FRANKFORT — Two longtime Republican state senators face challengers in the May primary in part because of their stances on the expansion of gambling.
Sen. Alice Forgy Kerr, a Lexington senator whose district includes Keeneland and many horse farms, faces Andrew Roberts, a pro-gambling veterinarian, on Tuesday.
Sen. Tom Buford of Nicholasville, who has voted for allowing slots at the state's race tracks, faces Chad Crouch, an anti-gambling Wilmore marketing executive.
Both Kerr and Buford say their opponents are "one-issue" candidates.
Not so, say Roberts and Crouch.
Crouch, 39, said he's challenging the nearly 20-year incumbent because he says Buford is no longer a true conservative.
Roberts, 42, said he opted to run for the Senate 12th District seat because he cares about other issues besides the horse industry — such as protecting education from deep cuts and developing a sound economic development policy.
Roberts, according to the latest campaign finance reports, has raised more money than Kerr, 55. But Kerr had money in her campaign war chest from previous elections. Going into Tuesday's election, Roberts had $5,341 of cash on hand while Kerr had $13,478.
Roberts, who has never held elected office, has raised $45,615, much of that from the horse industry.
But Kerr said she has been good for the horse industry during her 11 years in the Senate.
"I am very much pro horse industry in Kentucky," Kerr said. "I'm just anti-slots. ... They will do more harm than good from a social standpoint."
Kerr said she supports allowing voters to decide through a referendum whether the state's race tracks should allow slot machines.
Roberts said he initially decided to run against Kerr because she rarely returned phone calls or spoke to him when he was on various state veterinary committees.
"She doesn't return phone calls and e-mails. She doesn't meet with people."
But Kerr said she has between 100,000 and 110,000 constituents and she tries to be available to all who ask to talk to her. She does not remember Roberts trying to meet with her.
Kerr said she has held key leadership positions in the Senate over the past decade because she has good working relationships with Republicans and Democrats. She chairs the Senate Economic Development Tourism and Labor Committee.
Kerr noted her work on legislation that set some of the highest nutrition standards for school lunches in the country and another measure that would make it possible for poor women to receive breast cancer screenings.
But Roberts said it's time Fayette County had a state senator who understands economic development.
"I realize that the Lexington economy is headed for a very rocky 10 years if we don't do something soon," Roberts said. He said protecting green space and agricultural jobs is key.
Kerr touts using small-business tax credits as a way to stimulate the economy.
Jobs are also a top issue in the race for the 22nd Senate district, which includes Jessamine and parts of Fayette, Garrard and Boyle counties.
Buford has a campaign war chest of $181,000 heading into Tuesday's primary. Crouch has raised $31,000.
Crouch, who said Buford has not represented Republicans well, touts himself as the "real Republican" in the race. Buford counters that Crouch is a nice guy but is only in the race because of the deep pockets and generosity of those opposed to gambling.
Crouch, whose company created the Web site for the anti-gambling group Say No to Casinos, said slot machines would hurt Kentucky's horse industry. Slot machines are cheaper than horses or live racing, he said.
"Are there any horse tracks in Las Vegas?" Crouch said. "No. If they found a way where they could make money off it, don't you think they would have already built them?"
During a special legislative session last summer, the House passed a bill that would allow for video lottery terminals at tracks. The bill died in a Senate committee. Buford was the only Senate Republican to support it.
But Crouch said he isn't in the race just because of gambling. He said Buford's political allegiances have been questionable. Buford and his wife each gave $1,000 to Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear's re-election campaign in 2009.
"I began to feel not only unrepresented but misrepresented," Crouch said.
Buford, 60, admits he gave money to Beshear.
"Look, I'm not afraid of Democrats," Buford said.
He said he has been able to work with Democrats to get bills passed.
In 1996, Buford sponsored and got passed a bill that would require larger group insurance policies to cover autism-related treatments. A bill passed this year would expand that coverage.
He has also been able to acquire $450,000 for the Wilderness Trace Child Development Center in Danville and millions of dollars for road projects including the widening of Harrodsburg Road.
Crouch touts his experience as a small business owner. He said more needs to be done to help small businesses and support education.
Buford said he supports looking at reforming the state's tax system — which many say is antiquated — but only if it is "revenue neutral," meaning that it would not substantially raise taxes for any one group of people.
Crouch said he would be open to looking at ways to make the tax system more efficient and business friendly.