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As the acting State Auditor, Crit Luallen said she knows a thing or two about "values."
"That's a word that gets thrown around casually in politics too often," she said. "But if there's one key lesson that I've learned in my long career, it's that having strong personal values and holding ourselves to the highest ethical standards that determines success in the public arena."
To enlighten the point, she pointed to recent headlines of groups with power, but without strong values, and acknowledged how these groups hurt the Commonwealth. She mentioned the Kentucky Association of Counties (KACo) and recent reports showing it had more than $3 million in questionable spending during a 3-year period. She said the report on questionable spending by the Kentucky League of Cities would be released in a few weeks.
Speaking on behalf of the Women’s Network as one of several speakers at Claudia Sanders Dinner House on Saturday, Luallen told the crowd of around 100 women that it’s up to the informed public to have an impact by ensuring they choose the right candidates to lead the state and country.
That’s the goal of the Women’s Network. The group, which calls itself Advocates of Democratic Principles, aims to get more women involved in the political process.
"It's always great to get together in a room full of women. There's a different energy. There's a different dynamic. There's a different sort of synergy that goes on I think when we all come together," she said. "And if we can just harness that energy, we can solve all the problems that the commonwealth faces -- 'Yes we can,'" she said as the audience erupted in applause.
Luallen said it's important for citizens to look at the values of their potential leaders to determine if they can fight the long-term battles facing the commonwealth.
Many of those issues were addressed by other knowledgeable speakers throughout the morning, leading up to Luallen's afternoon speech, and they included poverty, neglected children, heart disease, lack of insurance and large numbers of uneducated children.
After she finished, there was an open forum for four of the five Democratic candidates for the U.S. Senate to discuss some of these issues and share their own values.
Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway, Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo, former national security and war on drugs enforcer Darlene Fitzgerald Price and everyday businessman Maurice Sweeney each had their turns to share what they are all about and to answer questions about issues such as whether they would vote yes or no to the health-care reform bill recently passed by the U.S. House.
Only Price and Sweeney answered the question directly, both saying they would vote for it because it's better than any other current option.
"What we have on the table concerns me greatly," Price said. "I would've probably voted for it because 60 percent of something is better than 100 percent of nothing -- with the hope that once it goes further we will get single care or a real public option."
Neither Conway nor Mongiardo answered the question so straightforward. As a doctor, Mongiardo spoke of the insight he has into the health-care problems of the U.S., but to the question answered, "This is a complex issue. It does not lean itself to yes or no on a bill that has been put together."
Conway answered, "I think we can get a better bill out of the Senate."
From there, the candidates answered questions about jobs and health care in today's economy, each answer giving the crowd a view of the candidates' individual values and thoughts about today's problems.
"Personal values also have to extend to making the difficult decisions that are necessary to make a better future for every community in the commonwealth," Luallen said.