By Bill Robinson
MADISON COUNTY —
Madison County could see the what may be the first-ever Republican primary for judge/executive in May.
At the annual Republican Women’s Club potluck dinner Friday night at the Madison County Fairgrounds, Madison County Codes Administrator Duane Curry and Reagan Taylor, a builder and Realtor, both said they would be entering the race.
When Harold Botner Sr. won election as judge/executive in the early 1980s, he was the first Republican to lead the county in a generation, and he won his party’s nomination without opposition.
About 70 people paid to attend Friday night’s event. Proceeds will help elect “good, conservative candidates” in the fall 2014 election, said state Rep. Donna Mayfield, R-Winchester, the master of ceremonies.
Those in county government seem to be working “for themselves” rather than “for us,” Taylor said.
Curry said it was “time for a change” in county leadership, for a judge/executive with “fresh ideas” who could bring about positive change.
When Roger Barger was elected to the fiscal court almost 12 years ago, he and Shell’s predecessor, former state Rep. Lonnie Napier, were the county’s only Republican office-holders, said state Rep. Jonathan Shell, R-Lancaster.
Since then, two Republicans, Billy Ray Hughes and Greg King, have joined the court. Kenny Barger was elected county clerk, and he, Mayfield and state Sen. Jared Carpenter, R-Berea, have joined the county’s legislative delegation, Shell said.
Also, the Sixth Congressional District is back in Republican hands, Shell said, thanks in large part to strong support for Rep. Andy Barr in Madison County.
The efforts of the Republican Women’s Club members and others like them are the reason for the party’s successes, Shell and others said.
Kentucky is the only southern state with a legislature in which the Democrats still control even one chamber. If Republicans continue to make gains in each election cycle, the party can win control of the House of Representatives, Shell said.
Mayfield said she, Shell and other Republicans are pushed to the background by the House leadership, and often their bills, such as those that support right-to-life or right-to-work causes, don’t even get a hearing.
King did not attend the function, and Hughes gave only a brief greeting, but Roger Barger had more to say. Madison County offers government services, such as good schools, a library and waste recycling, that make it attractive to new residents, he said.
His colleagues from other counties, especially those in the coal regions and others away from the interstate highways and without assets such as Eastern Kentucky University, are envious of Madison County, Barger said.
But whenever he or other magistrates question how county government spends money, Judge/Executive Kent Clark accuses them of “showboating,” Barger said.
He said the county had purchased lumber from a vendor in Sturgis when it could have been obtained it from a local vendor for the same money.
If trying to save taxpayers’ money and supporting local businesses is showboating, Barger said, “then I guess I’m showboating.”
Carpenter, who spoke after Barger, said the county was fortunate to have “whistleblowing magistrates.”
The state’s coal regions are hurting, the state senator said, noting that Kentucky has lost 5,000 coal-related jobs. The Obama administration’s environmental policies have contributed to that decline, he said.
In the not too distant past, only Republicans in national or statewide races could expect to carry Madison County, Carpenter said, echoing Shell in thanking the GOP women’s group for their support.
Carpenter praised Richmond Mayor Jim Barnes, who attended the meeting, for promoting local job growth.
To say the past week had been hectic for him would be an understatement, Kenny Barger said, when his turn came at the podium.
Within 24 hours, he was visited by the state attorney general who told him his predecessor, Billy Gabbard, would be indicted the next day, and then he was told his office’s annual audit would start.
Since he was elected less than two years ago, Kenny Barger said he had made changes in the clerk’s office that had saved the taxpayers “tens of thousands of dollars.”
Mayfield said the county Republican Party would be conducting a workshop Nov. 2 to instruct prospective candidates on how to run for office.
Bill Robinson can be reached at email@example.com at 624-6690.