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Candidate comparison: Elliott, Coffey competing for 54th District seat

There are two candidates seeking to represent Kentucky’s 54th District (Boyle and Casey counties) in the state House of Representatives: Daniel Elliott, a Republican, is the incumbent; Lydia Coffey is challenging him as a write-in candidate.

The Advocate-Messenger asked both candidates the same six questions and allowed each the same maximum number of words to answer each question. The candidates’ answers are reprinted here as they were provided to the newspaper.

What are the two most important issues facing the 54th District?

Lydia Coffey: Providing affordable healthcare coverage and protecting Medicaid are of great concern to the 54th District. We must make sure everyone has access to insurance they can afford that covers preexisting conditions.

Both counties are dealing with a severe drug problem. We must do everything possible to stop the flow of drugs to our citizens. Addiction is a disease that must be treated. Treatment programs in our jails are crucial to those incarcerated. Providing treatment programs in our communities must be a priority to stop the continuing cycle of addiction.

                                  Coffey

Daniel Elliott: The two issues are the opioid epidemic and economic development and job creation. Beyond the devastating family suffering and senseless loss of life, the drug problem has created difficult problems for local governments with jail overcrowding and the ability of employers to keep a consistent and productive workforce.

I think we will need the full efforts of not only state and local government in working to alleviate and eliminate this problem, but also the assistance of nonprofits and churches. Local and state government must continue our team effort to attract industry to the area with tax incentives and a qualified workforce that is educated and productive.

What do you think the role of a state representative is and how can you be most effective?

Daniel Elliott: The role of state representative is to help people through both listening and leading.

Listening is so important because you discover what the important issues are to your constituents, while also determining what is going right or wrong in the district in terms of their daily lives and their interactions with state and local government. You also determine which issues are of the most importance to your constituents.

In order to listen actively and effectively, you must be accessible and available. You are a more effective leader when you have listened and completely understood the needs and desires of your constituents. I can be effective by serving in the majority of the state House of Representatives with my vote and advocacy influencing what policy priorities are set and brought forward by the majority leadership as well as ensuring that the district continues to receive our fair share of tax dollars that we send to Frankfort. 

Lydia Coffey: The role of State Representative is to represent the people of the 54th District, not lobbyists or political party. To be accessible and open to listen to the concerns of the constituents of Boyle and Casey Counties and work to find solutions across party lines. Bringing honesty and integrity to Frankfort and following the legislative process in the open and not behind closed doors.

What is one group of people in the 54th District with an unmet need and what are you doing or what would you do to meet their need?

Lydia Coffey: The working families of our district are struggling to make ends meet. New service taxes that were enacted in the 2018 session have hurt these folks the hardest. They will also be hurt by the lack of deductions in the spring when they file their state income taxes. They will not be able to take off occupational taxes, medical or dental costs, only one dependent can be counted, just to name a few.

We need fairer tax laws that will evenly distribute the tax burden. We must also work toward paying a living wage.

Daniel Elliott: Abused and neglected children. One way to help this group is to increase funding to CASA in order to provide more volunteers to assist and advocate for these children within the court system.  Unfortunately, many of these children have faced abuse and neglect because of the drug epidemic and their parents and/or guardians inability to cope with and eliminate their addiction which prevents them from taking care of and supporting their children.

                       Elliott

Another way to assist is supporting our drug treatment rehabilitation centers with more funding, which have shown great success over continual incarceration and release. A recent opioid bill sponsored by Rep. Guthrie which was signed into law should assist in providing grant funding for drug treatment centers and facilities locally which assist those with drug addiction.

What is something being done right in the 54th District?

Daniel Elliott: Those who go out everyday and work in our small businesses, schools, factories, hospitals, in building and construction, and in other places of employment, make life better for all of us, and those same people in our district with that strong work ethic are doing something right every day in building a stronger and brighter community for us now and for future generations.

The entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in Boyle and Casey counties, and we are grateful to those making investments in our communities and workforce in order to build a better life for themselves and those in the community.

Lydia Coffey: Our schools in the 54th District are doing an outstanding job educating our children and continue to rank as some of the best schools in Kentucky. We are looking at two counties that value education.

Educators that take pride in their profession and work hard to reach the educational needs of every student. Implementing innovative programs that are preparing students for life and inspiring them to set higher goals.

School districts are having to make hard decisions due to recent educational cuts, but they are working to make sure student needs are met.

Who are three people you look up to or consider your role models?

Lydia Coffey: My dad, Dr. George Sweeney served the citizens of Casey County with compassion and a caring heart. Serving those in need was his calling.

Rosa Parks set an example by taking a stand against injustice. Her strong will and perseverance changed the lives of African Americans and inspired women.

Mrs. Roberta Wells was my high school biology and algebra teacher that made young girls believe we could accomplish anything.

Daniel Elliott: My mother, Ruth Ann Elliott and my late father, Michael Elliott are role models for me. I’ve had great parents who have wanted me to be a productive citizen that helped others while leading a Christian life.  I’ve also had wonderful grandparents and other relatives that have had a great influence.

Jesus Christ should be a role model for all of us, and I work every day to be more Christ like in my life.

What sets you apart from your opponent and why should voters trust you?

Daniel Elliott: First, I’m a conservative, who is pro-life and pro-Second Amendment. Second, I’ve worked in both the private and public sectors as an attorney with my own private practice and as a substitute teacher before attending law school, and as an intern in US Sen. Jim Bunning’s office while in college. Third, I am not presently retired from another job from which I’m drawing a public pension.

I’ve been a common sense problem solver who works to get things in done in Frankfort that benefit the citizens of the district. Two examples of my work are helping to secure $12m in urgent need bond funding for the construction of the new Boyle County Middle School, and working with Sen. Rand Paul to secure a US Army Corps of Engineers Silver Jackets Grant to study the Green River in Liberty to find ways to alleviate flooding.

Lydia Coffey: My life experiences give me a different perspective than my opponent. I am not a politician and I do not revel in political games. I will not be controlled by a political party and I am willing to work across party lines for the good of Kentucky. Being honest, open and available to my constituents is a promise I will keep.  When I tell my constituents I will vote a certain way, I will follow through. I will not mislead the good people of the 54th District. Continuing to be involved in community activities, civic organizations and church activities will be important to me and will help me stay connected to the needs and concerns of our communities.