LOUISVILLE — Two very different Democratic candidates in South Louisville made their pitch to primary voters in the 38th District to earn the right to challenge former Democratic lawmaker Denny Butler in the General Election.
The candidates squared off on Monday night for the one and only debate of the campaign between McKenzie Cantrell and Dan Johnson before more than 50 people at the Teamsters Local 89.
Over the hour long debate the candidates returned to talk over who was best suited to defeat Butler and return the seat to the Democratic Party in the fall.
Cantrell said she has already knocked on more than 3,000 doors in the district and it’s that dedication and tenacity which will lead her to victory over Butler. Johnson says his deep roots in politics representing Louisville in the metro council will position him to take on Butler, in addition, Johnson said he has “information” on Butler which would help defeat him in the fall.
In an interview following the debate, Johnson declined several times to say what information he had on Butler that would ensure a Democratic victory in the General Election.
Johnson struck out in the opening minutes against Cantrell, an attorney with the Kentucky Equal Justice Center, saying she had only recently taken on Democratic values and that she had donated to the campaign of Republican Allison Ball in the treasurer’s race.
Cantrell addressed the issue later in the debate saying she had donated to Ball, but it was a family connection through her fiancé which led to the contribution.
“I’m a first time candidate, I never really thought I’d run for office, politics has a shelf life, but family is forever. My fiancés brother served as Allison Ball’s treasurer and I gave a contribution to family… it was just family supporting family,” Cantrell said.
Throughout the night and across nearly every issue Cantrell, a newcomer to politics, owned the speaking time with Johnson keeping his remarks brief and often sticking to reading prepared answers to questions. During one exchange, moderator Joe Sonka of Insider Louisville, asked Johnson if he supported repealing prevailing wage, which elicited a four word response from the candidate, “No, I do not.”
Cantrell drilled deeper into the issues and offered her personal opinions and often an explanation of the topics at hand — monopolizing the time in the debate and showcasing her preparations.
On the topic of payday lending practices Cantrell spoke for nearly two minutes with a statement and follow-up on the question, as Johnson, not making eye contact with voters, looked at his notes for a 17 second response and declined an opportunity to further explain his thoughts.
Cantrell, who is positioning herself as the hardworking, upstart politician with fresh ideas, offered her own jab to Johnson in her closing remarks without mentioning his name.
“District 38 is worth having someone who doesn’t make the news for all of the wrong reasons. We don’t want party switching Representative Butler, we don’t want someone who can’t manage their own personal finances enough to stay out of the news,” she said. “We want someone with integrity who will not fill the media with embarrassing stories that we’ve seen out of south Louisville, that we’ve seen the past few years.”
Johnson has had a string of personal finance disputes which caused his home to go up for sale to settle a mortgage debt, according to WDRB The councilman also bounced checks written to the city of Louisville and has come under investigation for his campaign finances by some in the media.
Both candidates vowed to remain members of the Democratic Party if elected into office.
Watch Pure Politics on Tuesday at 7:00 pm Eastern and again at 11:30 pm for more debate highlights.