By Jeff Noble / Staff Writer
Two things are definite on the outcome of the 82nd House District race a week from today.
One, the winner will be a Republican. Since there’s no opposition from the Democrats, Tuesday’s winner in the GOP primary is assured a place in the House Chamber in Frankfort, to represent all of Whitley and a small part of southern Laurel County.
The other is the fact the winner will come from Williamsburg. Both incumbent 82nd District Representative Regina Petrey Bunch, and challenger James Larry Goins live in Williamsburg. Both of them have bachelor’s degrees in education from Cumberland College (now University of the Cumberlands) in Williamsburg.
Both have two children, and both have run for the office before — Goins twice, in 2004 and 2006, only to lose to then-State Representative Charles Siler in both Republican primaries — while Bunch won a special election Dec. 20 to finish the term of her husband, Rep. Dewayne Bunch.
Dewayne Bunch was injured while trying to break up a fight between two students at Whitley County High School on April 12 last year. He resigned last October, while Regina Bunch announced she would run for his House seat Nov. 1.
But when asked about top priorities for the district, both had few similarities.
For Bunch, top on the list is the state’s economic status, which she says affects everyone in the 82nd District.
“We have to come to some consensus as a state legislature that the money’s drying up, and we’ll have to look for other revenues. We’re in a financial rut,” she said last Wednesday.
Bunch said other ways to help the economy would be for government in Frankfort to be accountable and transparent, and address the need to create jobs, as well as to make Kentucky a market for industry. But on spending, she feels the reigns need to be brought in at the State Capitol.
“We’ll need to justify our spending, and not just spend at will. There needs to be some type of needs assessment, and to spend it on worthwhile projects, and not for political gain,” noted Bunch.
Heading up Goins’ list of priorities is education, if he’s elected next Tuesday.
“We seem to have a problem with drop-outs before they graduate. We need to change the drop-out age from the current 16 years old to 18 years old, or until they graduate from high school. We also need to keep good teachers, so they need to be paid better and for the schools to encourage better training for teachers, so that they can improve their curriculum to help give students better knowledge,” he pointed out.
With education comes a concern to Goins about school safety, which he would address.
“Schools need better security to put a deterrent on possible conflicts in the schools, and having to call the law for help,” he added.
Bunch also agreed that educating the district’s children is a priority to her.
“I’m an educator, and we have to look at preparing children for future job possibilities. But not everyone’s college material, and not everyone can afford college. So we need vocational training and technical training, to help them with a decent wage. For those with college training, they need encouragement and assistance to help them go to college and reach their goal of success,” said Bunch, who teaches seventh-grade special education for Whitley County Schools.
She added the “‘generational cycle of welfare’ has to be stopped, and the best way to do that would be to provide a quality education, and the means to receive it.”
Bunch said, “We also need to offer a curriculum where students in the 82nd District are competitive with other students from around the state.”
For Goins, a good education means a good job, which ties in with another of his main priorities, job creation.
He said, “We need to get industry to come into the area, to provide a better pay scale, and improve the social and economic life of our area. I will solicit good, stable industries to provide good paying jobs, rather than just minimum wage jobs.”
Goins, who is self-employed and owns a grocery store and rental properties, added many who live in the district want to better their current status, but without better jobs and wages, it’s hard to do so.
“Most jobs here are now low-paying ones, and we need to get jobs that pay decent wages, instead of those that are minimum wage. I was in the insurance business for 25 years. I helped people prepare programs for our future. Used to, it was industrial, but now it’s high-tech. We need to prepare our children for that future. And, people who want to improve their way of live now should have a chance to do so.”
A problem Bunch wants to address if re-elected is a serious one in the district and statewide — drugs.
“No one can deny both of our counties have a serious drug problem, and we need to stop drugs. Our current generation of children are at risk. Also some people use public assistance money to buy drugs, and we need to stop that. We also need to protect children who live in houses manufacturing meth. We need to have stronger penalties to those manufacturing meth, and protect those children who live in them, because they are all victims,” said Bunch, who added there needs to be enforcement on the limitation of pseudoephedrine that can be purchased, as well as drug intervention strategies and stiff penalties for those who manufacture and distribute illegal drugs.
Another priority listed by Goins was better roads.
“In traveling the area in this election, I’ve never seen the roads in such bad shape in 25 years. Up Main Street in Corbin, we’ve got potholes. The roads are in the poorest condition than I’ve seen them in a while. We need to lobby for more cash from the state to be promised for our area. We need someone to speak up and let them know the roads need to be repaired, to help our families and children,” Goins said last Wednesday, adding he would allocate enough money to the state Transportation Department to keep the area roads properly maintained and safe for communities in the district.
Goins is 64 years old, and is a member of VFW Post No. 3167, as well as the Big Brothers organization. Meanwhile, Bunch is 49 years old, and also has a master’s of arts degree in education from Union College in Barbourville, as well as a Rank I in education supervision, also from Union College. She’s a member of the First Baptist Church in Williamsburg, the Kentucky Association of Professional Educators, and a member of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).
Both Bunch and Goins spoke about one hot-button issue in their district — the City of Corbin’s attempts at collecting the occupational tax in Knox County paid by Corbin residents who live in that county.
“I was a prepared voter, and was willing to stand against politically-motivated agendas, like the Corbin occupational tax situation with Knox County. It was my first session, and I decided not to be afraid to raise my voice on it,” Bunch said.
“The leadership in Knox County needs to compromise with Corbin. Whitley County and Corbin doesn’t have that problem. If you got proper leadership and compromise, that can be worked out,” Goins said.
As for the recent legislative session in Frankfort, both candidates had this to say.
Goins pointed out, “I feel that both parties need to compromise on most issues and pass legislation to benefit everyone in our district. On the special session, they could have done that in the regular session. It’s also costing taxpayers money to go to a special session... It’s time we have some representation that will speak up. And you have to be a full-time representative in Frankfort. A fact’s a fact.”
As for Bunch, her comment was this. “I found it somewhat frustrating that a special session had to be called. For the most part, there’s got to be a solution and resolutions to problems, and conduct sessions about improving the quality of life in the Commonwealth. Legislation that affects everyone, and not about special legislation that affects just a few. We need to do what we’re sent to do. To work across the aisles, and not stand on personal vendettas or party politics... I appreciate the opportunity to serve. I have the district’s interests in my heart.”