With the primary election a little more than two weeks away, members of the Bowling Green Rotary Club are getting a firsthand look at the three front-runners to be the Democratic gubernatorial nominee.
Rocky Adkins, a state representative from Sandy Hook, was the first of the candidates to make his case Wednesday at the Bowling Green Country Club.
Attorney General Andy Beshear and former state Auditor Adam Edelen are scheduled to speak at the Rotary meetings the next two Wednesdays.
Adkins highlighted his legislative experience, lessons learned on the basketball court and local ties during his speech.
The ties include a long relationship with former House Speaker Jody Richards of Bowling Green, who was at the meeting. Adkins said he worked with Richards closely since he joined the state House as a 26-year-old from Elliott County.
Adkins said he grew up working on a farm in a family of educators, has worked in the private sector and successfully ran for a state House seat as a 25-year-old.
“I’ve served in every capacity in Frankfort,” said Adkins in a theme he repeated. He said he helped pass legislation that has boosted the state’s tourism industry, infrastructure and economic development “to make a difference for all of Kentucky.”
Adkins was the House majority leader for 13 years – a position he likened to being a basketball point guard, a position he played at Morehead State University, where he often clashed with rival Western Kentucky University teams. Those games left him leaving E.A. Diddle Arena with his “head scratched up,” he said.
The jobs of governor and a point guard entail “making sure you are carrying out the game plan,” he said.
“That experience is what separates me,” he said, adding that he knows how to do things like craft a state budget and work with legislators “in a bipartisan way.”
As for a platform, he said he would focus on supporting public education, access to quality health care and building a modern economy.
“If you are going to step up and lead … you have to be able to provide vision,” he said.
He also discussed his proposal for free technical or community college tuition for Kentucky high school graduates, noting that 17 other states already have such a program.
“This is an investment in our workforce,” said Adkins, further saying it could be paid for with federal dollars, lottery proceeds and private investments. He said such efforts are vital for Kentucky’s need to “build a 21st-century economy and a 21st-century workforce.”
Adkins only briefly spoke about Gov. Matt Bevin, saying a governor’s tone should be “a tone that uplifts people.”
He also said he disagrees with many of Bevin’s policies and would be a different governor in that “I would listen,” he said.
Asked about the state’s underfunded pension system, he said the problem didn’t happen overnight and can’t be solved overnight.
He also said that pension reforms passed in recent years have worked, as returns on pension investments have increased significantly and the system is more transparent.
Any future reforms “don’t need to be made in a side room … in the dark,” he said.
After the meeting, Adkins reiterated that what separates him from his rivals is his legislative and private sector experience.
“I know how to be governor from day one,” he said.
Bevin is being opposed in the Republican primary by state Rep. Robert Goforth, R-East Bernstadt, William Woods and Ike Lawrence.
The primary is May 21, with the general election Nov. 5.
– Follow News Director Wes Swietek on Twitter @BGDNgovtbeat or visit bgdailynews.com.