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Bluegrass Beacon: Anti-right-to-work candidate’s confusing contradictions

Editor’s note: The Bluegrass Beacon is a weekly syndicated statewide newspaper column posted on the Bluegrass Institute’s website after being released to and published by newspapers statewide.

I’ve been considering adding “witness a 50-percent turnout at Kentucky polls in a midterm election” to my bucket list.

We may get close reaching that turnout number on Election Day, at least nationally.

Michael McDonald, a University of Florida professor who maintains a turnout database, predicts the national turnout could reach 50 percent.

Such a result would rival the 1966 midterms in which nearly 49 percent of voters showed up – even though President Lyndon Johnson’s name wasn’t on the ballot – and effectively ended further expansion of the president’s Great Society program.

The result was a shift to the right of the political spectrum culminating in Republican Richard Nixon’s ascendancy to the presidency.

Kentucky has experienced its own political sea change in more recent times, beginning in 2015 with Matt Bevin’s election as governor and then in 2016 when Republicans rose from being a 53-47 minority to become a supermajority with a commanding 64-36 advantage.

But if Democratic political candidates like Jeanie Smith have anything to do with it, that swing will simply be a temporary lane change rather than a permanent shift.

Smith’s not only challenging incumbent Mike Wilson for the 32nd state Senate District seat but is promising on her website to usher in her own political sea change centered around undoing many of the policies that have created record economic growth not only in the commonwealth but also in Warren County, where she lives and which she wants to represent in the legislature.

She’s promising, for instance, to bring back prevailing-wage mandates on public projects which cost Kentucky $125 million per year until they were repealed by the legislature in 2017.It’s a mystifying contradiction to have a candidate touting her credentials as an educator while simultaneously proposing to bring back a worn-out policy that would unnecessarily add $125 million to the cost of building Kentucky government buildings, including schools – money that could be used to fix or replace crumbling schools and hold the line on infrastructure costs.

Smith also includes “Repeal Right to Work” under “Issues” on her website while conveniently leaving out the fact that the county in which she resides is greatly benefiting from being the first in America to pass a local right-to-work law and doing so in a bipartisan manner.

Manufacturers like right-to-work, which is evidenced by the fact that they’ve been choosing to expand or relocate in Warren County and across Kentucky since the county first passed right-to-work with a statewide law following in January 2017.Since those policy votes were counted, Warren County has been on the receiving end of more than $1.5 billion of new capital investment and more than 2,000 new jobs created.

Kentucky, meanwhile, has also shattered development records with more than $10 billion in additional investments and nearly 20,000 new jobs created even though it’s not been two full years since the statewide right-to-work law was passed.

The good news is that even if Smith were to win her race and succeed in convincing enough legislators to overturn the statewide right-to-work law, she would also have to convince them to outlaw local right-to-work ordinances supported by local officials of both parties and benefiting more than 600,000 Kentuckians.

Still, it’s mystifying how a candidate claiming she’s “better for the economy” opposes the very policies that made her own region the fastest-growing in Kentucky.

Jim Waters is president and CEO of the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, Kentucky’s free-market think tank. Read previous columns at He can be reached at and @bipps on Twitter.

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