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McCracken Republicans Clymer, Moore squaring off in GOP primary for judge-exec seat

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A local businessman is squaring off with the incumbent Republican in the GOP primary for McCracken County’s judge-executive seat.

Craig Clymer, the current judge-executive, will be vying for a chance at reelection against Matt Moore.

Clymer is hoping his experience and relationships with the position during his first term, coupled with his results, can convince his constituents to give him a second term.

“I’ve been serving this community for over three decades. I have all the tools. I have the education. I have the training. I have the experience on the job,” Clymer said. “I’ve built the relationships with the governor, with these commissioners, with the secretaries of the various departments, with [Senator] Mitch McConnell … my focus is solely on McCracken County and running [it].”

Moore co-owns a marble and granite business, a salon and a property development company in addition to his own construction business and work as a realtor. He thinks running a successful business is an important qualification for local government candidates.

“My business experience is basically the number one qualification that I have. I’ve been in business for over 25 years so I understand overseeing everything, projects, people, budgets, etc.,” Moore said. “If you’re in business for yourself and you have budget issues, you don’t have the luxury of going out and raising taxes and getting money from somebody else to make your business work. You have to cut your budget. That’s how I feel like the county government should run.”

Clymer, a former district and circuit court judge and law enforcement officer, thinks the biggest issue facing the county is the continued stabilizing of its financial state. Nearly a decade of overspending by the county saw the current fiscal court inherit a “pretty bleak” financial situation that resulted in a nearly $900,000 shortfall in Clymer's first year in office, necessitating cuts to appropriations for area nonprofits.

“We inherited a really poor financial status. Our savings were about depleted and the county had been deficit spending for eight or nine years. We can’t really do much of anything if we don’t have money to do it, so we’re getting that built up.”

Since then, Clymer and the rest of the fiscal court have enacted multiple tactics to increase revenue, notably levying an inventory tax, increasing insurance premium taxes and increasing transient room taxes on area short-term rentals in an attempt to finance sports tourism revenue in the region. An over $40 million sports tourism complex funded through a collaboration between the McCracken County Fiscal Court and the City of Paducah is one of Clymer’s lodestars for the future of the county.

Moore says the biggest issue facing McCracken is a lack of jobs. The business owner says he would rather cut the budget than raise taxes, pointing first to eliminating positions in the judge-executive’s office.

“We cannot sustain our government and fund our government on the people that are just living here,” Moore said. “We have got to go out and bring in heavy industry.”

If elected, Moore hopes to court heavy industry to the area in hopes of job creation. He also wants to find ways to create incentives for local businesses to hire more people and update building codes to be more cost-effective for businesses.

“People need me to run McCracken County for my people skills, my energy level, my business sense and my approachability,” he said. “Growth is the key to success. If anybody is going to hustle enough to allow McCracken County to grow, it’s me. I will market our area like it’s never been marketed before and make our area a destination for industry.”

Clymer argued the judge-executive seat being his sole concern is an asset for the county.

“This is all I do. I devote my full time and efforts to serving the county as the judge-executive,” he said. “I can be a full-time judge. It’s a full-time job and it requires a full-time person doing it.”

The 2022 primary elections will take place on May 17. Learn more about races in the region in our Primary Election Voter Guide.

The winner of the GOP primary will face Gary Vander Boegh, the lone Democrat to file for the race, in fall’s general election.

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Gary Vander Boegh

Vander Boegh is unopposed for his party’s nomination. The 73-year-old is a former environmental engineer and project manager for the Department of Energy at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant (PGDP). He designed and managed the solid waste landfill for waste originating at PGDP. Vander Boegh says his experience with large project management through government channels could be a plus for the county in its top seat.

“I follow the law, I don’t bend the law, I don’t take kickbacks from anybody,” he said. “If you want compliance to the law, equal application of the law and equal law applied to every individual – black or white – then you’ve only got one candidate running.”

Vander Boegh was a nuclear whistleblower and says he was terminated in 2006 because he tried to bring to light wrongdoings at the nuclear site. Since then, he’s advocated for former site workers he says have gotten sick because of exposure through the site.

Vander Boegh claims thousands of former PGDP workers have had insurance claims wrongfully denied, many of them because of racial discrimination.

“I’m not here to do anything more than expose what the DOE has done to western Kentucky and southern Illinois,” Vander Boegh said.

He also advocated for better stewardship at the McCracken County Regional Jail, arguing in favor of bringing in an “outside auditor” to get a better grasp of where taxpayer dollars go at the institution.

A native of western Kentucky, Operle earned his bachelor's degree in integrated strategic communications from the University of Kentucky in 2014. Operle spent five years working for Paxton Media/The Paducah Sun as a reporter and editor. In addition to his work in the news industry, Operle is a passionate movie lover and concertgoer.
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