Bluegrass Politics Debate: Lexington's jail and the First Amendment

Jim Gray, left and Jim Newberry
Jim Gray, left and Jim Newberry

Welcome to the Bluegrass Politics Debate. For one more week, the candidates for mayor of Lexington and the 6th Congressional District will debate a topic chosen by the Lexington Herald-Leader. The candidates for U.S. Senate declined to participate in the debate.

The rules: The candidates ask and answer the questions. Questions are limited to 35 words. Answers are limited to 75 words. Rebuttals are limited to 35 words.


The candidates: Mayor Jim Newberry and Vice Mayor Jim Gray

Week 7 topic: Fayette County Detention Center

Gray's question for Newberry: There are widespread concerns of gross jail mismanagement, a demoralized staff, investigations, and lawsuits by corrections officers for sexual harassment and retaliation. Shouldn't taxpayers expect better?

Newberry's answer: We've taken many steps to resolve abuse problems at the jail that we inherited from the previous administration. We have worked with jail management to increase transparency and improve employee oversight. We've decreased turnover. Our successful jail programs are used as state/national models. As vice mayor, you've never so much as visited the jail or talked to jail management about your alleged concerns. If you're so concerned, why have you been missing in action?

Gray's rebuttal: Blaming others for your mismanagement? Talk to jail employees, read the newspaper and court records; everyone but you says there are big problems at the jail. Like the tourism signs, you're not getting the job done.

Newberry's question for Gray: At the jail we improved security, transparency, employee turnover, cut overtime expenses and put inmates to work picking up 25 tons of trash. What improvements have you initiated at the jail as vice mayor?

Gray's answer: The decision to engage non-violent offenders in supervised work-release community service is a common-sense policy that has been utilized by many communities and one that I have supported. While you demonstrate great skill at tooting your own horn, in fairness, an independent judgment of your performance is more honest: your own employees at our jail know your pattern of detached and dismissive management, and they have endorsed me. Read more at Jimgray.org/jail.

Newberry's rebuttal: You've supported my jail improvements, but now that it's campaign season, you criticize them? In four years as vice mayor, you've failed to offer one jail initiative. Lexington deserves more than a Monday morning quarterback.


The candidates: U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler, D-Versailles, and Republican Andy Barr, a Lexington lawyer.

Week 7 topic: The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

Chandler's question for Barr: Do you support the recent Supreme Court ruling giving foreign-owned corporations the right to influence American elections with unlimited and undisclosed sums of money, drowning out the voices of U.S. citizens?

Barr's answer: The Supreme Court held that electioneering communications by corporations and labor unions within 60 days of an election is a constitutionally protected form of free speech. Voters might be surprised that you have taken such a strong position against the First Amendment since 43 percent of contributions to your campaign come from corporate- and union-supported PACs, including $9,000 from a California company that will receive $1.5 million from an earmark you requested.

Chandler's rebuttal: So you think large foreign corporations should influence American elections? My support of the First Amendment includes protecting the voices of American citizens in U.S. elections.

Barr's question for Chandler: Last Congress, you co-sponsored card-check legislation that would deny 1 million Kentucky workers the First Amendment protection of a secret ballot in union organizing elections. Will you oppose this unconstitutional legislation in the future?

Chandler's answer: For years I have met with people on all sides of this issue, and as major changes to this legislation are discussed in Congress, I'll continue to push for fairness for businesses and workers alike. Especially in these tough economic times, I will continue to support legislation that strengthens our middle class and protects Kentucky jobs.

Barr's rebuttal: This unconstitutional legislation you voted for exposes workers to threats and intimidation from unions. This would devastate the small employers we are counting on to revive our economy as the primary source for new jobs.

Mayoral debate

6th Congressional District debate