Much of the media attention in the 2015 gubernatorial primary race for Kentucky governor has focused on the GOP contest. But, there's also competition on the democratic side. Retired state engineer Geoff Young is making his third run for public office. The longtime social activist feels he's fighting an uphill battle.
Young, a Massachusetts native and MIT graduate, came to Lexington in 1977. He spent his first summer in central Kentucky helping an architect build a solar powered home. Young has been active within the Democratic Party and has also participated in Green Party activities.
In his current campaign for governor, Young has been very outspoken about the state Democratic Party's backing of his opponent, Attorney General Jack Conway. Young has repeatedly accused the party of illegally rigging the election. "The function of their unity press conference is to say to potential donors there's only one candidate worth donating to," Young said. "How am I going to raise money if I don't exist in their minds?"
He believes Conway's sole strategy in the primary has been to pretend that Young does not exist. Young calls that 'an attack against democracy itself."
Young spent 14 years in Frankfort working in Kentucky's state energy office. He promotes energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies. "When you talk about energy, it's not a silver bullet, its silver buckshot and so you go with economically viable medium tech, high tech solutions that meet the local need," said Young.
When it comes to funding state government, Young believes in a fairly straight forward approach to tax reform. He would like to see Kentucky follow an example set by Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton. "You know raising the income tax rate on the very richest Minnesotans and seriously look into the idea of eliminating the sales tax completely," explained Young. "It's too regressive."
One of the proposals before state lawmakers earlier this year called for allowing communities to establish a local sales tax to support specified projects. It failed to pass, but Young's running mate, Jonathan Masters believes the measure could prove beneficial. "So, a penny tax for a year and then build a nice new gymnasium," said Masters. "You could also make it a public community center, you know, a forum area auditorium. You could just have like a big Breckinridge County community center."
The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule early this summer on gay marriage bans in a number of states, including Kentucky. State legislation limiting marriage to one man and one woman by way of a constitutional amendment was approved more than a decade ago. Young hopes the nation's highest court overturns Kentucky's law. "It's a civil rights issue," he said. "Gay people should be allowed to marry exactly equal with heterosexual couples."
A very light turnout is expected at the polls Tuesday. Young says higher voter participation would come with better candidates on the ballot. "Give people interesting candidates to vote for," Young said. "The democrats haven't seemed to figure that out in the last few years."
Young ran in 2012 for a position in the Statehouse on the Green Party ticket. He also made an unsuccessful attempt at a Congressional seat in 2014. Tuesday, Young's name will appear for the third time on an election ballot when he takes on Jack Conway for the democratic nomination for Kentucky governor.