Kentucky Gubernatorial Voters’ Guide

Before voting in the May 16 primary, learn where the candidates stand on the issues of early childhood education and child hunger. We asked candidates running in the Kentucky gubernatorial primary to respond to 2 questions about early childhood education and 2 questions about child hunger.

The verbatim responses we received to date follow below. For a full list of candidates who are running for governor and other offices, check out your sample ballot at

Questions & Responses about Early Childhood Education

Question 1: Access to affordable, quality child care is vital to the well-being of Kentucky’s children, families, and the state’s economy. Investments in child care not only build a stronger future workforce but ensure parents can work, knowing their children are in a safe environment. The average cost of child care in Kentucky is nearly $9,000 annually and half of all Kentuckians live in a child care desert, placing quality care out of reach for many working families. As governor, what steps would you take to improve access to quality child care for Kentucky families?

David Cooper (R) Key word in that question is quality. My suggestion would be incentivize companies to create a childcare division in their building. Tax deductions would obviously be the huge incentive. For companies who could not do this for one reason or another, the state could look into having state owned daycare w/ discounts for families who make up to certain amounts of money but not so much or within so many miles of other daycares to prevent putting the privately or franchise owned daycare out of business. OF course, there would be regular safety and health checks that we could pass off to the local gov employee.
Eric Deters (R) Support: Have to make sure State Medicaid does its job on children
Mike Harmon (R) I have always been a big supporter of TANF when it comes to helping mothers to be able to have childcare while they work. Anything we can do to encourage work will benefit both the individual and the state. Unfortunately, our current gov has only made the situation worse with his arbitrary enforcement of current laws in this area. We can also do an additional review of tax policy to see if there is a way to provide incentives to the employer and the employee when it comes to childcare. Finally, we need a full review of how cumbersome it is to set up and run a daycare/childcare.
Peppy Martin (D) Access has been a problem since I ran as the Republican nominee for Gov  in 1999. Want to work, but have no safe place to leave their younger children, so they chose between not working or possibly parkig the child with someone who is untrustworthy leading to more child abuse. As your next gov, I will work on trying to address this issue by greater incentives and perhaps less regulation for daycare centers where they are badly needed, working with churches and other local facilities in a nearby rural town to assist.
Robbie Smith (R) One current barrier that stops new childcare facilities from opening are burdensome business and income taxes. Eliminating these taxes would work in two ways: it would leave more money in the pockets of employees to spend on childcare, and increase the profitability of new childcare facilities.
Geoff Young (D) I will work with the General Assembly to raise the minimum wage. I’m also interested in the possibility of promoting more child care co-ops. The worst danger to the safety of all of Kentucky’s children are: (1) The worst danger is the imminent threat of a nuclear war that could exterminate the human race forever. That situation was caused entirely by the neoconservative imperialists in Washington DC, who have been conducting an illegal, immoral proxy war against Russia since 2014 using Ukraine as the battlefield.

Question 2: In KY, the average child care worker is paid $22,620 annually with few benefits and nearly 20% must work second jobs. This results in high turnover and makes attracting new staff very difficult. When child care providers cannot retain and recruit staff, classrooms close, parents miss work, and our entire economy suffers. What steps would you take to attract and keep quality educators in the early childhood education field?

David Cooper (R) Honestly, with my pension plan, I urge you to go to FB group page and watch it, in a few years we could possibly hire Early Childhood Educators with degrees and pay them on a state salary complete with pension/401K. This would take the burden of paying most employees off the childcare which in turn could lower the prices making it easier for parents.
Eric Deters (R) Support: I have been helping child come operators- if the state set off their backs they could pay more to workers
Mike Harmon (R) Part of it comes back again to the complexity of starting and managing childcare centers. If we could help resolve some of those burdens, that would free up funds to go to salaries. In the end competition will dictate that to be competitive, staff will need to be paid more in order to maintain a strong and trained staff.
Peppy Martin (D) I want casino gambling and legalized marijuana to help. The income from these 2 measures will generate sufficient funds to ger rid of the personal income tax and to fund other needful items like daycare for rural children, Gambling for gain is our heritage in KY, and we need to act on it.
Robbie Smith (R) As Kentucky moves to a more career development education focus we could better integrate the childhood development pathway. That would produce workers more prepared for the stresses and demands of the field. With the potential of high school co-ops and internships it will broaden the availability of individuals in the career.
Geoff Young (D) Reverse the Republican-dominated Legislature’s current policy of lowering income taxes and raising the sales tax, which is viciously regressive. My top priority will be to get the General Assembly to eliminate Kentucky’s sales tax and institute a steeply progressive tax code with more tax brackets. Property taxes should be lowered for low-income people and small businesses such as child care centers and raised for large corporations and individuals that own very large amounts of real estate.

