Brown right choice for House 77 seat

May 9, 2014 

George A. Brown Jr. candidate for state legislature, 77th House district

With no Republican in the race, Democrats will choose a successor to Rep. Jesse Crenshaw in the May 20 primary. Crenshaw is leaving the Kentucky House after 22 years representing District 77, which includes northwestern and parts of central Lexington.

Crenshaw is supporting Michael Haskins, a former president of the Georgetown Street Neighborhood Association and president of the Arbors Homeowners Association.

Haskins is a Democratic activist, serves on the party's county executive committee and was a delegate to the 2012 national convention. Haskins is a credible candidate and should keep seeking opportunities to serve.

But we endorse former Urban County Council member George A. Brown Jr. because of his deeper experience and longer record of leadership and service.

Brown's 12 years on the council — including a stint on the National League of Cities board and as president of the Kentucky Black Caucus of Local Elected Officials — give him seasoning and skills that should hasten his effectiveness in Frankfort.

He has worked for 24 years in facilities management at the University of Kentucky, currently coordinating efforts to diversify UK's suppliers. He mentors youngsters through the Police Academy League, is president of the Friends of the Lyric Theatre and vice chair of the Roots & Heritage Festival.

We must admit to some important differences with Brown during his council years (1994-2006).

He opposed Purchase of Development Rights to preserve farmland, the smoking ban and city purchase of the water utility, all of which we endorsed.

Brown no longer opposes the smoke-free ordinance and says he would support a statewide law protecting Kentuckians from secondhand smoke in public places and at work. He remains unabashedly pro-business and pro-development.

Widely perceived as a champion of racial justice and the disadvantaged, he also espouses a conservative economic philosophy, touting low taxes and less regulation. He splits with state Democrats by supporting a right-to-work law that would make it harder for unions to organize in Kentucky. He does support increasing the state minimum wage.

If elected, Brown will find it's more complicated to balance the demands of business lobbies in Frankfort against his pledge to "be a voice for people who have no voice."

A prime example is Kentucky American Water, whose political action committee has given Brown's campaign $250.

The utility is seeking changes in state law making it easier for it to buy small municipal water systems and shift purchase and repair costs onto consumers, piling more rate increases onto Lexington water bills that already are much higher than in Louisville and Cincinnati.

Fayette County's delegation must fight changes in state law that would flush millions more dollars out of Lexington's economy and into capital gains for investors who own the New Jersey-based parent corporation.

Brown and Haskins both pledge to invest more in education, support health care changes under the Affordable Care Act, oppose charter schools and support the Rupp Arena project.

Both also pledge to carry on Crenshaw's crusade to restore the voting rights of felons who have paid their debts to society.

On balance, Brown's experience makes him the stronger candidate.

His political savvy could benefit all of Lexington by making the Fayette delegation a more effective force in Frankfort.

The unendorsed candidate may submit a 250-word response by noon Monday.

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