Candidates for Kentucky’s Second District unlikely to debate

Published 4:57 pm Wednesday, October 10, 2018


Many voters in Kentucky’s Second Congressional District may not realize there’s more than one choice for their representative this election. And it seems unlikely that a public debate or forum featuring multiple candidates will happen before the election.

Brett Guthrie

Incumbent Brett Guthrie, the Republican in the race, is seeking his sixth term as U.S. representative for the Second District. His re-election was unopposed in 2016, but this time, Democratic challenger Hank Linderman is trying to unseat him. There’s also an Independent in the race, Thomas Loecken.

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Kentucky Tonight on KET is devoting part of its hour Monday night to the Second Congressional District race. Tim Bischoff with KET said Linderman accepted an invitation to participate, but Guthrie will not be participating. Loecken did not respond to the invitation, Bischoff said.

Loecken confirmed Wednesday he was invited by KET, but said he isn’t interested in a public forum or debate.

“I was just going to go a totally different route. To me, that’s somebody else’s ideas of questions,” Loecken said. “I was going to do a lot of YouTube and Facebook stuff and that will be it.”

Guthrie’s campaign did not immediately respond to a request Wednesday for comment on declining to participate on Kentucky Tonight.

The local Women’s Network organization in Danville attempted to hold a debate Tuesday night and invited both Guthrie and Linderman to participate. The aim of the event was “to support the democratic process and inform the public about what their choices are,” according to Margaret Gardiner, leader of the Women’s Network.

But “Brett Guthrie refused to come and said he’s not coming,” Gardiner told the close to 40 people who attended. “So this has turned into a forum for Hank to tell you what his positions are and for you to ask questions that you have about where he stands … so you can make a democratic choice.”

The Advocate-Messenger asked Guthrie’s office for comment on why he declined to participate in Tuesday’s event and if he would like to have a public forum or debate for the candidates in his race.

Guthrie for Congress provided the following statement: “Congressman Guthrie visits Danville often. He is running a robust campaign this fall and looks forward to being back in Danville several times before Election Day.”

Gardiner said she wrote in advance of Tuesday’s event to the Boyle County Republican Party, the Boyle County Chamber of Commerce and “various Republicans and Independents, asking for their participation so that Linderman’s positions on issues would not go unchallenged.”

But those groups did not appear to be present Tuesday night, as Linderman received multiple rounds of applause for his positions and fielded largely positive questions from the audience. Gardiner said afterward it was “disappointing that we did not have a wider sector of the public there tonight.”

Linderman admitted during the forum that his campaign pockets are nowhere near as deep as Guthrie’s — he said the Republican has around $2.5 million to use in his re-election bid. That makes it harder to get name recognition everywhere in the expansive Second District, which is spread across two time zones. But Linderman said it also represents the biggest difference between himself and Guthrie:

“Congressman Guthrie is funded by large, corporate PACs (political action committees). We’re all aware of this — if you go to, you can see who gives him money,” Linderman said. “… I kind of feel bad for him because he can’t vote the way he would like to vote.”

Linderman said he has met Guthrie and “we got along just fine.”

“I wish he were here, because I would treat him as if he were my friend,” he said. “We have disagreements and those disagreements need to be discussed, but they don’t have be done unpleasantly.”

One member of the audience asked Linderman what question he would have asked of Guthrie if Guthrie had attended the Danville event.

“I think I would like to ask him when it happened — when he stopped being a man of the people,” Linderman responded. “I’ve spoken with people who have said that when he first came around, he was on the ground talking to people. He would come around through little towns throughout the district, he would remember people’s names. He was shaking hands … I guess I would ask him when it happened. What happened? Was it bit by bit? Was it all at once? Was it a Tuesday night in February?”

Controlling health-care and education costs and creating a better economy for poor and middle-class Americans were two recurring themes for Linderman Tuesday night, as he framed himself as someone who can bridge a widening “tribal” gap between political groups in the Second District and the nation.

“When we are this divided, we are both wrong. So we are going to have to find a way out of this division,” he said. “We cannot deal with the serious problems that we face without repairing our American family. … The answer to hate is not more hate. The answer to hate is love.”

Linderman also fielded a question about a local issue — the proposal to repurpose a natural gas pipeline to transport fracking byproducts. About 20 miles of the 964-mile pipeline in question travels through Boyle County.

“The little bit I have learned alarms me,” Linderman said. “It does not seem like a good idea to repurpose a 75-year-old pipeline for a more dangerous product to go through it — oh, and we’re going to reverse the direction of it, and it’s going to go past a school and a water supply lake. It doesn’t sound like a very good idea at all. There’s nothing I can see to say I would be in favor it.”

Then Linderman prodded the audience with a question — “What does Mr. Guthrie say?” — referencing a recent article in The Advocate-Messenger, which reported that Guthrie said he doesn’t have an opinion on the pipeline project yet.

“Hypothetically, if I look at something and don’t feel it can be safe and be safely done, I’m not going to be for something that is not safe,” Guthrie told the newspaper for the article. “But I’m saying hypothetically because they haven’t proposed what they’re going to do.”

Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company has received federal approval for its plan to stop using the pipeline for natural gas and sell it to a sister company, Utica Marcellus Texas Pipeline LLC, so it can be used to transport natural gas liquids (NGLs) from northeast Ohio to the Gulf Coast. But the company has yet to implement the plan due to “market conditions,” according to multiple status reports filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission since the project gained approval in 2017.

Linderman said Wednesday that Danville’s event has not been the only attempt by people in the Second District to organize a candidate forum or debate.

“There’s been all kinds of efforts and he (Guthrie) is not interested,” Linderman said. “… We’re going to stage some debates and invite him, but I doubt he’s going to show.”

Linderman said he wants a public debate with Guthrie because “ideally, the election should be about ideas. It should be about policies. It should be about how government is going to serve people in the district.”



Kentucky Tonight will be featuring candidates for the state’s congressional districts through the end of the month. Episodes air Mondays at 8 p.m. On Monday, Oct. 15, Second District Democratic candidate Hank Linderman will be featured, beginning at approximately 8:15 p.m. The full schedule follows:

  • Oct. 15: First Congressional District — Paul Walker (D); Second Congressional District — Hank Linderman (D).
  • Oct. 22: Third Congressional District — Vickie Yates Glisson (R); Fourth Congressional District — Seth Hall (D); Fifth Congressional District — Kenneth S. Stepp (D).
  • Oct. 29: Sixth Congressional District — Andy Barr (R, incumbent), Frank Harris (L) and Amy McGrath (D).

Kentucky’s Second Congressional District includes Owensboro, Bowling Green, Glasgow, Elizabethtown, Bardstown and Danville. Area counties in the Second District include Boyle, Mercer, Garrard, Washington and part of Jessamine.