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State senate candidates share their views

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Special election is Tuesday, Dec. 8

By Stephen Lega

A special election Dec. 8 will decide who will fill the vacant District 14 state senate seat. The district includes Marion, Mercer, Nelson, Taylor and Washington counties.

The candidates are Jodie Haydon, a former state representative from Bardstown, and Jimmy Higdon, a sitting state representative from Lebanon.

Both candidates recently responded to questionnaire sent by The Lebanon Enterprise. Their answers reveal a number of similarities as well as a few differences.

  The candidates

Haydon, 64, is the Democratic candidate. He served in Vietnam and is the vice-president of Nally and Haydon, Inc., construction company. He and his wife, Carolyn, have two daughters and six grandchildren.

His previous political experience includes four years as a member of the Bardstown City Council and four years as a state representative.

Higdon, 51, is the Republican candidate. He was first elected to the Kentucky House of Representatives in 2002. Higdon also served in the Army before returning to Marion County, where he became a partner in Key Market, now Higdon's Foodtown. He and his wife, Jane, also own and operate Higdon's Appliance Center.

The Higdons have two children and two grandchildren.   On the issues

When asked what was the most important issue facing Kentucky, the candidates showed one of their differences of opinion.

Higdon wrote that the most important issue is creating jobs and protecting the jobs that already exist. Haydon wrote about gridlock in Frankfort, which he attributed to the current state senate leadership, and more specifically to Senate President David Williams.

Video lottery terminals have been a prominent issue throughout the campaign, and they also demonstrate another difference between the candidates. The terminals are similar to electronic slot machines.

Haydon supports allowing five racetracks in the state to have the terminals. According to Haydon, this would generate $300 million immediately in licensing fees and later an estimated $300 million in tax receipts.

He argued that Kentuckians are already gambling in neighboring states, and that money is generating tax revenue for those states.

"Today, we have all the problems associated with gambling with none of the benefits," Haydon said.

Higdon believes the issue should be decided by a vote of the public.

"I believe that the people should be allowed to decide the future of expanded gambling in Kentucky, not politicians and lobbyists in back-room deals," Higdon wrote.

He also argued that the VLT plan Haydon supports would do more to support racetracks than the people of the state. Higdon added that any law allowing expanded gaming should require proceeds to support unmet needs in areas such as education and health care.

Both candidates have touted their pro-life and pro-Second Amendment positions. Both are members of the National Rifle Association. Haydon wrote that he opposes restrictions on gun ownership, while Higdon wrote that he would fight any attempt to limit citizens' rights to bear arms.

The economy continues to create problems for the state budget, but both Haydon and Higdon wrote that they oppose raising taxes.

Higdon wrote that the state should prioritize spending for education, human services and public protection. He added that he also supports greater accountability to the budget process.

"State government spending must be more transparent and programs need to have clear goals that can be measured," he wrote.

Haydon supports reducing the legislature's budget by an amount equal to what is cut from state agencies as well as revamping the state's tax system.

"Government must live within its means and this needs to begin with the legislature's own budget," he wrote.

On the issue of road funding, both candidates expressed support for the revenue stream generated by the state's gasoline and fuel taxes. This revenue is used both for state and county roads throughout the commonwealth.

Haydon wrote that he is "keenly aware" that city and county governments depend on state money to keep roads safe.

Higdon wrote that he has worked to see that the counties he represents received their fair share of road funds.

The candidates were also asked about efforts to promote post-secondary education.

Higdon wrote that he helped pass legislation that allows high school students to earn college credit. He also supports increasing the number of students who take Advanced Placement exams (for college credit) and maintaining the state's commitment to the KEES scholarships.

(KEES is the Kentucky Education Excellence Scholarships. The program is funded through Kentucky Lottery proceeds and is administered by the Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority.)

Higdon added that universities need to use tax money efficiently.

"If necessary, I will support freezing tuition costs to that end," he wrote.

Haydon wrote that education funding will be his top priority, adding that he considers it an investment in job creation.

"I am also mindful that while college tuition continues to rise at a record pace we must find ways to keep attending college affordable," Haydon wrote.

With regard to technical education, Haydon wrote that the state must fund technical, career and vocational education. As with post-secondary education, Haydon described this as a needed investment for job creation.

Higdon wrote that the Kentucky Community and Technical College System plays a "vital role" in preparing Kentuckians for good-paying jobs. He added that he supports maintaining funding for KCTCS and increasing funding in targeted areas where a demonstrated need exists.

  Closing comments

Higdon concluded his comments by stating that he is committed to creating good-paying jobs in the district and protecting the jobs that are here. He added that he will work to make health care more affordable, but without a government takeover.

He argued that one-party rule has ruined Washington, and it isn't needed in Frankfort.

He also noted that he opposed the Governor and leaders in both houses of the General Assembly by voting against the tax on the bourbon industry and tobacco.

"I will continue to be an independent voice in Frankfort for the common people who put their trust in God and work hard every day," Higdon wrote.

In his closing remarks, Haydon wrote that he spent his life serving his country and his community. He added that he spends less on his business when times are tough, and he's troubled that the legislature does not do the same.

Haydon also wrote that he would remember who sent him to Frankfort if he is elected.

"In the state senate, I'll cut perks, cut spending, hold down taxes and create jobs," he wrote.

  What to know more?

The special election for the District 14 state senate seat will be held Dec. 8.

The complete questionnaires submitted by Jodie Haydon and Jimmy Higdon will be posted online at www.lebanonenterprise.com.

The candidates will also appear in a live debate on PLG-TV at 7 tonight in Bardstown. The forum is scheduled to stream live online at www.plgtv.com.

Local voters will use new voting machines on Dec. 8

Marion County voters should be aware that new voting machines will be used during the Dec. 8 special election. Voters will use a pen to fill in the box next to the name of the candidate, then feed the piece of paper into a machine that will scan and record the vote.

Voters who don't know which precinct to vote in should call the County Clerk's Office at (270) 692-2651.