Local candidates participated in a series of forums at Next Level Church on Thursday night where the main focus was racial inequality and the COVID-19 pandemic.
The event was hosted by the Bowling Green-Warren County NAACP, Black Leaders Advocating for the Community and the Bowling Green Human Rights Commission. All three forums were moderated by Saundra Ardrey, an associate professor in the department of political science at Western Kentucky University.
Contenders in the Kentucky District 20 House election, the Bowling Green mayoral election and the Bowling Green City Commissioner election were all present at the event that was closed to the public due to COVID-19 concerns and streamed online.
First up was the District 20 House of Representative forum that featured incumbent Bowling Green Democrat Patti Minter. Minter’s independent challenger Leanette Lopez did not participate.
In her opening statement, Minter said what she is most proud of during her time as District 20 representative is that she consistently “shows up” and “stands for the people she represents.”
When asked why someone in the African American community or in a minority community should vote for her, Minter pointed to her time lobbying for the restoration of voting rights before she took office and to how she recently co-sponsored Breonna’s Law, which bans no-knock warrants.
“I recognize that equity means that we need to have more action and more listening to people in the black community to make sure that we have positive outcomes for everybody,” Minter said.
She was also asked if she had any new, innovative ideas if reelected to office. Minter responded that she is in full support of raising the minimum wage, and that it is “past time” that Bowling Green created more jobs that had a living wage.
Concerning the current pandemic, Minter complimented Gov. Andy Beshear and said he “saved lives” with his decisionmaking over the last few months.
“We need to do one simple single thing. Wear a mask,” Minter said on the subject of COVID-19. “We know that wearing a mask protects you and it protects other people.”
In her closing statement, Minter urged the public to exercise their right to vote and that she is the only candidate in her race that has shown up for all three forums that have taken place in Bowling Green this election season.
The Bowling Green mayoral candidate forum followed after a short break. Todd Alcott, Chris Page and Tom Morris were present.
Alcott is the only mayoral candidate who will be on the November ballot. Page and Morris are running as write-in candidates.
All three are running for the chance to replace Bowling Green Mayor Bruce Wilkerson who dropped out of the race in early September due to personal issues.
In their opening statements, Morris said that he wanted to bring a “new tone” to the office, Alcott pointed to his 21 years of service in the military and how he is already “knee deep” in the community, and Page said that he wanted to “kick up some dust” on racism and bigotry.
All three candidates spoke at length on race relations in Bowling Green.
Page said that if elected, he would work directly with police departments while reaching out to young people, as the task of defeating racism is not a one-person job.
“I am running on racial unity,” Page said. “Any time discrimination rears its ugly head, the mayor of Bowling Green needs to confront it with unity.”
Alcott used peaceful protests seen in Bowling Green during this year’s Juneteenth holiday as an example of how the community came together during a time of civil unrest.
For Morris, he sees housing and pollution as two major root causes of inequity.
Different from the other two candidates, the subject of climate change was Morris’ main point of emphasis during the event.
The subject of a fairness ordinance in Bowling Green was also of great interest during the mayoral forum. Morris and Page were in support of the ordinance, but Page pointed out that the ordinance would need to be carried out fairly if implemented.
Alcott was the only one of the three candidates to oppose a fairness ordinance.
“I look at this from a biblical perspective,” Alcott said. “My church has its doors open to every single person – all sinners, including me. We are all the same at the foot of Jesus. What I am trying to say is that I am not here to make judgment, nor am I here to imply judgement. And so I am not going to support the fairness ordinance.”
The final forum of the night concerned the city commissioner race. Out of the 10 candidates running for office, six attended: Carlos Bailey, Francisco Serrano, Dana Beasley Brown, W. Paul Carter, Brian “Slim” Nash and Melinda Hill.
Nash and Brown were the only incumbents present. Fellow incumbents Joe Denning and Sue Parrigin did not take part.
Challenging candidates Rick Williams and David Witty also were not present at the forum. Each candidate brought a unique perspective in their opening statements.
Nash said that he wanted to continue to build upon what he has done in his previous 12 years of being city commissioner. He said that he was someone who “doesn’t play it safe” but is also not reckless politically.
Carter said he knows what discrimination is like as a gay man. He wants the city of Bowling Green to move forward when it comes to issues of poverty and fairness.
Poverty was also a major point of emphasis for Brown, who said she grew up in poor surroundings. She is running once again for city commissioner as she wants to make sure Bowling Green stays responsive and “meets the current moment.”
Hill is once again returning to the city commissioner race after not seeking reelection in 2016. Hill said that she wants to once again bring her experience back for the good of the city.
The decision to run for newcomer Serrano is a very personal one. On March 30, 2016, his cousin Giselle Arias was struck and killed on Gordon Avenue. Ever since then, Serrano has fought for improving safety in the city.
“We fought for months to get a stoplight placed there,” Serrano said. “We need to take leadership in this city seriously, and that’s why I’m running.”
Bailey said he is running to serve the people as he personally knows what it’s like to be poor, and that he is committed to supporting projects that build for the future and attract new jobs in Bowling Green.