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Op-Ed: Vote Buddy Wheatley in House District 65

The following op-ed is by Buddy Wheatley, Democratic candidate for House District 65

With a day before the election, I appreciate the opportunity to tell you a little about myself and why I am running to be the next Kentucky State Representative for District 65. Representative Arnold Simpson is retiring, and I have big shoes to fill. I am proud to be endorsed by Representative Simpson and will strive to be the kind of bipartisan legislator that is a big part of his legacy.

I am also proud to have been a 4th generation Covington firefighter. For nearly 100 years, public service has been part of my family’s legacy, which includes my brother, father, grandfather and great-grandfather, all serving as Covington firefighters. Since retiring as Covington’s fire chief in 2008, and getting my law degree, my legal work has focused on helping Kentucky’s first responders and other public servants and their families.

For nine years I’ve served as general counsel for the Kentucky Professional Fire Fighters and have traveled to, and become familiar with, all parts of the state. My duties include drafting and analyzing proposed legislation.  So I’ve seen firsthand how the recent policies coming out of Frankfort adversely affect Kentucky’s working families.

I was born and raised in this district and I will take my life experiences, along with my personal and professional experiences that are woven into the fabric of the district, to be a voice of leadership in Frankfort and to work to make the 65th District even better.  

In 2019, the Kentucky General Assembly will likely look a little different, perhaps even dramatically different, depending on Tuesday’s results. Either way, I can be an effective legislator for the 65th District because I know how to deal with conflict, how to find common ground, and even how to be heard when no one seems to be listening.

These intangible skills come from growing up the middle child of 12 siblings, from 25+ years of collective bargaining sessions, my legal education and experience, and from being a Democrat in Northern Kentucky. These intangibles set me apart from my opponent, and these assets will ensure I represent all of the people of the district, all of the time.

My top priorities include:

Public education is the top priority. Clearly, Kentucky’s investment in public education after passing the 1993 Kentucky Education Reform Act resulted in lifting us from the bottom of the educational rankings.  And now, with the cuts over the past 8 years, we are seeing falling rankings and stagnant progress. We must recommit to public education and restore the hurtful cuts to preK-12 and post-secondary schools.  I vow to be an evidence-based legislator, who explores best practices in Kentucky and elsewhere, to create a school system that actually attracts people to this beautiful state.

The pension issue looms over every dollar we spend in the state budget. Working in an open, transparent way with input from all the stakeholders, we can find a way to fund pension obligations while retaining the structure that invites Kentucky’s brightest and bravest to stay, and to aspire to be educators and first responders.

We need resources to restore education cuts and fund our pension obligations.  Foremost, I support a fair tax system based on income.  The recent tax breaks that benefitted millionaires and big corporations should be repealed.  The state gives away as much in tax breaks to special interests as it takes in on the revenue side.  I believe we should revisit all tax breaks and eliminate unnecessary and non-productive giveaways.

We can’t have a better education, more workforce participation, less poverty, and less crime until we have a healthier Kentucky.  We need the keep the 500,000 Medicaid expansion (90% of which is paid for by federal dollars) that brings better health to our state, and additional jobs and spending that boosts the economy of our struggling rural populations.  The opioid epidemic has gotten some attention in Frankfort, but not enough. I will make it a major part of our health care spending, with an emphasis on treatment and prevention.

And finally, Transportation and infrastructure are among our most important needs. Here in 65th district, I will focus on three things; a toll-free solution for the aging Brent Spence bridge, connecting our cities and communities with walk-able, bike-able pathways, and promoting critical infrastructure projects to ease traffic congestion that threatens the renaissance of our urban centers.

Within the 65th District are three distinctly different communities, and I know them all well. I will work hard to represent the needs of Park Hills, Bromley, Ludlow, and the small portion of Taylor Mill along with the larger city, Covington. There is a need for regional leadership to address our major issues and I will be a collaborative leader, working to bring back resources that we need from our Frankfort tax dollars.

Retiring Representative Arnold Simpson has set the standard for statesmanship, integrity, and common ground for 65th District state representatives to follow.  I cherish his mentorship; and can’t help to be awe-inspired to follow his lead.  I have his vote; I ask for yours.