FRANKFORT — A host of first-time candidates are competing for three state House seats that cover portions of Fayette County.
The only incumbent with a primary opponent is Democratic Rep. Sannie Overly, a lawyer from Paris, who is being challenged by former Marine and farmer Dwaine Curran to represent the 72nd House District, which includes Bourbon, Nicholas and Bath Counties and a chunk of northeast Fayette County.
In the 45th House District, which covers a small chunk of southwest Fayette County, Lexington attorney Michael Coblenz and Matthew Vanderpool, a student and Tempur-Pedic employee, are facing off in a Democratic primary. The winner will take on Republican Rep. Stan Lee in the fall.
Vying for the Republican nomination in the 62nd House District are Ricky Hostetler, an electrician and small-business owner, and Ryan Quarles, a recent University of Kentucky law school graduate and farmer. The winner will take on Democratic Rep. Charlie Hoffman to represent the district, which covers Scott County and a chunk of northern Fayette County.
Of the six candidates, only Overly has previously held an elected office.
First elected to the House in January 2008 during a special election, Overly has risen quickly to a position of power in the General Assembly.
A former engineer with the state Transportation Cabinet, Overly was named chairwoman in January 2009 of the House Budget Subcommittee on Transportation, one of the most powerful positions in the legislature. She is the first woman in recent history to hold such a position.
Overly, 43, says she first decided to run for the legislature because she wanted to protect and support public education. Overly says she was proud of the Democratic House's decision this past legislative session to not cut the main funding formula for schools.
Still, she said she believes lawmakers should not get paid to attend an upcoming May 24 special legislative session to consider another proposed compromise on the state's two-year spending plan.
"We didn't get the job done," Overly said. "That means we're going to have to put in overtime."
In addition to overseeing the complex road budget, Overly has co-sponsored other key pieces of legislation, including a bill that would expand insurance coverage for autism treatments and a bill that would strengthen the state's domestic violence laws.
Overly's opponent, Dwaine Curran, a Marine who served in the first Gulf War and Operation Iraqi Freedom, said he is most concerned about Kentucky's growing drug problem.
Curran, 40, wants cold medicine containing pseudoephedrine to be purchased via prescription only and wants more controls on out-of-state prescriptions.
Curran said he would also like to see a program at Bath County High School, which has proven effective in keeping kids in school, expanded throughout the state.
Both Curran and Overly support the expansion of gambling at the state's racetracks but say they believe voters should decide the issue.
Overly has raised $26,348 for her re-election bid, according to state campaign finance reports. Curran has raised nearly $5,000.
Coblenz, a patent lawyer and Air Force veteran, says he chose to run for the 45th House District seat because he believes more must be done to help rectify the state's long-term fiscal problems. He favors tweaking the state's tax code and providing stronger support for K-12 and higher education.
At 50, Coblenz says he has "more age and experience" than his opponent, 24-year-old Matthew Vanderpool.
As a native Kentuckian who has lived throughout Central and Eastern Kentucky, Vanderpool counters that he better understands the challenges people in the district face. Coblenz has lived in Lexington for seven years.
Vanderpool says he's running for office because he's tired of hearing people complain about government. "I wanted to do something about it," he says.
Vanderpool has raised $150 for Tuesday's election while Coblenz has raised more than $6,000.
Although he's making his first run for public office, Ryan Quarles of Scott County touts his past political experience. Quarles served as a student representative on the Council on Postsecondary Education and also interned with Republican U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell. Quarles, 26, has three master's degrees and just finished law school at the University of Kentucky in May.
He says Kentucky needs to fix its antiquated tax code and do more to better position itself in the global economy.
"I am the only candidate that can beat the incumbent in the fall," Quarles says, referring to Hoffman, D-Georgetown.
His opponent, Ricky Hostetler, 51, says people should vote for him because he has more life experience.
"I wouldn't be in this race if I didn't think I could win," Hostetler says, pointing to his more than 20 years of experience as a small business owner and electrician.
Hostetler also pledges to be both a fiscal and social conservative and says he will stand up for state's rights and state sovereignty. Hostetler says he would support eliminating the state's income taxes in favor of a consumption tax.
Quarles has raised more than $18,000 compared with nearly $7,000 for Hostetler.