community is access to alternative means of transportation such as walkway, path bikes and the like. There are many people who believe that Maysville does not meet these needs. How would you address that?
J. Brammer — While Maysville does have acess to walk ways and bike paths, the community needs to do more in that area.
Bess — As an avid runner, uses the Maple leaf walking/biking path a lot. Would like to see that trail and others linked to both the downtown area and the hill area, including the Maysville Mason County Recreation Park. While the city has the “pieces to the puzzle,” linking them is the key to better access.
Wood — He called Maysville “a tale of two cities,” with the older downtown area built for walking access with the “hill” are more conducive to vehicle access. He said there has been movement on linking the two in the last several years.
McKay — The Buffalo Trace Health Department recently teamed up with the BTADD and received a grant for trails. He called the recreation park “a crown jewel for Mason County,” and said he would like to see more development of trails along the riverfront.
A. Brammer — We do need walkway access. I think we have to look at it and take action.
Ashley — I’d like to see more access to walking trails, and pathways for walking and bikes.
Cartmell — We do have bike paths, “connection is the problem.” He cited the new walking path at near Stober Drive and said he would like to see a connection with paths at MCTC.
Gastauer — Would like to see more access for East End and more efforts to offer incentives for investment to that end.
Because of the pandemic we have found ourselves in the era of shrinking resources and tightening revenue streams. What ideas do you have for reorganizing the resources to use the city’s budget as efficiently as possible.
Bess — Instead of looking at COVID-19 as a negative it could be turned into a positive as more and more people work from home. He suggested Maysville could attract more people to make it home base by offering better resources such as high speed internet to accomplish that.
Wood — A really tough question. Maysville is blessed to have a payroll tax that has helped shore-up city revenue and department heads who have been conscientious in budgeting.
McKay — Seeing how badly the city’s budget may have been affected by the pandemic will be easier to gauge after the second quarter’s end later this month. He said the city has received $600,000 in CARES funding for police and fire, while taking a $54,000 hit in payroll revenue.
J. Brammer — Pandemic been very hard on small businesses, but city has managed very well.
Ashley — I think a lot of that would come down to the city and organizations working together to marshal resources for people. People are hurting right now. Establish a central location. Combine our efforts with the private sector.
Cartmell — Do have a central locations, Mason County Food bank. We have a lot of food and a lot of volunteers. Nobody should be going hungry here. Systemically we have to change the way wee do business in the city of Maysville. He elected officials salary and the cost of insuring elected officials.
Gastauer — Agree, need to look at resources differently. A good look at the budget is one of those things that needs to happen. Look at reallocating resources to provide higher wages and job training. “When we raise one person in our community we raise the whole community.”
A. Brammer — We do have to educate people. We have to come together.
How do you feel about a city-wide comprehensive smoke free proposal?
Wood — “It’s not the 1950s anymore.” I do think Mason County is ready for a smoking ordinance of some kind. Does not support a comprehensive ban on smoking. “Bring me something middle of the road and we can talk.”
McKay — I will not oppose or lead a charge against any type of ban. I personally have problems with the overall comprehensive all or nothing. Favors an ordinance that would allow those who allow smoking to be grandfathered in but change to no smoking if sold.
J. Brammer — not a smoker but have employees who do but does not allow smoking in building or vehicles. “I don;t feel like it’s my job to tell a business owner what he can or cannot do in his business. Will listen to anything reasonable.
Bess — Is in favor of a comprehensive smoking ban.
Cartmell – Pointed out that county must deal with the issue and it did not endorse a proposal. He agrees with a smoking ban, but only if there is an appeals process.
Gastauer — Controversial topic. Really believe in not having government overreach but also believe in the data that says second hand smoke is a health hazard. “My choice should not be your punishment.”
A. Brammer — Would support because it affects not only adults but children. However, she said for adults business, like bars, the effect on the owners livelihood should be considered.
Ashley — Admits he has struggled with the issue. “I don’t like telling someone what they can do with their property.” For the greater good he would like to see smoke-free indoors fro public buildings. “It’s going to save live sin the long run.”
Sometime over the last year there’s been discussion over the hiring practice of the city. Some thought it would be best to hire the best candidate regardless of where they came from while others felt the city should promote within its ranks. How do you feel about this and why.
McKay — It all comes down to transparency. Been a proponent of all positions for department heads being advertised. Owe that to everyone. We need to have the most qualified person we can afford. I think we should give consideration to those inside first.
J. Brammer — Agrees that positions should be advertised but also thinks everyone who s=works for the city strives to be their best and should be given the opportunity to advance.
Bess — Transparency is a must and eliminates any question of cronyism.
Wood — Favors transparency and voted for it consistently. Not saying employees shouldn’t be considered first. “We’re a public entity and the public deserves to know when we’re hiring.”
Gastauer — Suggest the position should be advertised internally for 30 days before being opened to the public, calling transparency the biggest issue. “I don believe in transparency but also believe in equal opportunity.’
A. Brammer called it a “two-sided coin” and said she sees both sides.
Ashley — Trust that department heads know if an employee is available and ready for a promotion. He said advertising before considering internal candidates “sends the wrong message to your employees.”
Cartmell — Everybody that comes to work for any company want a chance for promotion. Problem is human resources and city manager recommends without giving commissioners names of those considered.
Watch the entire forum at