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Secretary of State contenders square off in televised debate

AP / LRC Public Information

Kentucky’s candidates for Secretary of State put forward their ideas on early voting, election security, and combatting misinformation in a debate on WLKY Thursday.

In the half-hour debate, incumbent Republican Secretary of State Michael Adams highlighted his bipartisan work with Gov. Beshear during the pandemic, his success in expanding early voting, and his defeat of a primary challenger he describes as an election denier.

But his current Democratic rival, former state representative Buddy Wheatley, maintains more can be done to expand access to voting.

On the topic of mail-in voting, Adams said it could wind up pulling resources away from Kentuckians’ most preferred way to cast ballots.

"I'm not willing to expand into a mail-based voting system," Adams said. "If you look other states that have done that, like Oregon, the first state to do that, they eliminated in-person voting because it costs about twice as much per ballot to have a vote-by-mail election than it does to have an in-person election. And in Kentucky, even Democrats prefer voting in person. The vast majority of our voters do that, even if they're eligible to vote by absentee ballot."

Picking up on the Oregon example, Wheatley countered that it's the "highest voter turnout state in the nation. I think those are things to strive for. There are ways to do this. Opening our polls earlier and having our polls open later, until 7 p.m., are very important ways that we're going to allow more people to vote."

Both candidates have said there is unequivocally no evidence of mass voter fraud during the 2020 election, but Democratic candidate Buddy Wheatley has gone after Adams for being a member of a law firm that represents political committees, lobbyists, and politicians seeking office, suggesting that links him to election-denying candidates.

Adams has answered that charge, saying he’s stopped working for any clients in Kentucky and the work represents a minimal time commitment on his behalf. He also said his challenger has previously applauded his work combatting election misinformation.

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.