Editorials

Re-elect Quarles in House District 62

Quarles
Quarles

During two terms in the legislature, Rep. Ryan Quarles has done what was expected to boost House District 62.

He has ensured there was money for road building, worked with others inside and outside of Frankfort to help Georgetown land the Lexus production line and helped secure funds for a new community college aimed at training students for high-end manufacturing jobs.

But it is the unexpected — his change from an acolyte echoing talking points to a more practical politician promoting bipartisanship — that earns him our endorsement for a third term.

A highly educated young man with still-strong ties to the family farm, Quarles, 31, sparks optimism about future Kentucky leadership.

Democratic challenger Chuck Tackett — a Scott County magistrate and farmer — has the reputation, community service and temperament to make an able legislator. He is conservative enough for the district — supportive of gun rights, opposed to a statewide smoking ban, for example.

Tackett agreed to take on this challenge at the request of party leaders, however he showed little passion for the job during his meeting with the editorial board.

Quarles appears committed, even as a minority in the Democratic House, to using his position to help the state and the district, which now includes parts of Scott, Owen County and two precincts along Lexington's Leestown Road.

While still supportive of GOP legislative priorities such as opposition to the Affordable Care Act, he also has discovered that solving problems often means going against the party line or supporting bills he doesn't consider ideal.

For instance, he helped the anti-heroin legislation pass the House Judiciary Committee, even though it included a needle-exchange program which he does not support.

And he gave early support to Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes' military voting bill when it faced partisan gridlock.

Both parties could benefit from Quarles' perspective on what must be done to encourage millennials to set up businesses and start families in Kentucky.

State priorities, he said, should include reducing high tuition costs and the burden of student-loan debt, updating the tax code to encourage entrepreneurship and angel investment and really solving the pension crisis to make the state more economically secure.

It's uncertain whether Quarles will become the independent thinker he seems to have the potential to be.

But he is educating himself on how to be a public servant, as opposed to partisan — something rare even among the longest-serving Frankfort lawmakers. That's worth another term.

The unendorsed candidate may submit a 250-word response by noon Friday.

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