• 81°

3 Republican incumbents running in down ballot state races

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Three Republican incumbents are running for re-election in the statewide races for commissioner of agriculture, auditor and treasurer. Their Democratic opponents are each first-time candidates for the offices.

COMMISSIONER OF AGRICULTURE

Democrat Robert Conway of Scott County is challenging incumbent Republican Ryan Quarles, who is seeking a second term.

Quarles says as ag commissioner he has expanded the Kentucky Proud brand and now, for the first time, has staff who focus on international trade. Conway, a farmer and former county board of education member, says he wants the office to do more for family farms that are being forced out of business as larger farms consolidate.

They differ slightly on legalizing marijuana for medical purposes. Conway supports using the plant for those purposes, citing its usefulness to cancer patients and calling it a “moral issue.” Quarles said he supports medical marijuana, but said the state legislature will need to make the decision.

Quarles, who worked with Sen. Mitch McConnell’s office on the tobacco buyout bill, said his office has been focused on expanding the state’s hemp industry. He says 1,000 Kentucky farmers are currently growing the crop.

AUDITOR

Kentucky Auditor Mike Harmon’s Democratic challenger, Sheri Donahue, is a cybersecurity expert who audited weapons projects for the U.S. Navy. She says she’s running to restore faith in government.

Harmon, a former state representative, said his job since getting elected in 2015 has been to “follow the data” wherever it leads. The auditor is in charge of overseeing audits of state agencies and county governments.

Donahue beat two other Democrats for the nomination. During a debate aired on Kentucky Education Television, she accused Harmon of not doing enough to look into economic incentive packages. She says she would audit Braidy Industries, an aluminum plant project in eastern Kentucky. The project has received millions in funding from a Russian company that was recently released from U.S. sanctions.

Harmon said “we may very well need” to look into Braidy but his office has to prioritize its investigations because of budget and staffing.

A third candidate in the race, Libertarian Kyle Hugenberg, is an accountant from Louisville.

TREASURER

Republican incumbent Allison Ball’s challenger, Michael Bowman, is a bank executive who was also a legislative aide on Louisville’s Metro Council.

Both candidates say treasurer’s job is crucial to the operation of state government. The treasurer oversees the state’s finances and acts as head of the treasury.

Ball, of Prestonsburg, says in her term as treasurer she has been a watchdog of taxpayer dollars, has stopped fraud and embezzlement attempts and promoted financial literacy.

Bowman, a banking executive who lives in Louisville, said a treasurer shouldn’t be afraid “to ask the tough questions” and hold branches of government accountable. Bowman has been critical of Gov. Matt Bevin and some of the economic incentives handed out by his administration.

Bowman said his banking experience and time in city government give him the proper background for the job.