Jeff Taylor of Hopkinsville, a retired official with the Tennessee Valley Authority, is trying to become the first black person to represent his state House district in far Western Kentucky.
“I can’t control the pigmentation of my skin. I just know I’m the most experienced and energetic in this race, and I expect to win,” said Taylor, the Democratic nominee in the March 8 special election for the 8th District, which covers parts of Christian and Trigg counties.
Taylor faces Republican Walker Thomas of Hopkinsville, the owner of a family entertainment center, in the election to fill a vacancy created when Democrat John Tilley of Hopkinsville resigned to become Gov. Matt Bevin’s justice secretary.
The special House election is one of four on March 8 to fill vacancies.
They come at a time when Democrats hold a 50-46 membership advantage in the House. Republicans hope to take control of the House this year for the first time since 1921. If they win the four special elections, there will be a 50-50 split of Democrats and Republicans in the House, raising unprecedented questions about which party would control the chamber. Bevin is a Republican, and the GOP enjoys a 27-11 advantage in the state Senate.
The tone of the 8th District race has been civil. Both candidates have appeared in three debates, and more are scheduled.
“I could not have drawn a better opponent,” Thomas said. “I just think I could do a better job representing the conservative district.”
“Walker is a nice guy, but I’m more in touch with the people and more qualified for the job,” Taylor said.
Both candidates said they will have enough money for their campaigns. The first round of campaign finance disclosures have been filed but were not available Thursday. Thomas noted that Bevin was the featured guest at a fundraiser for him Tuesday in Hopkinsville.
Both candidates agree that the major issues in the race are education, the state budget and public pensions.
Taylor said he regrets that “Republicans these days always seem to try to tie every Democrat with Obama.” President Barack Obama is highly unpopular in Kentucky.
“I have to be for the president because my younger brother was in Desert Storm and the president has brought our boys home,” Taylor said.
Obama “has been vilified for trying to help people, especially with health care,” Taylor said. “I don’t agree with everything about Obamacare, but at least the president offered a specific plan, unlike Republicans.”
Thomas said he opposes the federal Affordable Care Act.
“Obamacare is advertised by the Obama administration as a huge success — a success that is mostly due to a Medicaid expansion, in which hospitals are given less for their services. So, somehow, by increasing taxes on individuals and businesses, and paying our doctors, nurses and medical employees less, we have succeeded in our health care struggle? I think not,” Thomas said.
Both candidates said they realize that all politics is local.
That is why they are touting their involvement in local politics and civic groups.
Taylor is chairman of the Christian County Democratic Party and a board member of several groups: Leadership Kentucky Sanctuary Inc., a shelter for battered women and children, and the Hopkinsville/Fort Campbell Alumni Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi.
Thomas is past chairman of the local Salvation Army and past president of the Hopkinsville Rotary Club.
State voter registration figures show district has 16,286 Democrats and 8,288 Republicans among a total of 26,919 registered voters.
Born: Aug. 13, 1963
Education: Bachelor’s degree in business administration, Austin Peay University
Occupation: Owner of Roller Dome Fun Plex since 1986; co-owner of Kentucky Moving & Storage
Elected office: Former member of Hopkinsville City Council
Family: Wife, Sandra; five children
Born: Aug. 30, 1959
Education: Bachelor’s degree in communications, Western Kentucky University; master’s degree in community counseling, University of North Alabama
Occupation: Retired economic development manager for Tennessee Valley Authority
Elected office: None
Family: Wife, Deirdra; two children