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An Interview with the 2 Women Running for Lt. Governor in Kentucky

The Commonwealth can boast for the first time of having not just one but two female candidates running for Lieutenant Governor on major party tickets. According to the National Lt. Governors Association, located interestingly in Florence, no state in recent years has had two female Lt. Governor candidates on a gubernatorial slate.

Both candidates took the time August 5 to speak to the Northern Kentucky Women’s Initiative after appearing at a Women’s Initiative-sponsored forum.  

On the Republican ticket with Matt Bevin is Jenean Hampton. If elected, she would be the Commonwealth’s first African American Lt. Governor.  She has demonstrated leadership skills in the public and private sectors. She is also a US Air Force veteran.  

“The more diverse voices we have at the table, the better,” she explained to the Forum audience. “It’s a sacrifice but the more voices at the table, the better government we’ll have. I hope to inspire other women to step up to the plate. Choose us not because we are women, but that we are best qualified. I have Air Force leadership and private sector experience. I just happen to be Black and female. Kids learn by watching adults around them. It’s better than a hashtag campaign.”

Representative Sannie Overly is an attorney who was first elected to the House in 2008. Five years later she was elected as the first female House Majority Caucus Chair. She is running with gubernatorial candidate Jack Conway.

“Seeing talented, qualified and ambitious candidates is good for Kentucky,” said Rep. Overly. “When women have a seat at the table they change the conversation. The Kentucky Democratic Party has a rich history of women in elected office. We need to start the pipeline young. Maybe using the Ban Bossy Program more that changes traditional thinking: when a boy asserts himself he’s considered a leader and when a girl does she’s thought of as ‘bossy.’”

WI: You were both asked what you would individually do as Lt. Governor. Could you review that?

Hampton: I am a hands-on person. I told Matt up front that I am interested in three things: being an entrepreneurial ambassador, putting a huge focus of my time on education and I want to be an example to people so they know that they too can become part of the American dream despite their circumstances.

Overly: We are running as a team; we’ll govern as a team. I am excited to be a partner with Jack Conway. I look to use my experience with the Transportation Cabinet to get transportation issues to the forefront and spur economic development. Public education is also an issue. I will continue to work on it, especially early childhood education. I am also proud of Kentucky’s Human Trafficking legislation I was a part of.

WI: What sets you apart?

Hampton: That I am from the private sector. I have 19 years in the corrugated packaging industry. I did sales and ran a plant. I have seven years in the Air Force. I show a thread of leadership and a body of experience. Also, I understand how to stretch a paycheck. We have a chance to run Kentucky on all cylinders.

Overly: We run as a slate. I am Jack Conway’s running mate. What sets me apart is the person I am running with. Jack serves with integrity and success.

WI: One of you may be accused of having too much private sector experience and not enough legislative experience, while the other may hear the opposite—too much government experience and too little in the private sector. How do you respond?

Hampton: I don’t see this as a disadvantage. I have a history of learning. If I could get a MBA in my 40's I can learn anything. You have to know what you don’t know and then pursue it.

Overly: If you look at my experience, I can do both. I have been an attorney in private practice for years. I was an engineer. I owned my own business since 2000. I know what it’s like to work to keep the lights on.

WI: Rep. Overly, how were you accepted as the first female House Majority Caucus Chair?

Overly: I ran against an incumbent and won. It was a time of celebration.

WI: Why did you decide not to run for Congress against Andy Barr?

Overly: I am a mother of two young girls. They are in school here and I didn’t want to be traveling out of state.

WI: What do you fear?

Overly: I fear that in Kentucky we will make decisions this fall that can stop our state from moving forward instead of taking opportunities to be something more.

WI: You have degrees from the University of Kentucky and University of Louisville. Cats or Cards?

Overly: I cheer for both. I can wear red and blue quite well together.

WI: Favorite quote?

Overly: “The best way to predict the future is to create it” –Abraham Lincoln

WI: Ms. Hampton, you won the nomination by 83 votes. What would you have done if you had not won?

Hampton: This was not originally on my to-do list. I was thinking about what would be next in the private sector or the opportunities like what field reps do for people like Senator McConnell.  And t\hen I got called to serve and am glad to be part of something great.

WI: You lost your bid to represent District 20 in 2014 against Jody Richards who received 63.3% of the vote. Was this a practice run for this race?

Hampton: There was great momentum in that race. It felt good.

WI: What has prepared you for this run in politics?

Hampton: I had volunteered in Regina Webb’s campaign against Jody Richards and then there was my campaign. I have been watching the process of legislation for some time. I attended everything I could— school board meetings, fiscal court. I’m the lone conservative in my family. Matt Bevin became my mentor. But I learned a lot from my mother. After the riots in Detroit, my mother, who had no more than a high school education, was offered food. She refused to take food that was stolen during a riot. Values are important.

WI: What is your greatest fear?

Hampton: That we will lose our country due to apathy. Too many don’t appreciate America. We are an anomaly that focuses on the individual. Other countries don’t.

Favorite quote?

Hampton: “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage” -- Galatians 5:1.  

Women’s Initiative Columns are written by Laura Kroeger, past chair of the Women’s Initiative and president of Communications Project Partners.