Youth Voices

The Next Louisville: Candidates For Governor Take Questions From Young Kentuckians

In preparation for Tuesday’s election, Curious Louisville solicited questions from Kentucky youth to ask the candidates for governor. We heard from more than 20 young people and they delivered a number of forward-thinking, important questions.

We spoke with all four Democrats vying for the nomination, as well as one Republican candidate. (Note: Because we only spoke to Democrat Andy Beshear for 30 minutes — half the time we had with the other candidates — we were unable to get his answers to these particular questions.)

The other candidates in the race did not respond to our interview requests.

You can read a full transcript of the candidate’s responses below. And check out our comprehensive guide to the 2019 primary election here

How will you protect LGBTQ Kentuckians? Will you establish statewide protections for us?

Rocky Adkins

“Well, there’s no question that if a law was passed by the General Assembly and came to the governor’s office, I would sign it, there’s no question. We’re going to bring people together, we’re going to have a cabinet — and I would appoint from a transition team — that would be a cabinet that would look like Kentucky, would be the very fabric of Kentucky.

“We’re going to unite people, we’re going to bring people together and we’re going to treat people with dignity and respect. You know, there’s one trait my mother taught me: to treat others the way you want to be treated. So we’re not going to be a governor and a cabinet division. We’re going to be people that basically uplift people, bring people together, people treat people with dignity and respect.”

Adam Edelen

“I am the first statewide elected official in Kentucky to have endorsed marriage equality. And I did so at a time when about 20 percent of Kentuckians agreed with me, and now we’re living in a place according to the Pew poll that we have, you know, 55 percent of Kentuckians support the notion of marriage equality.

“This is the civil rights challenge of our time. And it is important to me that we have Kentucky on the right side of history.

“So yes, I will push for a statewide fairness law. Because frankly, you’re going to have to have that anyway. I mean, we either do it because it’s the right thing to do, or we’re going to be forced to do it by corporations who will not come to Kentucky unless we are — will not continue to operate in Kentucky unless we endorse these protections.

“And fundamentally, I just don’t think anybody ought to be pushed around for who they are. So this is a core issue for me. It was 2012, I think, long before anybody else, when I endorsed the notion of marriage equality. I have a track record on this issue. I’m awfully proud of it. And I will be a governor for all of Kentucky — and when I say ‘all’ that’s exactly what I mean.”

Geoff Young 

“I don’t think the governor can do that alone. But I would strongly support bills in the General Assembly that would protect everyone equally.”

William Woods

“Absolutely. And and I will tell you now, I’m officiating a wedding between two women. You know, that’s not politics. You know, one of the individuals is related to me. We spend so much time — and I hate saying politics, because the reality is this is governing — telling people what they can and can’t do, and trying to stoke fear between different groups of people.

“When the reality is, and it is not cliche, every single person on this earth is human. They all deserve the same rights. And the only people trying to take rights away are politicians. How sad is that?  And they’re only doing it because they want to stoke up some fear so they can get reelected.

“Because we’re giving them pensions; we’re incentivizing somebody’s ability or goal to attain elected office. If you want to take that away, and you want to start electing people who actually give a damn, stop incentivizing it with a pension, at the end of the day, win or lose, I go home, I go back to work the next day. I’m driving the school bus and I’m doing whatever.

“You know, politics, getting into elected office, that cannot be the pinnacle of somebody’s career. So we’ve got to stop incentivizing it.”

Did you or your kids, if you have them, attend public school in Kentucky? And if not, what steps are you taking to learn about the needs of parents, teachers and students?

Rocky Adkins

“Yeah, they do. I’m a product of public schools. My dad, 50 years in public education, 39 years in the classroom. I’m a former public school teacher. All three of my children, attended public schools and one still in public school as we speak. Public universities as well.

“I’m around our school systems a lot, being in the legislature already. Understanding where we are, as far as our budget goes, the issues that impact public education — I think that that’s the reason that I’ll be a better governor.

“I think I’m more qualified to be governor because there is no better place for training for a governor than in the chambers of the Kentucky House of Representatives, to actually have written a budget like I have as a member of the Appropriations and Revenue Committee, writing a transportation budget for six years.

“Actually understanding the issues from people in the classroom, to those that work in our workforce — the very issues that are faced all across Kentucky. There is no better training than to have served in the Kentucky General Assembly. That’s why I think I’m better qualified for this job. In this reason, I think I’ll hit the ground running on the very first day.”

