When asked about her politics, Brenda Slaven describes herself as fiercely independent.
A native of Dayton, Ohio, Slaven is now retired but has worked an array of jobs over the course of her career -- including government positions from bookkeeper to school bus driver. She and her husband have lived in Somerset since October 2000.
"I'm not married to either party," she said. "I'm a registered Independent and I prefer to take things from both sides and see if I can come up with any one thing that's good. So far, the pickings are really slim."
Party and which one is in control of the House or Senate are given entirely too much emphasis on both sides of the aisle, as far as Slaven's concerned.
"The Democrats are now echoing the same sentiments that the Republicans did whenever [former President Barack] Obama was in office," Slaven said. "I don't think they [federal legislators] are doing anything but taking up space and wasting air."
Her opinion of current President Donald Trump is not any better. "I don't like name-calling; I don't like bullies; I don't like egomaniacs…I just don't like Trump," she laughed.
Slaven's concerned about tariff wars adversely affecting the economy and said the President's foreign policy scares her. "Sooner or later, his big mouth is going to get us in more trouble than we can get out of," she said.
That said, she's unsure of a challenge to President Trump's re-election since she's not found anyone among the current challengers she can really get behind. In terms of Democrats, Slaven feels that both Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders are too old -- adding that Sanders is also too radical.
"If Joe Biden gets the nomination, before I would cast a vote for him, I would have to investigate his running mate really, really close," Slaven said, explaining the Vice President in that scenario would need to be prepared to take over at any time. "I'm 68 and I don't believe in age discrimination but there's a limit."
With both Trump and Biden having been the target of sexual misconduct allegations, Slaven said it would depend on the situation before it affected her vote. She's disheartened by how the #metoo movement has affected lives and said that alleged victims should come forth within a certain time or not name names. "The statute of limitations was established for a reason," she noted, "and residual damage is being done."
Looking ahead to 2020, Slaven cited a number of issues that need to be addressed by presidential candidates. Chief among them are immigration and abortion. Of immigration she said, "I don't necessarily think that building the wall is the answer…I think they ought to start with the existing laws and go from there."
When it comes to abortion, Slaven doesn't feel that it should be used as birth control but she opposes an outright ban due to cases of rape, incest, or certain medical conditions.
Slaven would also like the government to explore alternative energy sources, rather than depend on fossil fuels. "Eventually coal is going to run out," she said, adding that wind and solar solutions should be explored in this area. "They've got the mountaintops to do it with and make use of what God gave them."
While free college tuition may sound good, Slaven doesn't think it's feasible for every discipline. Her family's experience with college debt runs the gamut -- from her elder son racking up "mountains" of loans to her youngest grandson currently working for both wages and credit through a vocational program at Somerset Community College. It's in these skilled trades that she sees the most tuition-free potential.
"I have yet to see an ad in the paper that is advertising for someone with a liberal arts degree," she added.
Slaven would also like to see bipartisan tax reform as well as an initiative to make healthcare more affordable -- with costs perhaps based on individual or family income. Of all the political issues discussed, healthcare seemed to be the one which impacts her family the most. The same grandson who is working his way toward a postsecondary degree makes too much to be eligible for Medicaid but not enough to afford his own policy. Still, Slaven said he must do something or he'll get "zapped" with penalties at the end of the year -- for which she's critical of the Obama administration. Slaven and her husband are covered by a Medicare Advantage plan, which she said she's thankful for but the plan costs more each year only to cover less.
"It won't be too long, the way it's going, before it's completely out of our reach," Slaven said. "Whenever that happens, what are we going to do?"
Barring open primaries where voters in Kentucky can choose whom they wish regardless of party, Slaven would like to see more Independent candidates run for office. As with vice presidential candidates, she wants to know more about gubernatorial running mates here in Kentucky.
With Kentucky voters just last week choosing incumbent Republican Matt Bevin and Democrat challenger Andy Beshear to square off for the Governor's office this November, Slaven hopes voters "clean house in Frankfort." While she wants the pension crisis resolved, she takes issue with Bevin's attitude toward public educators.
"Quit referring to the teachers as thugs and the general populace as stupid idiots," she said.
[Note: Interview subject is related to reporter by marriage.]