As Murray State is a large contributor to Calloway County, the well being of the University is at the top of the list of concerns for both candidates running for the open Kentucky state representative seat.
Kenny Imes, Republican, and Hal Kemp, Democrat, will be on the ballot Nov. 6 to determine who will replace retired Rep. Melvin Henley, Democrat. Both candidates own local businesses and plan to focus on job creation and educational growth in District 5, which represents both Calloway and Trigg counties.
Imes said he believes his experience as a former Kentucky state representative qualifies him for the position. He is also the owner and operator of Imes-Miller Funeral Home of Murray.
“I’ve served four times in the legislature, that gives me a tremendous heads up,” Imes said. “We’ll be in critical shortage because there’s only four seats. Someone with strong experience needs to be in this position.”
While Imes said his relationships and time in legislature qualify him, Kemp said his practice in business would help him the most in office. Over the last six years, he has traveled many times to Frankfort to work with legislators and study government closely.
“I’ve had the chance to meet and work with legislators,” Kemp said. “I’ve been building relationships and I’ve truly come to realize how government works.”
Education is a major priority for both candidates. Kemp said since the main weakness in Kentucky is job development and economic growth, education is where the state needs to start. According to Kemp, when the state has to make tough choices in economic cuts due to Kentucky’s extensive debt, he will make sure it is not in educational funding.
Imes has several concerns for the future of Kentucky, with education also at the top of his list.
“It is absolutely essential that our children are educated and ready for the challenges of the future,” Imes said.
Not only does Imes wish to increase funding in public grades schools, but he is also determined to keep the University in mind. He said the main problem in Frankfort is the legislators forgetting about western Kentucky and funding for Murray State.
“I will be a representative of Calloway, so also, of course, Murray State,” Imes said. “Western Kentucky has long been a stepchild to whatever has gone on in Frankfort. I have to go up there and make them understand that we’re a part of Kentucky too and our University deserves recognition just like the University of Louisville and the University of Kentucky.”
Kemp also plans to keep a close eye on Murray State while in Frankfort. He said he understands how daunting tuition is today and how easily students can fall into debt. Kemp wants to work on pushing back the inflation of tuition rates.
Through his many connections at Murray State, Kemp said he will be consistently finding out what funding the University needs.
“If we ever pull out of the debt crisis we’re in, it will be because of education at the college level,” Kemp said.
Another issue Kemp is concerned about is the pension program for legislators. He does not believe the government should be concerned or responsible for the retirement of state senators and representatives.
“The seats are supposed to be for locals to go to Frankfort to help the people,” Kemp said. “Then they should return home and support their own retirement so the money can be used elsewhere.”
While Kemp is trying to change this traditional procedure to save money, Imes is looking to taxes to keep money in the state government.
Imes is striving to make changes in the legislature involving income taxes. He wants to push Kentucky to be more like Tennessee, in the hopes of eventually eliminating income tax entirely. He believes in the long run it will bring more businesses to Kentucky and pull the state out of debt.
Both candidates encourage student voting on Nov. 6, no matter who they vote for. As focused as both Imes and Kemp are on education, the election could help determine the future for Murray State.
Story by Lexy Gross, Staff writer.