LOUISVILLE — The latest debate between the four men running for the Republican gubernatorial debate was short on policy disagreements but long on jokes and laughter as the candidates sought to woo Tea Party members.
Thursday night's debate, hosted by the Louisville Tea Party and moderated by Joe Elliott, co-host of the radio show The Answer, was just the latest showdown to feature limited skirmishes between candidates, who mostly agree on the major issues.
An engaged crowd of well over 100 people listened intently as James Comer, the commissioner of agriculture; Hal Heiner, a former Louisville Metro councilman; Matt Bevin, a former U.S. Senate candidate and Louisville businessman; and Will T. Scott, a recently retired state Supreme Court justice, lightly sparred over differences in their campaigns.
Scott, in particular, seemed to be a big hit with the crowd, repeatedly drawing laughter with his folksy jokes, including his belief that when he opens "the money cabinet" in Frankfort, the only thing that will come out is "a cockroach on crutches."
Bevin even went so far to say that, should he win and become governor, he is "going to find room for this guy, because he's got all the best lines."
"Gotta hand him that," Bevin said.
Most of the 90-minute debate featured the candidates repeating well-worn pledges to improve the business climate, attract jobs, oppose Common Core and Obamacare and fight for charter schools. However, Elliott's question about whether the candidates supported reforming civil forfeiture laws — a pet issue of U.S. Sen. Rand Paul — did reveal some policy differences.
Both Scott and Heiner said they would not look to reform the forfeiture laws, while Comer and Bevin both declared that rampant forfeiture is an assault on Fourth Amendment rights.
"This is another example of courts and liberals in power, liberals in office, people in the Obama administration trying to infringe on our constitutional rights," Comer said, adding that he is opposed to drone use by the military and law enforcement over privately owned property.
Bevin compared forfeiture to the Patriot Act and Common Core, saying there has been a "chip-chip-chipping away of our Fourth Amendment rights, and that has got to end."
"What we've done is we've no longer made the burden of proof on the individual," Bevin said. "We've actually convicted the property, and we in essence require the individual to prove that that property was not involved in any form of illicit activity. This is exactly backwards."
Heiner, who is clearly attempting to pivot toward the general election by increasingly training his attacks on likely Democratic nominee Attorney General Jack Conway, used his answer to declare that he is "a supporter of law enforcement."
Citing the drug epidemic in the state, Heiner said that "law enforcement needs to have all of the tools at their disposal."
"Now I believe there needs to be due process," Heiner said, "but the way you hit the business, the business of drugs, is to take what they have."
Scott argued that the courts already have to satisfy certain standards before any property is taken, and thus reforms aren't needed..