Hear from the candidates: sheriff, circuit court judge and county clerk

Published 12:54 pm Thursday, November 3, 2022

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The General Election is scheduled for Nov. 8, and in an effort to help inform the public, the Enterprise sent out a questionnaire designed to help the public know more about each candidate. Every reasonable attempt was made to reach all candidates, however, many did not respond. Every candidate who responded will be included here. The answers have been edited for spelling and punctuation only.

Each candidate was sent the following questions in the same order:

1. Please tell us about your background.

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2. Why are you the best candidate for this office?

3. What do you think is the most pressing issue affecting us in this election cycle?

4. How would you address this issue in your elected office?

Harlan County Sheriff

Mike Lunsford (D)

1. 33 years’ experience in law enforcement with over 20 years in a supervisory position, 15 years was chief of police with Evarts and Loyall police, received 17 awards for seat belt enforcement and DUI arrests, received 3 letters of recognition for capture of 3 escaped inmates, I am a taser instructor

2. 33 years experience, with over 1900 hours of training, knowledge, integrity and honesty, I myself have done hundreds of drug trafficking investigations and arrests, did the first ever drug round ups for Evarts, Harlan and Loyall police depts. I never went over a budget while serving as Chief of police, while working with Loyall police we conducted over 400 investigations and averaged over 100 arrests a year, confiscated over $34,000 dollars in assets and forfeitures, from 2018 thru 2021 we answered over 1800 complaints, imagine what I can do with more money and better resources if I’m elected sheriff.

3. The drug and theft problem with the lack of accountability especially for repeat offenders. Some offenders are arrested on a weekly or monthly bases only to spend a couple hours or days in jail and then released to commit the same crime over and over each time, without accountability or punishment.

4. To conduct more controlled drug buy investigations and more drug round ups of suspected drug traffickers with more police presence in hopes of deterring the theft problem.  I will also work with local prosecutors and judges in hopes of holding repeat offenders more accountable for their actions, without some accountability we are fighting a loosing battle in both the drug and theft problems which is at least 90 percent tied together on these 2 crimes.

Circuit Court Judge

Kent Hendrickson

1. I grew up in Harlan County. My family first lived in Liggett coal camp and later moved to Loyall, where I went to grade school and high school. My wife Jane and I have been married 46 years and are devout Christians. I practiced law here 32 years and I’ve been your Harlan Circuit Judge 8 years.

2. I am the candidate with the most extensive legal background. I practiced law here in Harlan 32 years, acquiring vast experience at all levels of Kentucky courts, in federal trial courts, administrative agencies and federal courts of appeals. I am licensed to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court and have assisted in preparing briefs and arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court. I am a published legal writer, and I have given legal presentations on coal issues in Lexington and Pittsburg.  Most importantly, I now have 8 years of valuable experience as your Harlan Circuit Judge.

3. From my standpoint as Circuit Judge, our most pressing issue is actually twofold: drug trafficking and the failure to bring to trial the major peddlers hauling that poison into our county. Stated differently, Harlan County juries should be involved, but they haven’t been.

4. In the entire 8 years I’ve been on the Bench, the Commonwealth has brought only one, minor drug trafficking case to trial before a jury in Harlan Circuit Court. I remain ready, willing and able to call in a jury and preside over all criminal cases the prosecution will bring to trial, and certainly those indicted for major drug trafficking, bringing in and peddling large quantities of heroin, fentanyl and methamphetamine. It is no secret our community is awash in illicit drugs, and our community, as trial jurors, must be included in finding guilt or innocence in cases of such importance.

Karen S. Davenport

1. Attorney for 30 years, currently the Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney for the 26th Judicial Circuit, the City Attorney for Harlan, and the City Attorney for Cumberland.  Served as Harlan County’s Domestic Relations Commissioner for 13 years and Harlan County’s Master Commissioner for 6 years.

2. My experience spans every area of the law, and I am well prepared to serve Harlan County in the role of Circuit Judge.  I will offer every person in the courtroom respect and compassion, but I will demand accountability for actions from all involved in the justice system.  I am committed to bringing back the community’s access to the court by offering broadcast of court proceedings on local tv.    The people of Harlan County need to know and understand what is happening in the Harlan Circuit Court.

3. The addiction crisis is the most pressing issue in the Circuit Court.  Every family in this county is affected in some way by addiction, and it is time that we take a new approach to this growing problem.

4. The Court cannot be effective working alone, but it can lead the way in having the entire community work together to overcome our county’s problems.  We must offer comprehensive help for our people in crisis and follow this up with employment and other opportunities that encourage and help to make people functioning members of their communities and a positive presence in their families once again.

Harlan County Clerk

Donna Hoskins (D)

1. I have lived in Harlan County all my life, my parents were Alan and Georgia Hoskins. My brother worked with U.S. Steel. I have worked in the County Clerk’s Office both as a deputy clerk and as clerk since 2011. Working in both positions I have obtained the experience and knowledge for running the office.

2. As clerk, I am in charge of a six million dollar budget, holding all elections, and having delinquent property tax sales. I get the tax rates and print real estate tax bills so all taxing districts can have operating money. We register boats and vehicles, keep records, deeds, mortgages, wills, marriage licenses and many other things.

3. First and foremost is obtaining election poll workers and having them attend a training session. I must make sure the ballots are correct and the equipment goes to all the right voting places, keep the people informed about filing dates, absentee voting and other procedures.

4. I will continue to work diligently to interest people in working elections, and keep them working smoothly and following state and federal laws.

Ashley Sullivan (R)

1. Currently operating my own business for 9 years and counting. At the Bank of Harlan, I handled large amounts of currency daily and provided excellent customer service as a bank teller. Business background extends to J.P. Morgan Chase Bank where I maintained records and secured private information.

2. It’s time for a change and I would be just that! My vast business background, customer service, and personal characteristics would enhance our County Clerk’s office in many ways. I would work continuously to improve the clerk’s office and myself if elected to provide a positive environment and experience for everyone. I will bring a fresh vision to the clerk’s office focusing on the people of Harlan and their needs.

3. The most pressing issue would be overall efficiency. The clerk’s office needs to function to the best of its ability with the customer’s needs in mind within the limits of the law. Find ways to address the long lines and become more modern to help serve our community in the most efficient way.

4. By focusing on the people of Harlan and listening. Their #1 request is a more friendly/welcoming environment so I would start there. Then I’d work on ways to help shorten lines and provide a faster service such as all hands on deck and access to documents online. I’d bring user friendly modernization through multiple outlets of technology to provide more information to the public and online document services. I’d also address the need for additional hours to help our working class. And continuously challenge the office to find ways to improve, stay current and provide excellent service to all.