Candidates speak to experience, give views on education at online forum

Published 7:21 pm Tuesday, April 25, 2023

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In the interests of reader’s time, this story has been split in two. Part two will be released Wednesday. The full story will appear in print in Friday’s edition of the Sun.

A special primary election to determine who will fill the Kentucky Senate District seat takes place on Tuesday, May 16.

On April 20, candidates received the opportunity to speak.

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Greg Elkins (R), Richard Henderson (I), and Bob Sainte (D) each spoke during an online candidate forum hosted by the Winchester-Clark County Chamber of Commerce.

“This seat is to fill the term of Dr. Ralph Alvarado, who resigned last year to be the Health Commissioner for the state of Tennessee,” said moderator Bruce Manley. “This evening’s event is sponsored by Winchester-Clark County Chamber of Commerce and WWKY Radio.”

Initially, each candidate presented an opening statement so viewers could learn more about them.

Elkins, a waste management company CEO and former Clark County Fiscal Court Magistrate, announced himself as a Christian conservative.  His policy positions include being pro-life, in favor of improving foster care programs, favoring school choice for parents, supporting the Second Amendment, being pro-business, expanding infrastructure and reducing inflation along with other economic concerns.

Sainte, an engineer by trade who owns and operates Hydro-Ventures dba H20 Performance Products, has also served in the private sector as a non-profit counselor – including Chairman of the Bluegrass Area Development District Private Industry Council. Among other skill sets, Sainte acknowledged being a strong communicator and negotiator, a positive in a harsh and hostile current political environment.

Henderson, acknowledging God and his family, owns a concrete and masonry company whose previous experience includes being the Mayor of Jeffersonville and a member of the Kentucky House of Representatives. He mentioned prior experience in saving and creating jobs and an interest in economic growth and infrastructure while improving unity between people of diverse interests.

Several individuals joined online to ask different questions.

Magistrates Robert Blanton and Chris Davis, and City Commissioner Hannah Toole were among them.

The first question was for each candidate to speak of their most significant accomplishment and how it could be used to serve others in Frankfort.

Elkins mentioned growing his business from a team of five employees to over ninety as a professional success. Along with local government experience, Elkins said that understanding how to grow a business and looking into what businesses and industries need is a valuable asset.

Similarly, Sainte stated that his greatest professional accomplishment is saving money to start his own business independently and growing it into a business worth over $3 million. He said believes he will work well in Frankfort and continue to be solution-focused without fatigue while understanding what motivates people and how to get the most out of them.

Henderson said that working and assisting “blue-collared people,” including law enforcement, teachers, and more, was beneficial. Just as well, building parks in Wolfe County provided opportunities. With a focus on doing so in other counties and adding infrastructure, Henderson said he believes that prior experience will provide him an advantage.

Secondly, candidates were asked what they think is right with the education system and what improvements must be made. Also, candidates were requested to deliver their thoughts on charter schools.

Sainte acknowledged being an advocate for public education and that people outside the school system should not be in a position to influence teaching styles or curriculums. Across the state, Sainte stated that teachers are underfunded and underpaid. In order to bring in the best candidates, higher wages should be offered. Sainte said he opposes charter schools, as money is taken out of the already underfunded public school system and that an alternative to going to public schools for parents seeking alternative education options would be to consider private schools.

Acknowledging the importance of education and that much is good, Henderson stated that staff, including janitors, cooks, and bus drivers, are underpaid and should be acknowledged. Individuals interested in such jobs need to receive more attention. While supporting teachers, Henderson stated that more discussion should occur around charter schools and that the local community should be further consulted.

Elkins added that much is right with the public schools and that teachers’ passion is evident. However, he mentioned that vocational education is worthwhile and that students can be more encouraged to do so and that parents need more input in what students are taught, with less outside influence. He said supports he school choice, denying the theory that supporting both public and private education is impossible