Tensions were high between 8th District State Senate candidates Bob Glenn and Matt Castlen at Thursday night’s forum at Owensboro City Hall. While the two were able to agree on some matters, they were at odds when it came to discussing taxes and transgender issues.
As campaign season winds down in anticipation of the Nov. 6 election, the forum served as one of the final political events that allowed both sides to share their views.
Both Glenn (D), who currently serves as Mayor Pro Tem for the City of Owensboro, and Castlen (R), who currently serves as State Representative for House District 14, answered questions written by members of the Greater Owensboro Chamber of Commerce.
Glenn began by saying the upcoming election was a critical one for the Commonwealth.
“Our middle class is under attack, our public schools are under attack, the poor are under attack and, in many ways, our future is in doubt,” Glenn said, adding that current state legislature — which includes Castlen — was desperate to take action and made decisions that hurt Kentucky citizens.
“They destroyed programs that help the poor,” Glenn said. “They devastated programs for working families. They harmed public education and continue to. And they harm cities and counties with their solution to pensions.”
In turn, Castlen said he took office in 2017 for the first time, explaining that his motive for running was that he was “sick and tired of the direction of Kentucky.”
“I looked up and I’d seen that the morals of Christian individuals in our community were being taken advantage of,” Castlen said. “I looked up, people didn’t have the backbone to stand for the unborn children–all these things started changing in 2017.”
“Our economy is booming right now — $17 billion in new investments,” he added. “17 thousand [people] in new jobs. People talk about this being a critical election, and it is. For the first time in Kentucky’s history, we turned it around.”
As questions were asked about the 6 percent sales tax recently imposed on 17 services across the state in July 2018, Castlen and Glenn did not agree on the benefits or the downfalls of subjecting businesses to paying a consumption tax.
“I think at the last possible second, they [state legislators] came up with this funding formula. It was a desperate attempt to come up with money,” Glenn said. “All of us are now going to have to pay more on our state income taxes.”
Taking his argument a step further, Glenn pointed out that Castlen Steel — a welding and manufacturing company started by Castlen — had not been hit with the sales tax.
Castlen responded by agreeing the tax code was “very outdated,” but said Glenn was clueless as to how the state tax system was being operated.
“Unlike my opponent, who has a hard time understanding tax reform, we lowered income taxes for the majority — about 90-something percent for all Kentuckians,” Castlen said. “With the taxes on services moving us toward a consumption-based tax, that’s the direction in Kentucky that we’re taking. It’s the first step [in a six- to eight-year process].”
Castlen took a dig at Glenn and his work on the city commission.
“Unlike my opponent here who’s never passed up the opportunity to raise property taxes and other things to fund his million-dollar concrete trees, I’m working towards a fair tax system that’ll work for everybody in Kentucky,” Castlen said.
Glenn rebutted by explaining that four out of the six years he’d been on the city commission, he’d never once raised property taxes.
The arguments continued when the “Bathroom Bill” was brought up to the candidates, asking whether they opposed or approved of allowing residents and high school transgender students to use bathrooms of their choice. The moderator asked whether passing such a “socially divisive bill” would negatively affect the state’s economy.
“The most important issue is that we bring businesses to our state that benefit everyone,” Glenn said. He added that North Carolina had seen a major deficit in their economic revenue when they passed the bill for their state, causing many high profile events to cancel games and performances. “Do we really want to do that to Kentuckians? Over a wedge issue like this?”
Glenn called the bill ludicrous and quoted Gov. Matt Bevin in saying, “We don’t need to tell people where to go to the bathroom.”
“I was a co-sponsor of the bill,” Castlen said. “I’m a firm believer–I put my moral values before I do my economic values. With a 5-year-old and an 8-year-old child, I don’t want to have to answer to my kids of why they have to share the bathroom with someone of the opposite sex. And it’s that simple.”