Four years ago, newly minted Republican Jared Carpenter won the race to replace longtime incumbent Democrat Ed Worley, who did not seek reelection for the 34th state Senate district.
In his reelection bid, Carpenter faces Democrat Mike Cope.
Cope earns our endorsement with his refreshing common sense and insistence on moving beyond hot-button wedge issues to take on the very real problems facing Kentucky and the district, made up of Madison and Rockcastle counties plus several precincts in southern Fayette County.
Cope understands that any hope for long-term prosperity rests on the quality of public education, stemming the tide of drug abuse and encouraging healthier habits among Kentuckians. He knows these goals can't be accomplished without real tax reform.
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A native of Rockcastle County, Cope has a compelling personal story, one that closely mirrors the reality for many Kentuckians.
He grew up poor as the son of divorced parents, both of whom struggled with alcohol abuse. He credits the family of a high school friend who took him in, and committed public school teachers for helping him stay in school.
Later, as a member of a trade union, he became a glass worker and construction project manager, and now owns a small glass and construction business in Richmond.
Cope told the editorial board that not enough has changed in Kentucky since his difficult youth and that's what motivated him to seek public office. He supports increasing the minimum wage and opposes the so-called right-to-work laws, based on his experience that unions help workers get fair wages decent retirement benefits, and to promote workplace safety.
Cope understands the long game — that education, not cheap wages, is the most critical element in Kentucky's ability to attract quality companies and the jobs they provide.
Carpenter has done little to advance his district or Kentucky in his term, despite important appointments as chair of the Natural Resources and Energy Committee and as vice-chair of Banking and Finance.
Unfortunately, he's squandered his position of power on the energy committee, serving as an impediment to smart energy policy while raking in money from a raft of coal interests.
Carpenter has just over $91,000 for this general election run while Cope's war chest stands at just under $7,000.
Although a boon to his campaign finances, Carpenter's rearguard attempt to protect coal while ignoring economic and geologic realities could cost his district and Kentucky dearly when other states move ahead with new technologies that produce clean energy at market prices.
Carpenter also wasted his power and position pandering to the gun lobby by sponsoring a clearly unconstitutional bill to allow Kentucky to ignore any federal gun control legislation.
Carpenter defended his efforts on the bill, which passed the Senate only to die in the House, by saying he got a lot of emails supporting his effort. So much for true leadership.
Cope provides a refreshing alternative, noting that he supports Second Amendment gun rights but adding, "we've got more important things to focus on."
Voters in the 34th Senate district should give Cope the opportunity to go do just that.
The unendorsed candidate may submit a 250-word response by noon Friday.