By LeeAnn Cain / Staff Writer
Three Republican candidates are vying for a chance to represent Kentucky’s 89th District in the Kentucky House of Representatives in the May 20 primary. The 89th District covers part of Madison, all of Jackson, and part of Laurel counties. Incumbent Marie Rader is going against challengers Michael Bryant and Gerardo Serrano.
State representatives have a two-year term with an unlimited number of terms. They are paid $188.22 per day when they are in a legislative session or when they are in Frankfort on legislative business. In addition to that salary, representatives receive per diem pay of $135.30 per day for daily expenses while in session, and when they are not in session representatives are paid $1,788.51 per month for expenses. In addition, representatives are paid a standing allowance of $250 once per legislative session.
The winner of the primary will face off against Democrat Joey Taylor II in November.
Rader is the incumbent and has been the house representative for the 89th District since 1997. She lives in McKee and has two married daughters–Jennifer Wilson and Angela Halsted. She also has four grandsons.
Rader is retired, and is a graduate of McKee High School and Berea College. She is a member of McKee Baptist Church, the Jackson County KIWANIS Club, the Berea Chamber of Commerce, the Jackson County Development Association, the EKCEP Board, and the Daniel Boone Development Board.
“Being a representative in Frankfort means I’m truly trying to represent my counties,” Rader said. “I try to be there for the people and look out for them. I’m retired; I have the time to give to this position.”
She said a legislative session was almost like a year of college; a lot of research and reading goes into each decision made in Frankfort, and she said legislators worked outside of scheduled legislative sessions.
“I take it very seriously. It’s a big learning process,” she said.
Rader’s top priority is jobs, and her goal is to create a competitive economic environment. She said she was concerned about where the state is economically. Rader said it was important for legislators to know and address the needs of the state.
“Jobs and access to jobs go hand-in-hand,” Rader said. “These areas are extremely important to the success of Kentucky, and I am proud to fight for their continued success.”
She added that Kentucky is doing a fairly good job with creating jobs, but said that was no reason for complicity. She said the state needs to stay competitive with the rest of the United States.
Rader also said “burdensome regulations” slowed job growth and slowed Kentucky’s economic recovery. Rader believes that making Kentucky a “Rght to Work” state will make it more hospitable to businesses looking to locate in the state.
“We need to work on the right business climate to attract companies,” Rader said
Jackson County is an area of concern for Serrano and Bryant due to its 21 percent unemployment rate, but Rader said Jackson Couty was more of a “bedroom community,” i.e. a community in which people lived rather than worked. She said that Jackson County’s remote location made it difficult to build infrastructure such as roads, airports, and train tracks, so people normally commuted to nearby counties for work.
She added Jackson County needed education and assistance in getting its citizens back into the workforce.
“Growing our economy and investing in education is the only way we can create a better future for our Kentucky families,” Rader said.
Investing in education is something that is important to Rader. She believes Kentucky will never maintain the best jobs without investment in education. She said that Kentucky “must be in line with the century” and said technology was a significant part of education. Rader also believes science and math are important in the education of Kentucky’s students.
“Our state policies must reflect up-to-date methods,” Rader said, and added that other countries who are surpassing the United States academically are looking toward more scientific and creative projects in their schools.
“If we solve the problems of the future, we must have the best educated workforce,” Rader said. She added that lowering the cost of higher education was vital to creating a more educated workforce.
Rader also believes in the importance of natural resources, and is a supporter of the coal industry. She said coal was one of Kentucky’s most important natural resources, and it gave Kentucky one of the lowest energy costs in the nation.
“We can and should continue with coal,” Rader said. “When we rule out coal, we’ll never find something that will give us such cheap energy.”
She added that downgrading coal also downgraded the job market in eastern Kentucky, and rather than get rid of coal with regulations, new mining and processing techniques could be developed to enhance the industry.
Rader also wants to support local agriculture and water sources, and believes people should ask themselves if the future will hold technologies that allow Kentucky citizens to do their best to protect resources.
“I never want to overlook the very thing our life depends upon,” Rader said. “Our water supply and the ability to supply most of our food locally is important to the region.”
