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Republicans Rally In Murray; Some Judicial Candidates Invited To Speak At Partisan Event

Dalton York

This report has been updated.

Calloway County Republicans rallied Saturday for President Trump and conservative candidates up and down the ballot.

The rally was billed as a “drive-in” event at Murray’s Cheri Theatres. Dozens of Trump-branded vehicles parked in the crowd before embarking on a motorcade through downtown Murray. Congressman James Comer served as the event’s keynote speaker and spoke for just over three minutes. He said re-electing President Trump is essential to stopping the actions of Demcratic leaders on issues including law enforcement and race relations. 

“Everybody that’s fed up with the lawlessness that these Democrat mayors and Democrat judges and Democrat governors are turning a blind eye to in the big cities. We don’t want that behavior in the big cities to flow into the small towns like Murray,” Comer said. 

Other speakers included Calloway County Judge/Executive Kenny Imes and Sixth District State Representative Chris Freeland. Freeland indicated a top priority of the 2021 legislative session will be limiting the emergency powers of Democratic Governor Andy Beshear. Beshear uses executive authority granted by the state constitution to issue orders intended to limit the spread of COVID-19 in the commonwealth.

Credit Dalton York / WKMS

Two speakers at the event are involved in campaigns for nonpartisan judicial races. Court of Appeals candidate Jenny Hines was invited to speak at the rally. In a previous interview with WKMS, she touted herself as a conservative and said that identifying with traditionally Republican political beliefs does not violate the ethics guidelines governing judicial races. 

Hines’s opponent, sitting Court of Appeals Judge Chris McNeill, attended the event but was not invited to speak. He told WKMS he’s working to keep the race nonpartisan. 

“I’ll just say this: the Kentucky constitution still says that a judicial race shall be nonpartisan, and I’m working to keep it that way. Particularly as the sitting judge, I feel pressure on me to make sure that I stay nonpartisan,” McNeill explained.

Nonpartisan judicial races are governed by strict ethics guidelines preventing partisan activity by candidates, including that candidates shall not “make speeches on behalf of a political organization.”

After publication, Hines in an email to WKMS asserted she only spoke about herself at the rally and didn’t make a speech on behalf of any political organization. 

The wife of 42nd Judicial Circuit Family Court candidate Ryan Yates spoke at the rally as his designee due to a family emergency. Yates’s opponent, sitting Family Court Judge Stephanie Perlow, did not address the audience. 

This report was updated to clarify that WKMS previously interviewed the judicial candidates. Hines’ commentary after publication was also added.  

Dalton York is a Morning Edition host and reporter for WKYU in Bowling Green. He is a graduate of Murray State University, where he majored in History with a minor in Nonprofit Leadership Studies. While attending Murray State, he worked as a student reporter at WKMS. A native of Marshall County, he is a proud product of his tight-knit community.
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