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Ky. Dist. 4 State House Candidates Debate Minimum Wage, Early Voting, Immigration, More

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Matt Markgraf
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WKMS
Abigail Barnes (left) and Rep. Lynn Bechler (right)

Candidates for District 4 State Representative discussed a range of issues from minimum wage to early voting to illegal immigration in a debate Thursday night in Hopkinsville. The local chapter of the League of Women Voters hosted and moderated the forum. Republican Representative Lynn Bechler is seeking his fourth term against Democratic challenger and attorney Abigail Barnes.

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Abigail Barnes

Abigail Barnes

Barnes said she is proud to be a product of the public school system and decided to run because she wants people to feel respected and heard in Frankfort. She said the biggest priority in her district is education.

Barnes said voting should be made easier and more should be involved in the process. She said the purging of voter roles due to minor technicalities is “walking a fine line on voter suppression.”

When it comes to increasing the minimum wage, she said she’s “look closely” at any proposed legislation and said working families should earn a living wage. On healthcare, Barnes said, “Everybody deserves the right to have especially preventative care.” She said Governor Matt Bevin’s proposed Medicaid changes is “concerning” and wants to ensure health care is affordable.

On immigration, she said people eligible for a path to citizenship should be given an opportunity to do so. “...And they’re not a criminal element and hindering area, then we should give them an opportunity to maintain citizenship or residency of some kind.” She added that she doesn’t want criminals in the country’s borders, but mercy and compassion should apply in certain circumstances.

Smoking bans should be left up to local communities, she said. On implementing a gas tax for road projects, she said she’d have to “take a hard look” at any legislation as it would be a tax on working people.

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Lynn Bechler

Lynn Bechler

Bechler said he’s a social and fiscal conservative and hopes to continue progress made in the Republican-led legislature in the previous session, such as lowering income tax, increasing SEEK funding and pro-life legislation. He said the biggest priority in his district is education and discussed securing funding for a technical center in Caldwell County. He defended the Republican pension overhaul.

When asked whether he supported early voting, Bechler he would not support a measure that allowed everyone to vote early. He said too many things can happen at the end of a campaign that could change the vote. On purging voter rolls, he said the laws need to be followed.  

As to whether the minimum wage should increase, Bechler said it should not. He said increasing the minimum wage would prevent young people from getting jobs. He said minimum wage should be considered “entry level” that allows people to get a job and work their way up. He does not support free college education for everyone because working towards something is more valuable and college is a more valuable investment if it’s a choice. NPR reported in July teen unemployment has been declining for years due to a variety of factors, including competition from older workers. Forbes cited in a March article on minimum wage and teen employment research from Koch-funded think tank Mercatus Center that pointed to rising minimum wage as one reason.

On illegal immigration, Bechler said there are at least 50,000 “illegal aliens” in the state and while they may pay sales and local taxes, they’re breaking the law. He said MS-13 and gangs living in the area are causing problems.

Smoking bans should be a local decision, he said. On healthcare, he said if someone is able to work then there’s nothing wrong with asking that person to work to get benefits. “We simply cannot afford to pay or everybody in the state the way it is now,” he said, responding to a question as to whether he supports Governor Matt Bevin’s proposed Medicaid changes. He said drug addiction is a scourge that cannot be legislated away. Rather, he said people need to be convinced not to do drugs and added that drug courts are doing a good job.

District 4 represents Livingston, Crittenden and Caldwell counties, as well as part of Christian County.

Matt Markgraf joined the WKMS team as a student in January 2007. He's served in a variety of roles over the years: as News Director March 2016-September 2019 and previously as the New Media & Promotions Coordinator beginning in 2011. Prior to that, he was a graduate and undergraduate assistant. He is currently the host of the international music show Imported on Sunday nights at 10 p.m.
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