Rader believes citizens should try to conserve their natural resources, and said the correct way of taking care of these resources is vital to Kentucky’s future. These resources include farms, and Rader said it doesn’t matter if the farm is large or small.
“We should try to preserve family farms,” Rader said. “Kentucky should grow its own food and preserve its farmland.”
Rader said local food production also helps control the cost of food, and added that growing food has historically been a big part of the lives of Kentucky citizens. She believes in teaching the next generation to farm, and said many of Kentucky’s youth do not know how to grow their food.
“Children need to be taught to grow food,” Rader said. “We need to look at our agriculture and never let that go.”
She said Kentucky agriculture was vital to the health of Kentucky citizens.
“I will work tirelessly to ensure that Kentucky’s agriculture will continue to grow and thrive,” Rader said. “I know that I work as hard as any legislator out there.”
Rader said it was difficult for Frankfort to operate with its budget cuts.
“I think I understand what I need to do,” Rader said. “I’ve been in the minority party since I came to Frankfort. If our own caucus picks up speed, we will see less taxes, Right to Work legislation, and changes in health care. I’d like to be part of that.”
Rader said it was an honor to serve the people of her district and the state.
“I think we could make Kentucky a great state,” Rader said. “I think less government and more private businesses are good for the state.”
Bryant, 46, is from East Bernstadt and is the Director of Business Development for Senture, LLC. He is a graduate of Rockcastle County High School, and received his Bachelor of Science in Business Administration at Union College and University of the Cumberlands.
Bryant is married to Rhonda Bryant, and they have three children, Trey Bryant, Reid Elizabeth Bryant, and William Bryant. Bryant is a member of the London-Laurel County Chamber of Commerce, the Berea Chamber of Commerce, and the National Rifle Association (NRA). He is an alum of Leadership Tri-County and Pulaski County Leadership, and he is a Kentucky Colonel.
This is Bryant’s first election.
“I am a proud conservative Republican,” he said. “I will fight to preserve our freedoms with every ounce of my spirit and strength.”
Bryant said he would work to take the economic pressure off Laurel and Madison counties. He said his business background gives him experience in working with federal and state entities to develop and create job opportunities.
“Eastern and Southeastern Kentucky are in an economic crisis,” Bryant said. “It’s clear we are struggling to keep up with the rest of Kentucky and the rest of America.”
According to Bryant, Jackson County suffers from a 21 percent unemployment rate, and there are areas of his district where more than 40 percent of the population lives under the national poverty level. He said this was putting pressure on “gateway counties” like Laurel and Madison, which employ thousands of people from Jackson and Clay counties.
Laurel County’s unemployment rate is 10 percent, which exceeds the state average and Bryant believes this number is at least in part due to the pressure placed on it by Clay and Jackson counties. The reduction in coal production in Kentucky also contributes to Jackson County’s problems; Bryant said when coal left the mountainous county it was “less able to employ its own community.” He added this is true for many parts of Kentucky.
“I am committed to working with state, county, and local officials and industrial development groups in this district and our region to restore career planning and educational opportunities,” Bryant said. He believes opportunity and education will establish a “powerful, skilled” labor force that is required to “attract and retain industry to our area.”
Bryant believes in helping those who wish to pursue a college education, as well as training electricians, welders, tool and die caster, and other trade men and women to support manufacturing and service companies. Bryant said college education has more than tripled in recent years, and that is a concern that needed to be addressed. He added a reduction in educational opportunities would do nothing to benefit his district’s workforce.
“It’s not enough to say we need jobs,” Bryant said. “We have to cultivate the workforce and restore Kentucky to a level of economic competitiveness with surrounding states if we want to pull ourselves out of this downward spin.”
According to Bryant, a lack of education contributes to a cycle of low-skilled workers. Bryant said good jobs must be cultivated; they don’t simply appear
Bryant said there are many people in his district who want to work hard, and called the citizens of Kentucky “a hardworking lot of people.” He added people have forgotten what economic opportunity looks like.
