This report is part of a series produced by WKMS News highlighting races appearing on the 2020 general election ballot.
Three candidates are vying for the Paducah mayoral seat in the November general election. WKMS News distributed an issues survey, and according to their responses, candidates appear to agree that generating more interest in the community and focusing on economic recovery from COVID-19 by targeting specific issues will make Paducah more attractive to newcomers.
Richard Abraham, a native of Paducah, is currently on the city commission, serving as mayor pro tem. He said he is open to addressing police reform, but believes, “Paducah has an excellent police force that is professional in their actions and decisions.”
“Other than being open, as we always are, to investigate any perceived issues, I do not have any plans or reasons to discuss police reform at this time,” he added.
Regarding the economic impact of COVID-19, Abraham said if elected, he would focus on ensuring the city commission fulfills its responsibilities per Kentucky Revised Statutes (KRS). He said these responsibilities target safety issues, balancing budgets, and public services. Meanwhile, he says his main focus is supporting local businesses as they take on and begin recovery from the economic hit.
“Business acumen is good, but following correct fundamentals is what will put the city back on track. The mayor sets the tone. This will be my most important task and accomplishment, putting Paducah back on track,” he said.
During an interview with WPSD, Abraham said it’s going to take community groups outside of City Hall to assist in coronavirus recovery measures.
“It's going to take more than just City Hall. We can do some things, but it's going to take those partners that the not-for-profits have built over the years to come in alongside and help. The city has a role to play, the private sector has a role to play, and I think when we do that then our community is operating the way it should.”
Dujuan Thomas said regarding police reform, if elected and with the support of the commissioners, he would advocate for the Paducah Police Department and McCracken County Sheriff's Office to allocate funding to more diversity and cultural training.
He said, “Outside of my area, I can advocate for the Senate, Representatives, and the Governor to mandate these reforms as standard procedures. As well as advocating for the bills already started that call for a federal system that ensures cops can't get fired at one department, then get hired at another.”
*editor’s note: the Paducah mayoral office has no authority over the McCracken County Sheriff’s Office
To aid in economic recovery, Thomas plans to donate his first year’s salary back to his hometown of Paducah. He also hopes to host events that would support small businesses and increase revenue and tourism in the city.
Thomas said he believes an issue specific to Paducah is its declining residency. He said the priorities of the city are not being met and suggested that he “...will ensure we fix our roads, fix our sewers and fix our southside and other underrepresented areas.”
“Once those priorities are met, I plan on bringing new and exciting events to Paducah that will not only garner revenue and tourism, but will bring our people together in unity,” he added. “That's when I believe our decline in residents will cease.”
Dujuan Thomas is a write-in candidate.
George Bray, also a Paducah native, did not respond to the WKMS election survey. However, in an interview with WPSD regarding the economic impact of COVID-19 which he said, “I think that the mayor can generate more interest in the community, in private individuals and in business, to step up and help the contributions, raise the contributions to those nonprofits that are in need. There are many many generous people in Paducah. We've proven that over, and over, and over again.”
WKMS News recently covered a candidate forum hosted by the Paducah Chamber of Commerce during which all three mayoral candidates participated. That coverage is available here.