GLASGOW – The race for Kentucky's second congressional district features a seasoned incumbent vying against a political newcomer, both of whom believe they are the best choice to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Republican Brett Guthrie was first elected to public office in 1998 as a member of the Kentucky Senate. He's served in the U.S. House since 2009.
Democrat Hank Linderman is seeking his first elected office. He's a musician and a small business owner who said issues that affect working-class Americans are his top priorities.
"Health care particularly is out of control," Linderman said. "Unfortunately, our Congress is largely financed by corporate PAC donations, and a lot of those come from pharmaceutical companies and health care providers."
Guthrie has received a sizable amount of his election funds from such PACs, which are tasked with keeping profit-driven organizations steering the health care ship, he continued.
"These are people who are determined to not let us modernize our health care system," Linderman said.
Guthrie has co-sponsored a multitude of bills during his time in Washington, and several of them have received bipartisan support.
While tensions appear to be high in Washington based on major debates over idealogical issues that closely follow party lines, Guthrie said there are congress members who find common ground.
"Where we can agree, we work together, and that happens more than people think," Guthrie said.
For example, a bill co-sponsored by Guthrie, the Comprehensive Opioid Recovery Centers Act, received wide bipartisan support when it was approved in the House in September. According to Guthrie's office, the legislation establishes "a grant program for facilities to offer evidence-based treatments and all FDA-approved medications for opioid use disorder."
Kentucky, like many states, has to find ways to grapple with drug addiction problems, Guthrie said. This legislation is one piece of the puzzle, he said, as it focuses on rehabilitation for users as well as finding them employment after they complete treatment.
"There are people whose criminal behavior is only because of their addiction," Guthrie said. "If you address the addiction, then the criminal behavior goes away."
While bipartisanship is a great ideal, Linderman said it can be an impossible task considering the amount of special interests and fundraising in the political system.
Proposed tax reform "is a debacle" because it would only benefit wealthy corporations and individuals, and Republican leaders seem intent on restructuring Social Security and Medicare to "take care of the hole they put in the budget," Linderman said.
"Here's my promise to the voters of the second district. My goal is to get elected and to be responsible only to the people who live and work in the district, and the American people, not corporations that funded me," he said.
If re-elected, Guthrie said dealing with the national debt would be one of his top priorities. Balancing the budget and cutting into the deficit will require fiscal responsibility, he continued.
"We need to work and preserve Social Security and Medicare for the people who have it," Guthrie said. "Health care spendings, particularly Medicaid, are going to have to be reformed. That's the only way we're going to get a handle on our growing budget deficit."
It's not just a matter of improving the outlook for contemporary times, as fiscal responsibility is an issue that will affect future generations, Guthrie added.
"We're just giving to our children debt they're going to have to pay back. It's not going to be like the bills are never going to be paid," he said.
While Linderman criticized the state of affairs in Washington, Guthrie said President Donald Trump has done a pretty good job thus far in his term. He pointed to the improved economy, trade and tax reform and strengthening of the military under Trump as positives of the current presidency.
Typically mid-term elections are referendums on the president, and Guthrie said that may have an effect on congressional elections.
"The president has a very strong personality, and some people just don't like that personality," Guthrie said.
The second district encompasses all or parts of 21 counties including Barren, Warren and Hart.