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AG Candidates Debate Voting Rights, Religious Freedom on KET

composite: Beshear (Rob Canning); Westerfield (LRC)

The two candidates competing to be Kentucky's next attorney general have differing views on the state Religious Freedom Restoration Act as it relates to the highly publicized actions of Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis.  Davis went to jail after refusing to grant marriage licenses for same sex couples.

Some Davis supporters have called on the governor to issue an executive order rendering an option for clerks who have religious based objections.  Democrat Andy Beshear says his father, Governor Steve Beshear, made the right call by not issuing an order.  “It’s law school 101 that the governor cannot change an explicit section of a statute by executive order,” said Beshear.

Republican Whitney Westerfield believes some attempt should be made to accommodate clerks who have religious objections.  “And the frustrating part, frankly, is less that nothing’s been done, it’s that nothing’s been tried,” said Westerfield.

Both men support restoration of voting rights for some former felons.  It’s an issue which has been before the state legislature for years.  Westerfield says a waiting period is unnecessary.  “I’m not married to that length of time," explained Westerfield.  "Once you’ve served your sentence, I’m inclined to be prepared to let you have your voting right back."

Beshear says restoring the voting right for former felons sends a positive message to those who have served their sentence.  “To be able to find a good job, to be able to raise their family and their kids  and to set the example they need to set for their kids, by voting,” said Beshear.

Both Beshear and Westerfield say the restoration should not pertain to violent offenders or those convicted of sex crimes. 

Lots of money is being raised and spent in the race for Kentucky Attorney General.  Following reports of funds for democrat Andy Beshear coming from road contractors, lawyers, and state appointees, he says he will not be influenced by contributors.  “No contribution, no matter how big or small will ever impact any decision I make in that office,” Beshear assured the KET audience.

Westerfield has reportedly received major funds from a conservative super political action committee in Washington.  He says he’s just trying to keep up.  “I can’t compete with that; I've been campaigning against Andy and fundraising against Steve (Beshear) and so of course, I don’t have $2.7 million sitting in a bank account somewhere,” said Westerfield.

The attorney general’s race is one of several statewide contests viewed as a close one. The two men appeared Monday on KET’s Kentucky Tonight program.

Stu Johnson is a reporter/producer at WEKU in Lexington, Kentucky.
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