Bryant attributes this downward spin to “job-killing” initiatives such as policies regulating coal companies, the failure of right to work legislation, and the “high cost of implementation of the failed Affordable Care Act.”
He believes that Kentucky needs to be more appealing to companies looking to locate within the Bluegrass State, and believes the state could be more competitive if Right to Work was implemented and minimum wage increases were held off.
“Other states are offering more competitive opportunities,” Bryant said.
Bryant believes the lack of hope and opportunity contributes to the drug problem that appears to run rampant throughout parts of Kentucky. He noted people use drugs to escape a bleak reality or begin dealing to make more money.
Bryant also believes in limiting the role of state and federal government in the life of the communities he represents. He believes state and federal governments should have limited power, and communities should be able to decide certain laws and policies for themselves.
In addition to “respecting the obligation” communities have to govern themselves, Bryant believes it is more expensive for government agencies to “monitor everything.”
“Big government, out-of-control spending, unfunded mandates on local school districts, and a lack of focus on keeping pace with surrounding states like Indiana and Tennessee, who are very pro-growth oriented, are the symptoms associated with failed economic policy,” Bryant said. He added that it was critical to have someone in office with a “pro-growth” mentality.
He added that Kentucky did not have a revenue problem; it has a spending problem.
“I will demand smarter spending and a focus on investing in the future of Kentucky,” Bryant said. “I believe we can revive a Kentucky rich with opportunity and promise for generations to come, and I believe we can achieve all of this without placing additional tax burden on the hardworking people of the Commonwealth.”
Bryant says part of this is having someone in Frankfort to “ask the right questions.” He said economic recovery was a matter of having the right leadership.
“I mean business,” he said.
Bryant is also passionate about protecting Constitutional rights on both state and federal levels, and strongly supports the NRA and the second amendment.
“I want to defend the right for Kentuckians and Americans to protect their families and to enjoy hunting and other shooting sports,” Bryant said.
Bryant said he has received the NRA’s highest rating for candidates challenging incumbents, and he added the NRA committed their full support and endorsement.
Bryant is also strongly pro-life, and said he is committed to protecting the sanctity of human life “in all stages, from our unborn to our elderly.” He also promotes the right to worship freely and openly. He believes in “God-given rights” that cannot be taken by government entities. However, he added that he would not impose his beliefs on others.
“I don’t have all the answers, but I do have a lot of good, common-sense questions,” Bryant said.
Bryant wants to assemble an¡ advisory committee with people from each part of his district. He said he would like for this committee to meet quarterly so that he could understand the needs of his district and bring their agendas to Frankfort. Bryant is also disturbed by the polarization of Democrats and Republicans.
“We need to spend time focusing on issues as a group,” Bryant said. “That’s not happening. These issues are too big for an individual to address. Commonwealth means collaboration.”
Serrano, 55, hails from Jackson County. He is the owner of Manchester Ammo, LLC and a farmer.
Serrano is a widower, and has two sons and two deceased daughters. He has taken some college classes, and is a graduate of Lane Technical High School in Chicago. He is a member of the Cattlemen’s Association and the Dark Honey Producers Association.
This is Serrano’s first election, but he said he has supported many candidates in the past.
“I try to support candidates that I think are good people,” he said. “I couldn’t find anyone I could get behind this election so I decided to run.”
Serrano believes a good candidate will make “a positive stand for Kentucky” and has the best interest of the people at heart. Dissatisfied with his own party and the current political climate, Serrano decided to try and fix things himself.
“It’s hard to watch people suffering,” Serrano said. “This is home and I have to do something.”
Serrano is all about preserving Kentucky and the United States for future generations, and he believes this begins with tackling the debt problem.
“We need to balance the budget, and then stick with it,” Serrano said. “The debt isn’t my problem; I’m 55. I’m on my way out. But my children and grandchildren will inherit it, and it will negatively affect their future.”
Serrano said politicians are out of touch with the average person, and that contributes to the problems with setting financial priorities and balancing the budget. Serrano said that although he had fewer financial backers than Rader or Bryant, money in politics is one of the state’s problems. His concern is leaving future generations unburdened by debt and taxes.