Questions & Reponses about Child Hunger

Question 3: In Kentucky, 1 in 6 children face hunger. When children are hungry, they cannot focus in school, experience greater health issues, and greater likelihood of behavioral and social issues. By ensuring children have the nutritious food they need to thrive, we will strengthen our communities and state. What strategies would you support to make sure Kentucky kids have enough to eat?

David Cooper (R) In some countries, school grow their own crops and even have students serve to their peers to teach the, service to others. Every school has a roof; and w/ only 1 in 6 children facing hunger, we do not need to feed/help every child in the school; Invest in creating rooftop gardens and again, hiriing gardeners to maintain it to help feed that 1 in 6. Also, do what my youngest child does and have our kids bring in two snacks a day to help that 1 in 6 child.
Eric Deters (R) Support: food programs for KY kids
Mike Harmon (R) Certainly, when I had the opportunity a few years ago to go and hand out food at the foodbank in Hazel Green, KY, it broke my heart to see the mile+ long lines of those waiting for food and how they were still coming as we started to run out of items, I visited that some location again recently and sadly; it has only gotten worse. This type of distribution is definitely needed but we must fix the long-term problem as well. We must work to not only bring in jobs but help people get trained and get them into good paying jobs. We must also work o offramps from government assistance (including Medicaid) not cliffs, That way people will not be fearful to go to work as jobs are available.
Peppy Martin (D) The state needs to do a better job in writing grants for philanthropic agencies. Across the country to help. The program should be top priority and should appeal to any kind person running those foundations.
Robbie Smith (R) I would start with correcting the school lunch problem. Across the state children are skipping meals at school and coming home hungry because of poorly constructed nutrition guidelines. With a common sense nutrition approach and the ability for local school districts to provide actual nutritious food, students will be much less likely to come home hungry.
Geoff Young (D) Raise the minimum wage and strengthen labor unions. Comprehensive tax reform (see previous question).

Question 4: As many as 6 in 10 rural voters are worried they might not be able to afford enough food to feed themselves and their families over the next year and among parents that proportion jumps to more than 7 in 10. Research shows that food assistance programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Women Infants Children program (WIC) reduces poverty and food insecurity leading to improved health and economic outcomes, particularly for children. What meaningful steps will you take to make it easier for families to access nutritious food?

David Cooper (R) In some countries, school grow their own crops and even have students serve to their peers to teach the, service to others. Every school has a roof; and w/ only 1 in 6 children facing hunger, we do not need to feed/help every child in the school; Invest in creating rooftop gardens and again, hiring gardeners to maintain it to help feed that 1 in 6. Also, do what my youngest child does and have our kids bring in two snacks a day to help that 1 in 6 child.
Eric Deters (R) Support: Support the programs
Mike Harmon (R) First, we need to improve the economy, Unfortunately under the Biden/Beshear economy inflation has soared and people are at more risk because of this. We must elect conservative leadership on all levels. AS mentioned earlier, we also need to work on a offramp for government assistance as opposed to a cliff. In the case of say, Medicaid, you could work to get a waiver and allow people to stay on a little longer but pay a percentage of their salary above poverty. Make that percentage actuarially set up to eventually it makes more sense to go back into the private sector and/or get from employer.
Peppy Martin (D) Education as to what is “nutrition” will help in our statewide fight against obesity. As well, as to help families feed themselves. Also, each county agriculture office has plants available for growing vegetables and fruit in one’s own garden. As the next Governor, I hope to have more “self-reliance” programs such as horticulture & handling animals in our schools to teach future parents what their great grandparent s already knew: how to be self-sufficient. Help does not have to come in terms of federal programs.. we have to take more responsibility. For ourselves, and we can achieve this through education adn working at the local level.
Robbie Smith (R) WIC is a great model of a food assistance program. An excellent step in the right direction would be to change SNAP benefits to allowable items instead of blanket monetary amounts. This would provide SNAP recipients with more nutritional food for their families.
Geoff Young (D) Tax the super-rich and expand food assistance to poor families.

Save the Children Action Network does not endorse or oppose candidates in this race, but we urge you to make an informed decision in this critical election. The primary election is May 16. For more information about voting, visit the KY State Board of Elections.