94th District State Representative candidates participate in candidate forum

Published 9:00 am Friday, October 7, 2022

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Candidates for state representative for the 94th District took part in the Harlan County Chamber of Commerce Candidate Forum on Thursday.

Current Representative Angie Hatton (D) and challenger Jacob Justice (R) took the stage to respond to a question presented by moderator Brandon Robinson.

Robinson presented the question, asking the candidate’s opinion on the biggest obstacle to Harlan County’s economic development and how they would use their position if elected to help Harlan County overcome that obstacle.

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Hatton, the incumbent, addressed the question first.

“Harlan County’s greatest barrier has been the same as it is in lots of counties in eastern Kentucky, and that’s been our geography,” Hatton said. “The same thing that makes us different and unique – our beautiful mountains – makes it difficult for us to run water here and to get roads built here.”

Hatton said she plans to use the same geographical barrier in another way.

“In my terms – so far, I’ve served three terms – and in continued terms, my plan is to use that same geographic barrier to be our greatest strength. Because not only are our mountains beautiful and a wonderful way to bring tourism in but there’s now this program with the federal government called the chips act, which is designed to make microchips. They need to make those in places where you’re not near an interstate, not near an airport, not near major rail. We are perfect for attracting that sort of business.”

According to Hatton, Congress has appropriated $52 billion for that program.

“We’re already talking in Letcher County about getting one of those plants here, and I would love to carry over those talks to Harlan County,” Hatton said.

Hatton said Harlan and Letcher Counties have previously shared tourism opportunities.

Justice then gave his answer to the same question.

“I think the challenges for economic development in Harlan County are the same was what you see throughout the 94th District,” Justice said. “We live in one of the most beautiful places in the entire world that is ripe for opportunity for economic development. I think just basic infrastructure, our roads, need to be maintained. There are certain things that we have to have to expand the economy. Recreational tourism is huge. Harlan County has kind of been a beacon of hope and kind of set an example for some of these other counties of what is possible with trail systems and with the touring of coal mines. People come from out of state to do this. I think that can be largely expanded upon.”

Justice said the General Assembly allotted $400,000 for Backroads of Appalachia to assist economic development.

“I think we just need to keep hammering away at this,” Justice said. “We have industrial sites in every county in this district…and there’s a good opportunity to bring commerce and industry into this area so that our current and future generations have the ability to stay home.”

(Mr. Justice appeared in the photo on the left and Rep. Hatton appeared in the photo on the right on the front page)