LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — The person most talked about during Kentucky‘s first televised gubernatorial debate wasn’t even in the building.
Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, whose refusal to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples landed her in jail and ignited passions across the country, basically hit the reset button on the high-stakes race.
During an hour-long debate at Bellarmine University that was broadcast live in the state’s two biggest media markets, the candidates faced a question about whether Davis’ decision could hurt the state’s business recruitment efforts. Democrat Jack Conway answered a question from Republican rival Matt Bevin on why he did not defend the state’s same-sex marriage ban last year. And a viewer from Davis’ county asked why she had not been charged with official misconduct.
“My intention has always been to execute this race on financial issues, on economic issues,” Bevin told reporters after the debate, which was sponsored by The Bluegrass Poll partners. “In the last several weeks, 85 percent of what people talk about are these social issues. … I think the issue has redefined this race whether any of us candidates want that to be the case or not.”
Conway, the two-term Democratic attorney general, tried to focus on economic issues, questioning Bevin’s handling of his personal and corporate taxes and his lack of support for public-private partnerships that Conway says will be crucial to creating job opportunities for Kentuckians in the next decade. But he spent a lot of time defending his decision to not appeal a federal judge’s decision to overturn Kentucky’s same-sex marriage ban last year and his criticism of Davis for refusing to obey a federal judge’s order to issue marriage licenses.
“The state’s highest court has said my duty is to tell the state when things are unconstitutional. That’s what I did. I did that to save us money,” Conway told Bevin during one of the debate’s more heated exchanges. “And that is very different, Mr. Bevin, that is very different than ignoring a federal judge’s court order. We are a nation of laws.”