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What do Catholics, politicians and strong black coffee have in common?
They were all present Wednesday night at a very amicable candidate forum held by the Church of the Annunciation’s Service Committee.
About 20 people gathered at the ACC building at 2nd and Main streets, most of them parishioners of Assumption, to ask questions of Republican Paul Hornback and Democrat David Eaton, who are vying for the 20th District Senate seat left open by the retirement of Sen. Gary Tapp (R-Shelbyville).
Jack Brammer, Frankfort Bureau reporter for The Herald-Leader of Lexington, who is a Shelby County resident, served as moderator for the event.
The atmosphere was jovial as the audience wrote their questions on cards, collected by parishioner John Sower.
“Please refrain from applause, catcalls and mumbling under your breath, because these candidates will have only one minute to respond to these questions, so we must not distract them,” he said jokingly.
When Hornback, Eaton and Brammer were seated at table before the audience, Sower asked Vance Simmons, who was acting as time keeper, if he was ready.
“Hope you brought your gun with you, Vance,” someone called from the crowd.
After the laughter died down, and the candidates gave their opening remarks, the atmosphere turned serious, as the forum began with a different twist – Brammer asked them to think of a question to ask each other.
“I’d like you to ask him what he thinks the public should be asking him,” he told Hornback and Eaton.
Hornback went first, and asked Eaton how he thought the economy got in the condition it’s in and what did he think it would take to rectify it.
Eaton responded that a major problem is that people are more preoccupied with finger pointing than with trying to do anything productive.
“We need to quit blaming each other and start focusing on what to do about it,” he said. “One thing we need to do is concentrate on creating jobs.’
In turn, Eaton asked Hornback what his level of commitment would be if elected, having pointed out beforehand that he planned to resign from his current position of Simpsonville city administrator if elected.
Hornback responded that America’s forefathers didn’t mean for legislative offices to be full-time jobs.
“Whether it be Frankfort or Washington, those that don’t go out and work, they’re out of touch,” he said. “I heard somebody say on the radio the other day that the recession ended 15 months ago, and I thought, boy, they’re out of touch.”
Another hot issue was the economy, and the audience wanted to know what the candidates would do to promote the job market locally.
Eaton cited his history of working to create jobs in his current position and his involvement with local economic development efforts.
“It took me four years to bring Cracker Barrel here, so there is no magic formula; we just have to work hard to create jobs,” he said.
Hornback’s opinion was that Shelby County needs what he called a “business-friendly environment.”
“We’ve got to change the business climate top attract new businesses, and not do things like put taxes on inventory, and just make sure we have a business-friendly community,” he said.
The candidates had similar views on immigration reform – both said that it needs to be addressed at the federal and local level – and both agreed that payday lenders take advantage of people, they said, in response to a question about those business having a cap of 36 percent interest.
“It’s outrageous, they are predatory lenders,” Eaton said.
Hornback agreed, saying, “It ought to hurt their conscience,” but added that he thought regulation of private industry is touchy.
“It is still free enterprise,” he said.
Other than having differing opinions on whether one should quit one’s job if elected, Hornback and Eaton’s views on most of the crowd’s “hard questions,” were similar.
On the topic of whether they supported legalized gambling in Kentucky, both agreed it was a “political football,”
“This should be in the hands of the people,” Eaton said. “The citizens should have the right to vote on it.”
“David’s right,” Hornback said. “It has to be settled by the people.”
And while Hornback said one must be careful with gambling bills, Eaton pointed out that with gambling, nothing is certain.
“Lottery proceeds were supposed to go for education, but they haven’t.” he said.
Both said they would not support a statewide smoking ban.
“I’m not a smoker, but this is America, and peoples’ freedoms should not be taken away,” Eaton said.
Hornback and Eaton also agreed that Social Security should be protected. “One day, Lord willing, we will all need Social Security,” Eaton said.
Hornback said that it should take priority.
“There is plenty of waste in government, and our seniors need to be taken care of,” he said.
The two diverged a bit on the question of the death penalty, with Hornback leaning just a bit more to the conservative side of the issue.
“I support it, but in terms of the severely mentally handicapped, I don’t think we should use it,” Eaton said, with Hornback adding that although he doesn’t think it’s right to choose to take the life of another, “something’s got to be done to set an example.”
After the event, Brammer and Sower said they were impressed with both the candidates and the audience.
“Shelby County is blessed to have two candidates with such integrity,” Brammer said.
“The questions were excellent,” Sower said. “They covered a broad range of topics.”