Red, White and Blue brings candidates downtown
While the annual “Red, White and Blue” political speaking event hosted by the Greater Owensboro Chamber of Commerce has been a community tradition for years, Saturday’s edition of the event is the first time it was hosted for a primary election.
“We did it because there are so many contested primaries,” said Candance Brake, Greater Owensboro Chamber of Commerce president and CEO.
Brake said the event was established several years ago by local business owner Red Saltsman as “Red’s Picnic.”
“When the Saltsman family decided that they were not going to be able to do it anymore, the Chamber stepped up, and that is why it is called “Red, White and Blue,” she said.
Taking on a traditional stump speech format in front of the Daviess County Courthouse, candidates for each office that will be decided during Tuesday’s primary election participated Saturday.
Some highlights of the event, which occurred during the Bar-B-Q Block Party, include speeches by each of the three candidates campaigning for Daviess family court judge.
Julie Hawes Gordon was the first candidate for the office to speak. While Gordon was ordered removed from the bench last month by the Judicial Conduct Commission, that topic was not brought up by Gordon or her opponents during their speeches.
“When we started, we built Family Court from scratch and I had goals and promises to my community and for my community that we have tried very hard to succeed in through the years,” she said.
Gordon said that while she has been criticized for court times running late, she was the only family court judge for a community with a population of about 103,000 people.
“Even through it meant that court ran late, I was not going to cut people off and I was not going to send people home if there was a chance that a child could be hurt,” Gordon said. “We deal with life and death situations every single day in family court.”
Family court judge candidate Jennifer Hendrix asked voters to consider her experience when filling out their ballot on Election Day.
After leaving the community to attend college, Hendrix said she returned after passing the bar, and has been a practicing attorney in Owensboro for 10 years.
“Over my 10 years, I have done 117 EPO/DDO cases, I have done 880 divorces and 281 adoptions,” Hendrix said. “What those numbers mean is that I have represented families, children, of Daviess County. Those numbers mean I have affected those people’s lives and they have affected mine and I am asking for your vote today for early voting and again on Tuesday May 17.”
Thomas Vallandingham said Owensboro is his hometown, and he believes he offers voters a candidate for family court with relatable life experiences.
“Daviess countians deserve the utmost from their public servants, especially when we are making decisions that impact the most important things to you — your families and your children,” he said.
Another highlight from Saturday’s event was the speeches made by Daviess County sheriff candidates Brad Youngman and Sheriff Barry Smith.
Youngman said he believes drugs are a serious issue plaguing the Owensboro community.
“I am the only candidate in this race that has a plan and that plan hasn’t changed since day one,” Youngman said. “I will start a drug investigations unit to fight our out of control drug problem. It is way past time that we dedicate the appropriate amount of resources to this problem because we see what happens when we ignore it.”
Smith said the issue of illegal drugs in Daviess County is not being ignored by the sheriff’s office.
“One of the community’s continued battles is drugs, this isn’t a new phenomenon,” Smith said. “However, we are arresting higher-volume drug dealers to combat our drug issues.”
Smith said first quarter statistics for 2022 show drug related charges by Sheriff’s deputies are up 53%.
“I speak to you about the drug issues only to tell you that the opposition has been trying to sell you misleading information and quite frankly, he shouldn’t be trying to sell it and you shouldn’t be buying it,” Smith said.
The final candidates to speak Saturday were those vying for Daviess County judge executive.
Will Mounts, vice president of OMICO Plastics, was the first to speak.
Mounts said he would like to see the county making investments in land, safety and increasing its tax base.
“If we use the past as a predictor of future behavior, which we should, then we can easily see what my opponents have to offer Daviess County — red tape, higher taxes, missed opportunities and no vision for our future.
Charlie Castlen, who has served as the Central District commissioner since his election to the court in 2010, said he does not consider himself to be a career politician.
“There are some that say you need to get rid of the good old boys; I assume that is targeted towards me,” Castlen said Saturday. “I would argue that if you ask my friends, if you ask those that know me, they wouldn’t call me a good old boy; they would say Charlie is a good man.”
Castlen said he has been involved in the community for years, and has tried to help those that have had difficulties in their lives.
“I have put myself on the ballot time and time again, so some might call me a career politician, but the reality is I have spent less money to get elected every time that I have run for office than any of my opponents,” he said. “People have elected me because they know me; they know that I represent their values.”
Reid Haire, who previously served as judge executive between 1998 and 2010, was the last candidate to speak at “Red, White and Blue” Saturday.
“One of the most frequently asked questions during my campaign by family, by friends and by those I meet, is why in the world do you want to get back in the political arena,” Haire said. “My answer is simple, I want to breathe new life into county government.”
Haire said he would like to see a new senior center built, and that was one of his goals that did not become reality during his tenure as judge executive.
“I have the energy, the knowledge and the determination to craft a new vision for Daviess County, bringing new ideas to the table, listening to the citizens of Daviess County; we can build a better life for all,” he said.
Other candidates who participated in ‘Red, White and Blue’Daviess County District Court — Non-partisan
Heather Wagner Blackburn
Daviess County Clerk
Property Valuation Administrator
Rachel Pence Foster
County Commission — Central Division
Diane Burns Mackey
County Commission- Eastern Division
County Commission Western- District
By Nathan Havenner Messenger-Inquirer