Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Billy Harper’s Trifecta

Billy Harper Answers Brian Goetl's Merit Challenge

The Harper campaign called the Conservative Edge today and promised to abide by the challenge/pledge that Brian issued earlier on this site not to invoke the merit hiring scandal on the campaign trail. Stan Pulliam - Harper's campaign manager - said "we haven't invoked it once" and promised that they would not in the future as well. Harper made his plans to run a positive campaign clear early on in the race and as far as we can tell has stuck solidly to that pledge to date.

Billy Harper to Announce Political Plans on Joe Elliot Show Tonight at 9PM on WHAS

Billy Harper will be announcing his political plans tonight on WHAS. He will make a promise not to seek any other elected office other than Governor of Kentucky. In other words, he has no intentions of parlaying a win or even the political capital gained from a tough race into another type of political office.

Candidate focuses on education during visit

The Paducah construction company owner and Republican candidate for governor made several appearances Tuesday in Bowling Green, seeking his party's endorsement in the May 22 primary.

"I'm all about education," said Harper, whose only prior elective office is on the McCracken County school board. The need for more and better education in Kentucky made its way into his responses to just about everything when he met with Western Kentucky University students at Downing University Center.

Earlier he greeted members of the Bowing Green Area Chamber of Commerce, then publicly invited Western students and faculty to a forum. Just 10 students showed up for the gathering, after which Harper moved on to address WKU College Republicans.

Harper said he would not seek any other office, but in the governor's mansion would take the principles he learned in the construction business and apply them to state government. He described his economic philosophy as a return to "Reaganomics," the quarter-century-old theory that cutting taxes will encourage people to spend more, stimulating the economy.

State government needs to focus on helping homegrown small businesses add employees, rather than trying to attract big factories from out of state, Harper said. What manufacturing jobs remain are increasingly high technology, which will once again require better education to retain, he said.

"The average starting job in Kentucky has higher requirements than entry into a public university," Harper said.

Aaron Shuford, 23, a sophomore from Lexington, asked him how he would improve the state's special education system. Harper replied that special education students need to be mainstreamed into regular classrooms whenever possible. He blamed many of their conditions on parental drug use, and said their numbers would probably decrease over time if higher educational levels lead to reduced drug abuse.

Shane Noem, 18, a Union freshman, asked Harper how to make health care more affordable for employees of small businesses.

Harper returned to his theme of education - the better educated are healthier and take better care of themselves, he said.

"We've got to figure out how to make people accountable for their own health, because that's what drives health care costs," Harper said.

As an example, he called it an "interesting approach" to drug-test people for nicotine, and potentially fire them for a positive result if they had previously agreed not to smoke as part of a health insurance plan.

"That's what it will take to drive our health care costs down," Harper said.

Darren King, 21, a junior from Chattanooga, Tenn., asked for Harper's ideas on improving conditions in Kentucky nursing homes. Harper acknowledged it to be a difficult subject, and said that part of the answer needed to be the promotion of private, personal retirement care accounts to be used in combination with the state-funded health care support system. Shuford described the state family court and social service system as "out of control," based on stories friends had told him of incompetent caseworkers and lawyers, and asked what Harper would do about it.

He replied that more caseworkers needed to be hired, and suggested a longer school day to keep children in contact with positive influences. Sarah Hoeben, 18, a Union freshman, asked for Harper's positions on gun control and abortion. "I am totally opposed to adding any additional gun control laws whatsoever," he said. Harper believes reasonable limits already exist, and enforcing those should be enough, he said.

"I'm very much pro-life, except for threats to the mother's health, rape or incest," Harper said.

School arts programs are always cut before other subjects, Shuford said, asking what emphasis Harper would place on the arts. Harper replied that as an engineer, he'd naturally favor scientific subjects, with the aim of keeping American technical skills in step with the rest of the world.

But to preserve strong arts programs, he urged greater school choice. Rather than dropping money into duplicate programs in every school, schools should be allowed to specialize for different interests, developing arts programs at one and science programs at another within the area, he said.

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