Democratic state Rep. Jeff Taylor of Hopkinsville has issued a challenge to Republican opponent Walker Thomas involving Gov. Matt Bevin's cuts to higher education.
Thomas previously challenged Taylor to sign a pledge related to the transparency of state lawmaker pensions. Taylor accepted and then challenged Thomas - as well as 5th District Rep. Kenny Imes - to sign a pledge acknowledging that Bevin's mid-year cuts to higher education funding were illegal and that they agree with a recent Kentucky Supreme Court decision overturning them.
Taylor said the cuts' impact on Murray State University inspired the challenge.
"When you hear things like you're losing your tennis program and nobody's standing up to fight it, you're just standing idly by and going along with a governor who's taking illegal action, I'm very concerned about that," Taylor said.
"We have a lot of students from Hopkinsville that attend Murray State," Taylor said. "I hear this year that Christian County probably has the most enrollment of any county, including McCracken County, so I'm very concerned about my constituents that send their children over there."
Reached Tuesday, Imes had no comment on Taylor's challenge. Thomas did not immediately return a request for comment Tuesday afternoon. UPDATE 4:00 p.m. Wednesday: Thomas said he's not interested in signing Taylor's pledge and called it a diversion.
“He’s basically saying I’m supposed to say the governor was wrong," Thomas said. "The Kentucky Supreme Court ruled and the decision’s been made, so I just think it’s a diversionary tactic to deviate from the pension crisis that Democrats have created.”
Taylor, who defeated Thomas earlier this year in a special election to fill the seat vacated by Justice & Public Safety Cabinet Secretary John Tilley, also demanded an explanation from Imes on recent comments. Taylor, who is African American, says that Imes called him difficult to work with compared to Tilley and referred to him as "that other guy" rather than calling him by name.
"A lot of people, they detect maybe some racial rhetoric in that, maybe some prejudicial connotations in that, and I would like Representative Imes to respond to it," Taylor said. "We've got to work together and I'm certainly willing to work with him, but I'm very curious as to whether or not Representative Imes would refer to Gov. Bevin's or Senator [Whitney] Westerfield's African American children as 'those other children'. I'm a state Representative just like he is and I think we should give each other that mutual respect of at least calling you by your name."
Imes denied any accusations of racism, but did not want to go on the record with further comment.
Taylor is currently suing Paducah Economic Development for alleged age and race discrimination after he received no response after applying for a vice president job there last year.
Taylor and Thomas will debate on Monday, October 17 in Hopkinsville.