Danny Collins and Donna Collins were waiting on the lawn of the Daviess County Courthouse on Thursday afternoon for the start of the annual Red, White and Blue candidate forum.
Donna Collins described the couple as “voting junkies” who cast ballots regularly. Still, the couple are a little more excited about the coming November election than they were about previous campaign cycles.
Danny Collins said he has more interest in this year’s election. “More so than in 2016, even though it was a presidential election,” he said. “I think it’s time for Democrats to take back the House if they can, the U.S. House and the state House.”
Overcast skies and moments of rainfall might have dampened the size of the crowd, but people who attended the Greater Owensboro Chamber of Commerce’s Red, White and Blue political forum were excited about the coming election.
“I’m not going to tell you who to vote for, I’m not going to recommend anyone,” Daviess County Judge-Executive Al Mattingly told the crowd as the candidates waited for their turn
to take the podium. “But, having been in their place for the last 20 years, I want to thank them for throwing their hat in the ring and sharing their views.”
The event featured all of the candidates for jailer, county clerk and Division III District judge, all but two of the candidates running for the area’s state House and Senate seats, and Democratic 2nd District congressional candidate Hank Linderman. Rep. Brett Guthrie, the Republican incumbent in the 2nd District congressional race, did not attend.
The forum also included quick two-minute speeches from the 12 candidates running for Owensboro city commission. Those candidates drew a lot of interest.
“I really don’t think I know the city commissioner (candidates) as much as I did when we had primaries,” Donna Collins said. The city commission did away with May primaries for commission races in 2015.
Of the candidates appearing at the forum, “I’m more concerned about city commission, and I haven’t made my mind up about any of them, except Pam” Smith-Wright, an incumbent commissioner, Donna Collins said.
Linda Drawdy said she was also at the forum to hear from the city commission candidates. “I’ve listened to them twice, but I’d like to continue to hear what they have to say.”
The audience was responsive to the candidates for state House and Senate, cheering and yelling for the candidates they supported.
“I get up every morning thinking about two things and two things only — what can I do to make the commonwealth of Kentucky better (and) how can I make the lives of citizens of District 13 better,” 13th House District candidate Jim Glenn, a Democrat, said.
Like many Democrats running for area state House races who spoke, Glenn accused Republican legislators of cutting money for education.
“They’re cutting money to our schools,” Glenn said.
Rep. DJ Johnson, the Republican incumbent in the 13th District, said he worked for the district in his two years as state representative and had addressed tough issues.
“I’m long on accomplishments,” Johnson said. The House GOP as a whole has “taken steps to stop the bleeding in our pension plans,” Johnson said.
Johnson told the crowd he has passed bills that help veterans with a service-related disability bid on state contracts, a bill to create regulations for schools to teach Bible literacy classes, and bills “that have reduced red tape.”
Linderman, a Democrat, talked about his platform, but said he works to bridge the partisan divisions that negatively affect politics. He told the crowd he works to find areas of agreement with people of different political views.
“There is a way forward,” Linderman said.
Belinda Abell said she was energized about the coming election.
“Things have got to change,” Abell said. This election “is different. People are more energized, more people are paying attention to what is being said and what is being done.”
Lisa Lamar, who attended the forum with Abell, said she hopes more people will vote in November.
“Both of us follow politics,” Abell said.
“I was raised on it,” Lamar said.
Lou Drawdy said he votes in every election and came to the forum “to listen and hear what people say.”
“I’m here to support the process,” Lou Drawdy said. “There should be more of it, and more people.”