Economic growth is another way Serrano plans to secure the future for newer generations, and believes there is a connection between economic growth and the state’s budget. Serrano said that if a state doesn’t balance its budget, companies won’t stay for the resulting problems.
Serrano is in favor of the coal mining industry, and believes state and federal government have failed to properly invest the money they made off coal companies. Serrano believes that if money from coal mining were to be reinvested into the companies, mining would be safer and cleaner, and regulations would no longer be necessary.
“We could save a lot of jobs investing in coal,” Serrano said. “Clean, safe technology is expensive, but if the government would reinvest the money they got from coal mining into that technology it could happen.”
Serrano also believes economic growth will help curb drug use in his district. He believes the hope that comes with growth will discourage the distribution of drugs.
“Drugs are for the hopeless,” Serrano said. “If you give hope to people, they won’t feel the need to use drugs anymore. If you give them opportunity, they won’t feel the need to sell drugs to make money.”
Serrano also believes in family values. He believes that the state has no place in marriages, and people should “let religion deal with family.”
“The state kidnapped marriage,” he added. “I don’t want the government to know everything.”
However, he does believe the church and state should be separated and people deserve individual freedom.
Serrano is also a supporter of the second amendment, and believes that if everyone carries a gun crowds will be protected.
“Even if someone came in armed, he couldn’t shoot everybody before someone shoots him,” Serrano said.
Serrano believes carrying a gun is a Constitutional right, and believes the government should not take away any right guaranteed by the Constituiton. His plan is to put Frankfort back in the hands of the “common man.”
“There are honest people out there. I’m one,” Serrano said. “I love this place, and I don’t need a lot of money; that’s the difference between me and the other politicians in Frankfort.”
Incumbent Rader challenged by Bryant and Serrano
By LeeAnn Cain / Staff Writer
- Local News
A Well-Deserved Honor
It was a spring night in May 1981 about eight or so miles south of Corbin.
A crowd of folks were there — mothers, fathers, children and more.
Musicians had prepared for a night of music at a concert open to the public.
The venue was the Frontier Village Park, and many people were in attendance.
Deputy Joseph Russell Jones was one of many law enforcement personnel assigned to security detail that day.
Woman who caused fatal crash enters plea agreement
A Mount Vernon woman who caused a two-car crash the night before Thanksgiving in November 2013 that killed 58-year-old Darlene Woods entered into a plea agreement Friday that amended a murder charge against her to second-degree manslaughter.
House heavily damaged in Moore Hill fire
Roger Bolton said the structure fire that heavily damaged his home in Moore Hill early Thursday morning was bad. But it could have been much worse.
‘Flex Program’ to earn high school diploma offered by Corbin schools
For some students, the dream of earning a high school diploma can be out of reach because of various reasons beyond their control.
But a new program to help students obtain that coveted diploma is being offered by the Corbin Independent Schools.
Mobile mammography center to visit Corbin next week
What’s 39 feet long, rides down the road, stops in stores across the Southeastern United States, and can help save lives in the fight against breast cancer?
Most of Ky. 1259 to be reduced to one lane
If you drive Scuffletown Road (Ky. 1259) in Corbin for the next two weeks, be prepared for some delays.
Trial for Tristan Hall postponed
The trial for a man facing charges in two separate cases in Whitley County has been postponed.
TODAY'S HEADLINES — Aug. 1, 2014
Jones presented with Purple Heart, Medal of Honor
Woman who caused fatal crash enters plea agreement
House heavily damaged in Moore Hill fire
‘Flex Program’ to earn high school diploma offered by Corbin schools
Made to honor
While lunch hour traffic on Main Street headed north Wednesday, Amanda Matthews and Brad Connell were putting the final touches on their latest work of art.
Inside Sanders Park — a place where visitors and local residents alike can stop to rest, as well as to honor the Corbin man who brought Kentucky Fried Chicken to the world — five large plaques had just been installed.
Man wanted for stealing vehicle
A Williamsburg man considered “possibly armed and dangerous” continues to be sought by officers with the Williamsburg Police Department.
- More Local News Headlines
- A Well-Deserved Honor