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Bill Clinton Makes Case For Hillary, Jabs Bevin During UK Event

Josh James

It’s been a busy week in Kentucky for the Democratic presidential candidates as they traverse the state. Tuesday, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders landed in Louisville while former President Bill Clinton campaigned for frontrunner Hillary Clinton at the University of Kentucky.

The 42nd President of the United States is the third member of the Clinton family to make the rounds in the commonwealth in the last week. Waiting outside the W.T. Young Library in a crowd of several hundred UK sophomore Erica Steele was eager to see her first president in person, even if she’s not quite sold on Hillary yet.

"I'm actually leaning toward Bernie," she says.

Her hope is that Clinton finds a way to speak more directly to the concerns of college students, many of whom have flocked to the competition. Today, she wanted to hear Bill "relate more to the college, genuinely understand our positions and where we are in life and where we need to be."

Taking the stage, the president made his pitch – encouraging students to listen carefully to the ideas on offer by both his wife and Sanders, who wants to fund free tuition with a tax on Wall Street speculation. On that issue, Clinton was fond of pointing out the fine print.

"The problem with the free tuition plan is it requires the states to come up with a third of the match," Clinton told the attentive audience. "What do you think the chances are that [Kentucky's] governor and this legislature would pay for a third of the tuition after they just got through cutting higher ed?"

The veteran campaigner also touched on wealth inequality, foreign affairs, and healthcare in his remarks. On the latter, Clinton praised the Affordable Care Act and singled out Gov. Matt Bevin for special criticism.

"Kentucky did the best job of implementing the law, so what happened? You elected this Republican governor and he wrecked your health exchange, he cut funding for higher education, and he froze the Medicaid expansion, which is a good deal for the state," the president said, eliciting a round of boos.

Meanwhile, Bevin was headed to Washington, D.C. to meet with Health and Human Services Sec. Sylvia Burwell about customizing Kentucky’s Medicaid expansion. The governor told WLKY he’s excited about the possibilities and an “amazing amount of work" has gone into tailoring a new plan for the state.

In a statement to WUKY, Republican Party of Kentucky spokesman Tres Watson responded: "Obamacare has done nothing but bankrupt providers and bloat our state budget.  Governor Bevin is getting our fiscal house in order.  If you want to talk about wreckage, look at the devastation President Obama and Hillary Clinton have caused in our coal producing counties."

Clinton’s visit comes on the heels of his wife’s appearance in Ashland Monday and an event in Lexington featuring daughter Chelsea Clinton last week. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders set up shop in Louisville. The self-described democratic socialist is scheduled to rally his troops at the Lexington Center Wednesday.

Update: The Bernie Sanders campaign argues a Wall Street speculation tax would fully fund his $75B free tuition proposal. In Sanders' College for All Act introduced in 2015, the cost is split between the federal government and participating states with the latter picking up about a third of the costs. 

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.
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