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Kentucky Gubernatorial Candidates Make First Joint Public Appearance

composite: Conway (Gage Skidmore / Flickr (Creative Commons License); Bevin: Alix Mattingly

Kentucky gubernatorial candidates Matt Bevin and Jack Conway lobbed barbs in their first joint public appearance on Friday.

The appearance at a county judge conference in Louisville wasn’t a formal debate; the two major party candidate gave a 15 minute platform speech.

Attorney General Conway, the Democratic nominee, called on Louisville businessman Bevin, the Republican nominee, to release his tax returns, which thus far he has refused to do.

“I do believe in transparency and I stood up for it as attorney general,” Conway said. “That’s the reason this week I released three years worth of my tax returns, that’s the reason I’ll release tax returns every year I’m governor and I call on my opponent to do the same thing.”

Bevin is the sole owner of Integrity Holdings LLC, an investment holding company, and owns an interest in at least six other companies, according to his candidate filing.

His personal wealth has helped him fund his campaign for governor. The last campaign finance filing during the primary election showed that he loaned his campaign $1.75 million of his own money—a move which he said allowed him to focus on the issues instead of fundraising.

Conway made his tax information available to reporters at his campaign office Thursday. He reported $4.12 million in income for 2014, after reporting $233,421 in 2013 and $213,055 in 2012, according to the Herald-Leader. The majority of the increased income was due to a sale of stock in Kinder Morgan Energy Partners.

During his speech on Friday, Bevin took aim at Conway’s claim to come from humble beginnings—Conway often points out that his father grew up on a farm in Union County.

“I don’t need to talk about two or three generations ago how hard my family had it,” Bevin said. “I’m the only one that ran in this race in either primary or in this general that actually grew up below the poverty level.”

Bevin grew up in northern New Hampshire, where he’s said his family led a spartan existence raising crops and animals.

On the issues, Conway said that his “No. 1 priority” is “creating jobs, more jobs and better paying jobs.” He also said he would put more money in education, especially early education.

“You lay the foundation first and you build from there. So we are going to invest in early childhood education in a way that you have not seen before,” Conway said.

Bevin said that he wants to create performance-based funding for educational institutions in the state, and he would encourage students to go to work without a degree.

“We’ve given this false promise that you need to go to college. That’s baloney—you don’t need to go to college,” Bevin said.

Bevin also spoke about the importance of fixing the state’s ailing pension systems, saying that officials needed to “remove the veil of secrecy” around the systems’ investments.

“We can promise whatever we want, but I’ll tell you what there’s nothing more cruel than to promise something to somebody that you know for a fact that you cannot deliver,” Bevin said of the state’s public pension recipients.

Though Friday was the two candidate’s first public appearance, Conway and Bevin met for a  “secret debate” in Virginia earlier this month attended by leaders of the nation’s coal industry.

Ryland Barton is the Managing Editor for Collaboratives for Kentucky Public Radio, a group of public radio stations including WKMS, WFPL in Louisville, WEKU in Richmond and WKYU in Bowling Green. A native of Lexington, Ryland most recently served as the Capitol Reporter for Kentucky Public Radio. He has covered politics and state government for NPR member stations KWBU in Waco and KUT in Austin.
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