Republican candidates talk issues

Republican candidates talk issues

Public safety, economic development and addressing Daviess County’s longstanding flooding issues were all significant themes throughout the evening Thursday during the Local Candidates Forum at Owensboro City Hall.

Hosted by the Greater Owensboro Chamber of Commerce, the event brought together candidates for the Republican Party primaries for each of the local offices on the ballot. Several county races do not have a Democratic candidate running, meaning the primary election will decide Daviess County’s next sheriff, county clerk and property valuation administrator.

After Daviess County Clerk candidates Tonya Payne and incumbent Leslie McCarty kicked off the forum by answering two questions each, Daviess County Sherriff’s candidates Brad Youngman and incumbent Sheriff Barry Smith were next to field questions from event moderator Matt Francis, executive editor of the Messenger-Inquirer.

After introductory statements, Smith was the first to field a question, being asked if he agreed with the perception that crime is on the rise in the Daviess County community and that it is not as safe as it once was, and if so, how, as sheriff, he would address the issue.

“If anyone read the Messenger-Inquirer today, you saw that the Owensboro Police Department has worked 35 shootings, gunfire incidents within the city of Owensboro, so I think as far as crime goes, those incidents obviously have increased over the last couple of years,” Smith said. “As far as violent crime, murders, rapes, robberies and even secondary crimes such as thefts, burglaries, those incidents, I don’t think we have seen a sharp increase in those numbers.”

Youngman said he is not as interested in the statistics on paper as he is to what the community perception is in the streets.

“Like most people, I am mostly concerned about the drugs in this community, because that seems to be the root cause of most crime and violence,” he said. “As sheriff, I think the first thing that I would need to do is start a full-time drug unit that addresses that problem in the county.”

Property Valuation Administrator candidates, incumbent Rachel Pence Foster and challenger Jason Pagan were next up on the dais for questions.

All Republican candidates seeking a seat on Daviess Fiscal Court participated in the forum, which was sponsored by the Daviess County Farm Bureau and the Owensboro Neighborhood Alliance.

With Charlie Castlen, current Central District commissioner, campaigning for judge-executive and East District Commissioner Mike Koger electing not to seek reelection, the only race for Daviess Fiscal Court that has an incumbent campaigning for reelection is the West District, which is represented by George Wathen.

County Commissioner Central candidates participating included Andy Gamblin, Darrin Autry, Michael King, Larry Conder, Diane Mackey and Jason Jackson. County Commissioner East candidates participating included Matt Fitzgerald, Mark Irby, Janie Marksberry and Jimmie Sapp. Candidates for the Daviess County West Division seat included Dustin Warren, George Wathen and Chris Castlen.

The evening culminated in the final individual forum of the evening, which featured Daviess County judge executive candidates Charlie Castlen, Reid Haire and Will Mounts.

Candidates were asked their thoughts on what the most pressing issues facing Daviess County. Castlen was first to answer, focusing his response on job growth and potential tax revenue.

“I think we need to create an environment where Daviess County is the premier place for companies that are looking for sites for plants, to bring jobs, because the jobs is what creates growth, the jobs is what creates the tax base,” Castlen said. “I have heard others talk about, we don’t need to be raising taxes, and I certainly don’t support raising taxes, but the way you avoid having to raise taxes is to increase your base, both from an employment standpoint and also the values of the properties that come with the additional job base.”

Reid Haire, who served as judge executive from 1998 to 2010, said he believes the community should focus on ideas, rather than brick-and-mortar structures.

“Ideas from people who want to move this community forward, but you have to have a fiscal court that welcomes those ideas,” Haire said. “Right now, that is not the case. There is not a lot of activity with our fiscal court. It is pretty calm, I would say.”

Mounts said he believes safety is what the county should be focusing its attention on.

“One, if we do not take safety seriously, people will not want to live in this community and businesses will not want to come here,” Mounts said. “Two, with growth. We have to create opportunities for our youth to stay in this community. And three, with sustainability. We must increase our tax base, not our tax rate. We have to get planning and zoning on the same page with us in order to push this economy forward here locally.”

After fielding some more questions, the judge-executive candidates delivered their 90-second closing remarks.

Mounts is focused on learning from past missteps.

“The past is a predictor of future behavior, history, we are to learn it so we do not repeat it,” he said. “I do not want the next four years to look like the last 24 years, in which we have increased our taxes, pushed our youth away to other communities due to opportunities and remained unfriendly to business.”

Castlen urged voters to support candidates that share their outlook.

“I am telling you, it is important to look at the candidates and pick the ones that are going to represent your values,” he said. “There are challenges that we don’t know about today that will present, and you need somebody that has a clue on how to address those things as they pop up.”

Haire concluded the candidates’ remarks.

“I offer you positive administration rather than negative, I offer you calmness instead of anger and aggressiveness, and I will be active rather than passive, leading rather than following,” he said. “I will welcome new ideas, not try to go it alone.”

Participating candidates included:

• Office of Daviess County Clerk: Leslie McCarty and Tonya Payne.

• Office of Daviess County Sheriff: Barry Smith and Brad Youngman.

• Office of Daviess County PVA: Rachel Pence Foster and Jason Pagan.

• Office of Daviess County Commissioner Central: Darrin Autry, Larry Conder, Andy Gamblin, Michael King and Diane Mackey.

• Office of Daviess County Commissioner East: Matt Fitzgerald, Mark Irby, Janie Marksberry and Jimmie Sapp.

• Office of Daviess County Commissioner West: Chris Castlen, Dustin Warren and George Wathen.

• Office of Daviess County Judge Executive: Charlie Castlen, Reid Haire and Will Mounts.

Nathan Havenner  Messenger-Inquirer