US Senatorial Candidate Jack Conway: Traveling the Roads of the Jackson Purchase Searching for Votes and Issues.
On this chilled and overcast Friday, candidate Jack Conway stopped for lunch at the Majestic Restaurant, in Mayfield, Kentucky. This was to be his lunch timeframe within a full day of campaigning in far Western Kentucky counties of the Jackson Purchase.
Forty one people joined the Attorney General of Kentucky for a buffet lunch of chicken, pizza, lasagnas, and full salad bar. The homemade desserts on the buffet proved to be big hits with the entire lunch crowd. On this day’s menu were chess, sweet potato, coconut and banana cream pies, made by a little old lady especially for the Majestic Restaurant.
Lunch was a smooth midday political event. In many aspects, the event was a class act with few or no problems of logistics or content.
The last time I had the chance to break bread with Jack Conway was during his race for Attorney General. Conway, staff, 14 members of the Hickman, Carlisle, and Ballard County legal system and I invaded Luke’s Restaurant in Arlington, Kentucky. Over hamburgers and fries, Attorney General candidate Jack Conway listened and asked questions about the issues facing the practitioners of law in the river counties.
Back then, Conway seemed to be searching for his “issue legs” to incorporate into a full state campaign. Using the foundation of law and being surrounded by lawyers, Conway still was not at ease with his role of candidate. His quiet demeanor seemed to be a shield against him talking too quickly or making a major campaign mistake.
However, on this Friday in 2010, Attorney General Conway and US Senatorial candidate Conway was a different man. It seemed that the doubts were gone. No stumbling over his stock speech. He was hitting on all cylinders with rapid fire issues of job loss, energy costs, the promised of aiding small businessmen with a new formula for job aid.
His words captivated this audience of bankers, local civic leaders, and farmers. Here’s a few of his remarks.
“We can’t continue to carry 1.6 trillion dollars of public debt into the future.
It creates a weak dollar. It creates a pressure on long term lending. It just doesn’t make any sense. We got to get back to a balanced budget. We had budget caps up to 2002 and then congress busted these budget caps, spending like drunken sailors. We need to get back to some form of fiscal responsibility in this country.
…”I have never been able to separate job creation from a good education system. We spend a lot of money in Kentucky on secondary and elementary education reform.
We spend a lot of money on higher education reform. Kentucky leads the nation in drop out rates.
That’s shameful. It’s shameful that if we know that the kid who can’t read at 7 will most likely drop out at 16. If I become a US Senator, I love to find federal programs for early childhood education. I want to explore more programs for training
I feel good about the race. We are traveling around the state seeking people’s ideas and opinions.
The recent Democratic poll shows we are ahead 37 to 33 %. Our internal polls have the same numbers. We are very confident about the race but still very humble.
The Lt. Gov. has run many times before. He has name recognition. Of potential Democratic voters, about 70% know his name while 50% know my name. Despite that name advantage he has, we are up in the polls.
Our funding rising is outraising him about 3 to 1.
We feel confident that we will win the primary with our ideas, our passion. And as Attorney General, I have tried to be a good steward of your tax dollars.
It’s not been easy. We have had to tighten our belts. We have had to cut our budgets by 26%. Medicaid fraud collections are up by 600% since I’ve been in office.
Through our efforts, we hope to return about 100 million back into the state treasury.
We have created a cyber crime unit. We took down37, 000 child porn images off of the internet.
We participated in the largest drug bust in Kentucky’s history.
So we’ve been aggressive. And I will be an aggressive US Senator with my ear to the ground that reaches across the isle and hopefully represent the independent values of Kentuckians.
Mayfield’s Mayor asked. “We need jobs here. How do you see us creating new jobs?”
Conway: “First of all have a tax credit program. The other thing that helps create jobs are low electricity rates. We have access to coal. Good transportation routes. I am against cap and trade for what it will do to Kentucky jobs. This cap and trade will cost the average American $1800 in new fees.
But in Kentucky it could be worse. The reason we have coal jobs, steel jobs, aluminum jobs are the low electric rates. Any change in this low cost will drive jobs out of our state.
One of the reasons jobs are tight is that we are moving over from a manufacturing state to a service industry state. Bankers use to know how to lend against manufacturing jobs, however, in today’s economy, they are having trouble figuring out the true worth of many different service industry jobs.
We need to complete the I-69 project of linking the Great Lakes down to Mexico. this corridor running through west Kentucky will tie us into this new international market highway.”
West KY. Journal Questions:
(1) The Jackson Purchase has lost over 10,000 manufacturing jobs in the past 10 years, what is your position on economic development?
Conway: Several factors.
Push special tax credit for small businesses to create jobs. We need a research and development tax credit that is reauthorized. There is such a program setting now in the Congress, unable to pass it in order to help create new jobs in America. I will fight, as Senator, to always push for research and innovation jobs to be added to our economy.
We need to assist in small business lending. We need to totally rethink how SBA
conducts its loan programs. We need a program for small and medium size banks to actually lend money out to small businesses to jump start the economy.
Kentucky has lost 100,000 trade jobs in the past 10 years. We must look at how we conduct trade and how we create new jobs for trade.
And we have to stay focus on education. We can’t create new jobs unless we have a first class trained work force.”
(2) Did the election in Mass. last Tuesday have any impact in your race?
Conway: No. That’s a special election in Massachusetts. We are talking about a regular primary election in May and a regular general election in November.
I’m glad that the Democratic Party got a wake up call for January of 2010 rather then November of 2010. I think what we the people are saying to us, Look, the Democrats haven’t done what they said they were going to do. And at the same time, I don’t think the people are sold on the Republican brand either. We didn’t get into this mess just in the past 8 or 9 months. It’s taken the last 8 or 9 years.
At the end of lunch, Conway and his staff loaded into their SUV’s and headed for Murray.
Somewhere along the back roads of rural West Kentucky, ordinary people are speaking to all the candidates for US Senator. Their message is clear, “Big government and big corporations are hurting us. Federal government is broken. Fix it and make the government do its job. Stop spending more money then you can afford.”
Candidate Conway is in the process of being reborn. Today, in Mayfield and other far Western Kentucky communities, he spoke of being a Conservative Democrat. Will this be how he finally engages the Lt. Governor in the last days of their marathon struggle?
At what price is he willing to leave his comfortable base in urban Central Kentucky to win? These are questions that now follow the young Attorney General from meeting to meeting.
With each public lunch or campaign meeting, Jack Conway is evolving into a new person long removed from those days on the trail for Attorney General in Arlington, Kentucky. Is he destined to higher office or to become a new type of political leader in Kentucky politics? The answer to those questions will be made clear late on the primary night in May.