A political candidates forum hosted by the Jewish Community Relations Council and the National Council of Jewish Women Louisville saw more than 100 people in attendance on October 14 at the Jewish Community Center’s Linker Auditorium.
Candidates for Louisville mayor and U.S. representative spoke for 15 minutes each, then candidates for other offices, such as judicial seats and Jefferson county clerk were introduced.
Organizer Matt Goldberg, director of the JCRC, said he was happy with the event.
“I was very pleased with the participation of our candidates and was happy to see the candidates address our most important issues directly,” Goldberg said. “The JCRC is proud to contribute to efforts to help our community become informed and participatory voters.”
Issues discussed included the Affordable Care Act, Israel policy, minimum wage, the state of the city of Louisville and more.
U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY, 3rd District) began his speech by mentioning that he grew up in the JCC and said he feels very comfortable there. He said that he and some others in Congress created the Congressional Bourbon Caucus – and he emphasized that it was not a joke. “It’s one of the few truly bi-partisan caucuses,” he said to some laughter.
Yarmuth said he is a proud supporter of the Affordable Care Act because it provides protection for those who otherwise would have none. If the ACA would be repealed, like the Republicans want, he said, 521,000 Kentuckians would lose coverage, 80 percent of whom have never had coverage in their lives.
He admits the ACA has problems, but said leaders should work together to fix those problems instead of throwing out the whole system. When asked about a patient who saw her prescription copays rise to $900 for a cancer drug, Yarmuth said that there are some insurance companies who try to circumvent the intent of the law.
When asked about his feelings on Israel, Yarmuth said he supports giving financial support to Israel and said he has voted several times for financial appropriation to support Israel’s defense. However, he said, he doesn’t believe that Israel is right every time. “The settlements are absolutely wrong,” he said. “We need to take a more balanced approach,” and possibly threaten to withhold funding if necessary.
Yarmuth’s opponent, Dr. Michael Macfarlane, a urologist in Louisville, started his speech by saying that he is a Zionist. “Israel sits in an area where all their neighbors are trying to destroy them,” he said. He went on to mention the recent beheadings of journalists, soldiers and aid workers by ISIS, citing the September 2 killing of Steven Sotloff, an Israeli-American journalist for Time magazine.
His speech focused a lot on foreign relations, saying, “All around the world we need leadership.” He said the U.S. pulled out of Iraq far too soon and didn’t leave troops behind to protect the country. He equated the situation to that of Korea, imagining what would have happened if U.S. soldiers weren’t still there. “Nobody trusts that the U.S. will keep its word right now. We have a real leadership gap in our country right now.”
On the Affordable Care Act, Macfarlane said that it was that bill that pushed him into politics. “It puts the government in charge of health care.” He argued that jobs have been lost and will continue to be, and premiums are about to “skyrocket.”
City candidates focused on local issues.
Mayor Greg Fischer said Louisville is in a “good place right now,” emphasizing that the city now uses a program called LouieStat, which measures performance and efficiency in the office of Performance Improvement. He said that the city has worked hard to maintain close contact with residents. Watching the events of Ferguson, MO, unfold reaffirmed that our city is in good health, “We are 180 degrees in the other direction,” he said. “We maintain a constant dialogue with residents in an intelligent and compassionate way so that we can win together, not lose together.”
When asked how he felt about raising the city’s minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, his answer was “it depends.” He said he is a strong supporter of raising the federal and state minimum wages, but to do so in the city alone might send jobs away.
One of Fischer’s opponents, Republican Bob DeVore, also spoke at the forum. An employee of UPS, DeVore spent time on the McCreary County School Board before moving to Louisville. He said he decided to run for office because he wanted to make a difference in Louisville, and that if elected, he would give 30 percent of his salary to help boost education in the city. “The West End is being left behind,” he said. He went on to say that the city’s literacy rate is too low and “tuition is sky-high.”
When asked his views on raising the minimum wage, DeVore said, “Why focus on the minimum? We should focus on opportunities, then you don’t need a minimum wage. We have to give people the tools to be successful.”
Several candidates for judgeships and County Clerk, including some incumbents, showed up and were introduced at the end of the forum. They shook hands, passed out fliers and asked for attendees’ votes.