Whitley County has become a Republican stronghold but one of the gubernatorial candidates in the Democrat primary, Adam Edelen, is attempting to make inroads, meeting with supporters Saturday night in Corbin.
Edelen, who currently serves as Kentucky’s State Auditor, talked with and spoke to supporters during an event at the Second and Main event venue.
Growing up in Meade County in western Kentucky, Edelen explained that he grew up in a mobile home as part of a farming family.
“If you think where people end up in life is based on where they started, the only person that would think I would be a major candidate for governor based on where I came from was my mother,” Edelen said.
“We have got to make sure that Kentucky remains a place that people can have an opportunity,” he said. “Where you don’t have to be the son of a governor, or you don’t have to come from a political or wealthy family to have a chance to serve and to lead a great commonwealth like ours.”
Edelen told the crowd that the state is shortchanging education and more must be done.
While the state must keep the promise it made to its teachers with the pension system, it must also support them in the classroom whether it is materials, class sizes or technology.
“Every teacher I know spends money out of their own pockets buying materials for our kids,” Edelen said.
Edelen noted that the student-to-teacher ratio is spiking and the state must provide the resources to reverse that trend.
“We have to talk about how to make sure class sizes stay low,” he said.
“Kids learn better when there are less of them in a classroom.”
In addition, Edelen said the state must do more to give students, and all Kentuckians, better and more reliable access to technology, especially the Internet.
“Children learn differently than you and I did. If you don’t believe me, hand a 3-year-old an iPhone,” Edelen said.
Edelen added that throughout rural Kentucky, McDonald’s is one of the most popular places, but it isn’t because of the food.
“They are there because McDonald’s is the most reliable provider of Wi-Fi in rural Kentucky,” Edelen said adding that the state must work to ensure all Kentuckians have access.
There is no better example of how government has sold our people out and failed to provide for the future,” Edelen said.
“If you want to build a Kentucky that is relevant to 21st century then you better get the Internet to every Kentuckian and by God I will get it done.”
Edelen said there must be a conversation concerning higher education, whether it is at college or community and technical education.
While, at one time, an individual didn’t need to complete high school to find a secure job to support a family, Edelen said the world has changed.
“Democrats and Republicans are chasing an economy that doesn’t exist anymore. There is no future in low skill, low wage jobs,” Edelen said.
“This is the time when people need to stand up and say, ‘Nowhere is it written that Kentuckians and our children can’t dream a greater dream. Nowhere is it written that all we can offer is some cheap, knockoff version of Mississippi where we sell our people a low skill, low wage job.’”
Edelen noted that the Fortune 500 companies, including the oil and gas companies, are diversifying into renewable energy, and Kentucky should be looking that way.
Edelen’s company, Edelen Strategic Ventures, works to assist entrepreneurs looking to bring new businesses and jobs to Kentucky.
One such project is solar energy farm on a former strip mine in Pike County.
The $130 million investment will employ several hundred people during construction.
“This is what leadership looks like in the next generation,” Edelen said.
Edelen pointed to the revitalization that has occurred on Main Street in Corbin, crediting local leadership for their efforts to make it happen, and the entrepreneurs that saw the potential.
He added that there is no reason communities across the Commonwealth can’t see something similar occur.
“Your Main Street is proof we can do big, important things and create extraordinary opportunity,” Edelen said.
“We can build a modern economy in Kentucky.”
Edelen said the reasons these conversations are not happening is that the same political families are returning to Frankfort time and again.
“These are mediocre politicians with the same names and same backgrounds and same worn out ideas,” Edelen said.
Edelen said he is already taking steps to change the way things are done in Frankfort.
“To change our broken government you must fix our broken politics,” Edelen said noting he is the only candidate that is not taking any corporate political action committee money.
“When the history of my administration is written, it will say I worked for you and I didn’t sell out to them,” Edelen said.
“If you want to change the game, elect a game changer,” he said.
“Let’s make Kentucky what it can be!”
Edelen and running mate Gill Holland will face off against Rocky Adkins and Stephanie Horne, Andy Beshear and Jacqueline Coleman, and Geoff Young and Joshua French for the democratic nomination in the May 21 primary.