The four Republicans seeking to become Kentucky's governor have staked out nearly identical positions heading into the May 19 primary.
All four insist that if Kentucky cuts taxes and regulations the economy will blossom, paying for education, underfunded pensions and other public needs.
They also say Democratic reforms providing access to health care to 400,000 Kentuckians, most of whom are working adults, will become unaffordable and must be changed or ended.
Standing out as the most qualified to be governor are former Louisville councilman Hal Heiner and Agriculture Commissioner James Comer. It's a tough choice, but Heiner's experience and temperament give him the edge.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Lexington Herald-Leader
Comer, a state legislator for 11 years, brings some definite positives, including an independent streak and willingness to challenge his party's establishment. He reached across party lines to win approval for hemp-production pilot projects in Kentucky.
He has been unafraid to say that Eastern Kentucky must diversify its economy beyond coal and that the region's elected officials should provide better leadership and make better use of coal-severance tax dollars.
Comer has raised more than $2 million from contributors each giving no more than $1,000, an accomplishment that required building a network of grass-roots support.
Heiner, on the other hand, is depending on his own fortune and benefitting from a flood of money from outside Kentucky, much of it anonymous and going to groups that pay for attacks on Heiner's opponents. An engineer and business parks developer, Heiner has contributed $4.2 million to his campaign.
On the plus side, Heiner earned high marks as a member of the first Louisville Metro Council elected after city-county merger.
While he is billing himself as a Frankfort outsider, he's hardly an outsider to governing, having served eight years on the Metro Council and chairing its budget committee. He touted renewable energy research as a potential economic spark plug during his 2010 campaign for Louisville mayor, which he lost by 7,000 votes.
A former vice chairman of the business development organization Greater Louisville, Inc., Heiner has knowledge and skills that could help him successfully take a hands-on approach to recruiting investment and jobs to Kentucky.
Heiner has taken the most temperate and nuanced stand on the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid expansion, citing his experience as a cancer survivor to say he would not abruptly drop health coverage for 400,000 Kentuckians.
In the controversy that's consumed the campaign in recent days, Heiner responded responsibly. He quickly apologized to Comer after the Herald-Leader revealed that the husband of Heiner's running mate, KC Crosbie, had been in contact with a blogger who aired allegations that Comer abused a college girlfriend.
When the woman went public and also alleged that Comer took her to get an abortion, Comer called a press conference then lashed out at a reporter for asking a question. Comer unequivocally denies the allegations but the questions would dog him into the fall campaign.
Our main qualms about Heiner are how beholden he might be to out-of-state interests, such as the Koch brothers, who are pouring money into the governor's race, not out of concern for Kentucky but to advance their political agendas. Also, Heiner is not ruling out raising money to repay himself, a practice that has sullied and distracted other self-funded governors.
In contrast, former Supreme Court Justice Will T. Scott is not raising or spending enough money to wage a serious campaign. While he proposes some criminal justice reforms focused on drug treatment and work training, he also has not fleshed out a policy platform nor shown the capacity to become a competent governor.
Louisville financier Matt Bevin, who made his political debut last year challenging fellow Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell, did not accept our invitation to interview with the editorial board, but we had two lengthy meetings with him during his unsuccessful Senate race.
He is running a smoother campaign this time. But he is so inflexibly anti-government that he would turn off many general election voters. Bevin, who has put $1.75 million into his campaign, frequently flubs the facts on everything from the effects of Common Core education standards to the number of full-time state employees. We're willing to grant politicians some license, but Bevin's misrepresentations and fabrications are too habitual to trust him with the governorship.
The winner Tuesday will face not only the challenge of moving to the middle to appeal to a broader range of voters but also of repairing bitter rifts within his party.
Heiner is the best choice for that task and the most qualified in this field to become an effective governor.
Unendorsed candidates who met with the editorial board may submit 250-word responses by noon Friday.