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Bevin, Conway Draw Sharp Contrasts In Heated Debate

  With a little more than a week before Election Day, gubernatorial candidates Matt Bevin and Jack Conway squared off in the most heated debate of the race on Sunday night.

The sparring started early, with Republican Bevin calling Conway a liar, saying the Democrat repeatedly misrepresented Bevin’s position on whether to keep the state’s expanded Medicaid system.

“Stop lying to these people, stop lying,” Bevin said to Conway.

Conway has repeatedly pointed to a quotation from February of this year in which Bevin said he would reverse the Medicaid expansion immediately. Bevin has since said he would scale back Kentucky’s involvement in Medicaid, which has added some 400,000 Kentuckians to its rolls since Gov. Steve Beshear decided to expand the program under the federal Affordable Care Act.

Conway also attacked Bevin’s previous statements on early childhood education. During a GOP primary debate on KET earlier this year, Bevin said the federal Head Start program “serves no purpose” beyond the third grade.

During the debate Sunday, which was held at Eastern Kentucky University and hosted by the Kentucky League of Women Voters, Bevin suggested that he favored other early education programs, including Success by 6, which was created by the United Way.

Conway proposed guaranteeing “early learning experiences” for three- and four-year-olds in families up earning to 200 percent of the federal poverty level.

Both men said that budget constraints would limit the state’s ability to invest in early childhood education.

The candidates differed sharply on medical marijuana, with Conway coming down against it, saying that the medical community doesn’t support it.

“If we passed a law for medical marijuana, it would be easier to get on our streets,” Conway said.

Bevin supports legalizing medical marijuana.

“I think it should be prescribed like any other prescription drug, I think it should be regulated in the very same fashion,” Bevin said.

Conway touted his record as attorney general, saying he’s put $300 million into state coffers through settlements and successful lawsuits. Bevin accused Conway of “suing the very companies that we say we want to get to come to this state.”

“Do you want a businessperson who’s actually created jobs or a liberal attorney who is shaking people down and thinks he’s going to lead this state forward?” Bevin said.

After the debate, Bevin quarreled with reporters, initially refusing to take questions from Lexington Herald-Leader political writer Sam Youngman.

“I think I’ve made this clear that I’m not taking questions from certain people,” Bevin said. He did not provide a reason.

Bevin eventually relented, answering a question about his running mate Jenean Hampton’s comment last week that early childhood education was a “non-issue.”

“I will not speak for her, nor does she speak for me,” Bevin said.

Independent candidate Drew Curtis was not invited to the debate because he did not meet the 10 percent polling requirement.

The event was the third televised gubernatorial debate of the election season. The candidates square off again on KET Monday evening. Election day is Nov. 3.

Copyright 2015 WFPL-FM. To see more, visit

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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