Kentucky SOS candidates Wheatley, Adams trade heavy blows in KET forum Skip to content

Kentucky SOS candidates Wheatley, Adams trade heavy blows in KET forum

And in the Ag Commissioner race, Sierra Enlow was there, but Jonathan Shell didn’t show.

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The two candidates in the Nov. 7 general election for Kentucky’s Secretary of State attacked each other’s integrity Monday night in a joint appearance on Kentucky Educational Television.

Their sources of discontent ranged from a drunken driving incident by Democrat Charles “Buddy” Wheatley of Covington and a news report that Republican incumbent Michael Adams of Louisville has used state funds to pay for his bar association membership to practice law.

The forum on KET’s “Kentucky Tonight” with host Renee Shaw got so spirited that Adams called Wheatley “a pathological liar.”

That prompted Wheatley to say such language is beneath the office of the Secretary of the State.

The office oversees elections in the state, handles various business records, and promotes civic engagement. It pays $148,108.56 a year. It is a constitutional office and is often referred to as being on the “down ticket,” meaning it is below the power of the governor’s office.

Adams, a lawyer, said he was seeking re-election to protect Kentucky’s elections. He claimed the state has seen more election reform in his term that started in 2020 than it has in the last 200 years.

Wheatley, a lawyer, a former state representative and former Covington fire chief, said Adams has not done enough to promote voter turnout, saying it was the lowest it has been in 30 years in 2022.

He also asked who are Adams’ legal clients outside the state, claiming he treats the office as part-time. Adams has acknowledged that he does some legal work for out-of-state clients but that that work does not interfere with or takes any time away from his job as secretary of state.

Adams’ clients have included Republican Kansas Attorney General Kris Kobach in his failed 2020 Senate campaign and former Republican Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens, according to a January 2023 report by the Lexington Herald-Leader.

To Wheatley’s charges, Adams responded, “Mr. Wheatley hasn’t spent this much time in the gutter since he threw up drunk and crashed his taxpayer-owned vehicle in a ditch.”

Wheatley was suspended for two weeks in 2008 as Covington fire chief for violating city policy by consuming alcoholic beverages prior to operating a city-issued vehicle and wrecking it in Hebron.

Wheatley had to make restitution to the city for the vehicle and lost a merit-based pay raise. He recently said he was never charged with any wrongdoing but “simply made a mistake.”

Shaw asked Adams about a news report that said he has used more than $600 in taxpayer funds to pay for his Kentucky bar association membership.

Concerning the legal dues, Adams said his office pays dues for all the lawyers in his office who have to make court appearances. He said that covers him.

The American Independent Foundation first reported about the dues. It supports liberal investigative journalism and frequently attacks Republicans and conservatives.

During the show, Adams touted his working with Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear to provide early voting during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Wheatley said that was a small step but early voting should last longer than a day, possibly up to two weeks.

Wheatley also said voting polls should stay open until 7 p.m. instead of 6 p.m. Adams said that sounds good in theory but it would be hard to get poll workers to work an extra hour.

Adams said it was too bad that Wheatley never brought forth his ideas to boost voter turnout when he was in the state House.

The two candidates agreed on restoring voting rights for felons who have served their complete sentences and were not convicted on violent charges.

And both candidates said Democrat Joe Biden won the 2020 presidential election over Republican Donald Trump.

Agriculture Commissioner

In the last part of the KET show Monday night, Democrat Sierra Enlow, who grew up on a fifth-generation farm in Garrard County, touted why she should be elected state agriculture commissioner. Her Republican challenger, former state Rep. Jonathan Shell of Garrard, decided not to appear on the show.

Sierra Enlow
Sierra Enlow, candidate for Agriculture Commissioner

Enlow, who has a Master’s degree in agricultural economics and has worked with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and cooperative extensions in the state, said she would focus as state farms chief on bringing markets to Kentucky.

For example, she said, Trimble County doesn’t have a grocery store.

She said she has business experience that her opponent does not.

Enlow called medical marijuana “a real opportunity for Kentucky agriculture,” but was not as optimistic for hemp.

The Democrat also said she supports a pilot program to support minority farmers and would like to help all farmers with their expensive health insurance.

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Written by Jack Brammer. Cross-posted from the Northern Kentucky Tribune.



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The NKyTribune is a publication of the KY Center for Public Service Journalism. We are a nonpartisan, independent news organization that produces journalism in the public interest for a place we love.

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