Adam Edelen

“Well, public education is my public passion and in Kentucky it is literally our way forward. As a kid, I went to Catholic schools. My children are in Catholic school. I did graduate from the University of Kentucky.

“I’m passionate about expanding opportunity and you can’t do that without a great system of public education and in too many places, we’re not getting the job done. And I think anybody who seriously wants to move Kentucky forward has got to become an expert in this area.

“I was the first state auditor to ever get involved in evaluating the financial stewardship of our state school districts. You may remember, the largest audit ever done in the history of the state was the one I did of the Jefferson County Public Schools.

“And so literally getting in at the granular level in spending — not just months, but years in that project and working in school systems to make sure that they’re running for the benefit of kids, those who educate them and the taxpayers is really important work.

“A high level of awareness is needed — not just about what our needs and our deficiencies are in our public school systems, but about what our opportunities are.”

Geoff Young

“I don’t have any children. My niece attends public school up in Massachusetts. But I moved here in 1982. That’s 37 years ago.

“Certainly listen to what teachers say when they come to Frankfort. And I was at the biggest rally. It was amazing. And in general, I support what teachers want. Because they are closest to the situation. They know what’s going on firsthand. I don’t.

“And so I would put great weight behind the views of teachers.”

William Woods

“I don’t have children, but I did attend public school, all 12 years. I’m still friends with many of those individuals and I still seek advice from them on a daily basis, not just because I’m running for office, but in just my normal life. If I have a an issue or question, of course, I turned to family about 90 percent of the time.

“You know, I’ll shoot a text or I’ll call a former educator and say, ‘Hey, you know, what’s your opinion on this?’ Because the reality is, going through public school you spend most of your time with educators. You know, you go home at the end of the day, you spend a few hours doing homework, you have dinner, what do you do next? You go to bed.

“So, essentially, you know people in education deserve a large portion of the credit for our current society. They do a lot of the raising and don’t get credit for it. So, you know, are we going to treat them differently? Yeah, I’m going to treat them differently, but I’m not going to treat them the way our current governor does. I’m not going to put them down — I’m gonna raise them up, give them the support that they need.”

Many of my classmates are discouraged by the name calling and division within politics. If nothing changes, fewer students will be interested in politics and civic engagement. How do you plan to do your part to unite a divided state and help decrease the toxicity within politics?

Rocky Adkins

“Well, I think I have done that in my time of service. As Majority Leader, I’ve been a person who has tried to bring people together. As Majority Leader, I’ve been somebody that has talked about the real issues of how we can build a better Kentucky. Even when I’ve disagreed with somebody, it hasn’t been personally, it’s been about the issue itself and debating that issue.

“And it’s wrong when we have a governor that is calling teachers ignorant, thugs and uninformed and ‘don’t come to Frankfort, you’re not allowed here.’ That’s the wrong tone. That’s the wrong message coming out the governor’s office.

“The way I would do that, as governor, is that we would have a positive message, we would have a positive tone, we’d be talking about the issues how we build a better public education, how we build a better economy, how we create the kinds of jobs that our people need and deserve. So it’s all about the attitude of the person that’s supposed to be the leader, the person that’s supposed to be setting the tone, the person that the children look up to.”

Adam Edelen

“So I think the toxicity is largely the result of intellectually bankrupt politicians who are afraid to run on what they’re for. And so the one commitment I made to myself when I launched this campaign is that I’m going to spend an awful lot of time talking about what I’m for because I think the way we inspire the next generation is with ideas that inspire the future.

“And, certainly, we’ve got a lot of young people who have been drawn to our campaign because we embrace the notion that women are equal, which shouldn’t be revolutionary, but certainly feels that way.

“We’ve embraced the notion that we have to become a leader in renewable energy, just as we’ve been a leader in traditional engine energy for 100 years. That is our path forward.

“We’ve got to get critical infrastructure — like broadband — to every part of Kentucky. These are things that I am for, that I’m running on, and we’re drawing a lot of support, particularly from young people.

“The ‘Ask Adam’ sessions that we have — I’ve been on the campus of Northern Kentucky, U of L, Western Kentucky; we’re going to cover all of the universities in Kentucky, because young people have the biggest stake in the future and they ought to have a governor who recognizes that those who have the biggest stake in the future, ought to have to have an important spot there.”

William Woods

“Well, this is great. I love this question because, again, it goes back to having a backbone, having a little common sense, and having a little respect for the citizens. You know, my running mate spent five years teaching in public schools. He taught in Augusta, taught in Robertson County, some very low income areas.

