Tea Party v Establishment

May 16, 2011

The two Republicans vying for Secretary of State represent both the establishment and anti-establishment factions within the GOP. Kentucky Public Radio's Alan Lytle has this primary preview.

Over her thirty year career, Knifley, Kentucky native Hilda Legg has held various positions within government including the U.S. Department of Education, a co-chair of the Appalachian Regional Commission, as well as the first director of the Center for Rural Development in Somerset. She says her years of experience in both the public and private sectors, has prepared her for the state's top business position.

"My years as an administrator, as a C.E.O., as a businesswoman when you're talking about business filings and business processes, understand that small business are in the world everyday trying to make a living and trying to make a profit. I am the sole provider and a small businesswoman myself for my family."

Hopkinsville math teacher and businessman Bill Johnson, has never held elected office, but he did briefly campaign for U-S Senate in 2010. The Tea Party favorite says he would bring a fresh approach to the job.

"I've been saying on the campaign trail that I think we need more military discipline and more private sector experience in Frankfort. And that's what I bring. I served for ten years in the United States Navy as a nuclear propulsion engineer, and I have been in the private sector for thirteen years at various large and small companies."

Both candidates say they want to streamline the registration and application processes for small businesses.

Legg: " so that when a business calls in they really are able to eliminate that the time they spend filing forms for the government and have more time to create jobs."

Johnson: "I envision checklists so that when people start a business there's a check there to incorporate, there's a check there for various permits they need to buy, or other local requirements. They can go down this checklist and do everything they need to do to be in business."

As the state's top election official, Johnson says he favors an open primary where voters could cross party lines and independents could participate as well. He would also push for a requirement that all voters present photo identification before they are allowed to cast a ballot.

" after all you've got to show a picture I.D. to buy cigarettes or alcohol, or get on an airplane, or drive a car, so it just makes sense to me that a picture I.D. is a good security measure to show that before you are allowed access to vote."

Legg favors keeping party primaries closed, and she wants Kentucky to follow other states' lead in making voters present proof of citizenship as well.

"You show your proof of citizenship at the age of 16 when you go get your drivers license. If we were teaching our young people now when you turn 18, and you go register to vote, you will also need to show your proof of citizenship. Isn't voting just as important as learning how to parallel park?"

Johnson says he's proud to have the endorsement of numerous Tea Party groups in Kentucky.

"It is important to me personally and I truly appreciate their support; not only the Tea Party, but many other grass roots organizations as well, who all feel like they've been betrayed by some of our elected officials, and they are looking for new leadership, and new ideas, and I am glad to represent that for them."

Legg says Tea Partiers have served to increase civic engagement and she would welcome their support.

" but the more people we have involved and engaged and talking about elections we say this is going to be a low turnout, well we don't want this to be a low turnout, we want people involved; I want people involved."

Whoever comes out victorious on Tuesday, the GOP candidate will need to campaign hard in a state where registered Democrats enjoy the numeric majority.