“And he had to deal with the kids, you know, who didn’t understand what the arguing was about, you know, they see enough of that at home. They don’t need to see it from elected officials — when you have a governor who goes out and calls public educators thugs.

“How sad is it? You know, these people are, like I said, a large portion raising our kids.

“We need a governor who’s going to go out and visit these schools who, when he gets behind the camera behind a microphone is going to support educators.”

Geoff Young

“Well, it’s necessary to address corruption and anti-Democratic tendencies in our current government. And so, in addition to unions, our second biggest issue is ending corruption in Kentucky, regardless of political party. Unfortunately, the Kentucky Democratic Party at the very top — I’m not talking about the base — the very top has become totally corrupt. They routinely rig their own primaries. I’ve been running for offices since I ran for the U.S. House and the party violated its own bylaws by officially supporting one of the two candidates.

“It’s not only a violation of the bylaws, it’s an attack on democracy. So my own county party, the Fayette County Democratic Party, if I walk into the building for a meeting, [they] immediately call the police. They don’t like what I have to say. They don’t like the fact that I’ve sued them in the past for election fraud.

“And so some of some of the language needs to be actually sharpened in this current race, Rocky Adkins and I are strong, honest Democrats who would be much better than the incumbent Republican Matt Bevin. No question about it, we could both do the job. So if I don’t win, I hope Rocky does. The other two are crooks.

“Back to your question — why should young people get involved so long as there’s corruption like that? There’s no reason for anyone to vote. Because the crooks at the top have decided who’s going to win anyway.”

What makes you feel like you are the best candidate to pave the way to a better future for our younger generation?

Rocky Adkins

“Well, again, I think that I have proven leadership. I think I have experience, I think I’ve been tested and tried. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being scarred up a little bit from the process and being toughened up from the process.

“Again, I believe I know how the process works. I understand how the budget process works. I think I know how to make state government work again, for communities all across Kentucky.

“But I think I have vision. And I think that vision is of building a better economy, creating a workforce that can compete in this 21st century economy, the 21st century workforce; while we fight for the jobs that we have today and keep those jobs, we got to be ready for the jobs of tomorrow — aerospace, technology, and all of those things that are at our fingertips.

“So experience on one hand, and having vision on the other of how we build a better Kentucky — that’s why I’m more qualified.”

Adam Edelen

That really at the whole root of what this election is about.

I am the best candidate to build a modern Kentucky because I have the clear sense of what a modern Kentucky is and how we get there. A modern Kentucky is a place where our people are prepared to seize the prosperity of the 21st century because we’ve got an economy that is relevant to digital infrastructure, that uses renewable energy, that has funded education, that has helped people develop the skill-sets they need to be relevant, that is healthy, that protects the environment, that is inclusive.

Not a ‘weasel word’ like ‘tolerant,’ but runs on being inclusive and bringing new people to the table and giving new lights the opportunity to shine. I’m the guy who knows how to do that.

Geoff Young

“I’ve worked in state government for 15 years. I know how it works. And our platform is designed to wipe away the forces that are keeping Kentucky back. I have tremendous respect for the ingenuity and initiative and drive of the average Kentuckian and what we need to do is get rid of the corruption.

“[To] make it possible for people to have more say in their work lives and in the political process. Reduce the power of the lobbyists, reduce the power of billionaires — because the problem with billionaires is that they end up controlling the political system. They end up buying politicians; that has to end, so I would be open to public financing of all elections.”

William Woods

“Well, one, I am the younger generation, too. I’m not a politician, and I’ll get attacked for saying that but the reality is I’m not.

“You know, I’m the guy who looks at the governor, Goforth, at Rocky, at Adam and when I see them make a mistake, I feel bad for them.

“You know, let’s just be honest, if I see another Rocky Adkins, commercial or social media post — I feel bad for the guy because that’s not going to win him an election.

“Come up with some good ideas. You may not be able to bring them to fruition. But you’ve got to have an idea that has common sense. And these guys just don’t.

“They’re running on their names. And if I was Rocky, the last thing I would be running on is my experience, because your experience is what put us in this mess. So why am I the best guy? There is no best man or woman for the job. There’s only the person with the best ideas and the best intentions. And in this race, I do believe I’m that person.”

The Next Louisville project is a collaboration between WFPL News and the Community Foundation of Louisville. For more work from the project, click here. 

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