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By Tracy Harris
Landmark News Service
Despite advertisements and debates to the contrary, attorney general candidates Jack Conway and Todd P'Pool do have a few things in common.
Conway, the democratic candidate and current attorney general, will face P'Pool, the republican candidate, on Election Day, Nov. 8.
Conway, 42, believes his record shows his dedication to the attorney general's office, a position he has held since 2008.
P'Pool, 38, said he thinks it is time for the state to have an "independent attorney general, free from special interests and free from conflicts of interest."
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One issue on which they agree is gambling: both believe it is time for Kentucky to have a referendum on the issue to let voters decide on a constitutional amendment.
Conway said letting Kentuckians vote on the issue is the "cleanest thing to do."
Conway said his office has issued gambling-related rulings, including several regarding peri-mutual betting.
He added that Kentucky is losing a lot of tax revenue to other states that allow gambling.
P'Pool agreed that it "is time for Kentucky to have a referendum on this issue," and is concerned with Conway's involvement with the racing industry.
"It's a travesty of justice when Conway's father serves on the racing board," he said. He said Conway should not offer legal advice when his family stands to benefit.
Prescribing a solution
Both candidates also agree the war on drugs needs to continue in Kentucky.
P'Pool cited the success of the Western Kentucky Center for Teen Challenge International, of which he is founder and president.
The center offers "faith-based drug recovery," he said, and has an 86 percent success rate.
"We're getting folks off drugs with no cost to taxpayers," he said.
But, P'Pool said drug issues need to be addressed in elementary school to influence the children of drug users.
"The best anti-drug is a job and an education," he said.
Conway pointed out the drug task force he formed in 2009, which continues to fight against the misuse of prescription pills.
His office has worked with Florida officials to keep prescription drugs from being shipped to Kentucky and believes mail order companies need to be watched.
Many insurance companies are promoting 90 day supplies of medications, he said, which may not always be a great idea.
"We don't need people getting 90 day supplies of Hydrocodone," he said.
As attorney general, Conway received several awards from Operation Unlawful Narcotics Investigations, Treatment and Education for his work fighting prescription drug abuse, including a "Most Valuable Agency" award.
Expanded use of the state's prescription drug monitoring system, KASPER, is another part of Conway's plan to battle prescription drug addiction.
Both Conway and P'Pool believe new Environmental Protection Agency regulations will hurt Kentucky coal.
P'Pool cited a West Virginia federal judge's ruling earlier this month, where the judge ruled the EPA has been overstepping its authority.
"The government has to act within the rule of law," P'Pool said. "And they've been arbitrarily withholding mine permits."
Both cited the recent rate increases announced by utility companies, which P'Pool said could raise prices by 20 percent in four years.
"I'm going to fight," Conway said. "I don't deny global warming, but Kentucky is disproportionately affected."
Caring about health
Conway and P'Pool have very different stances when it comes to health care policy — or at least the attorney general's role in it.
P'Pool has criticized Conway for not fighting against "Obamacare," President Barrack Obama's health care legislation.
"In my first month as attorney general, history would record Kentucky joined this fight to protect state sovereignty," P'Pool said.
P'Pool said it is vitally important for Kentucky to join the other 29 states who have joined together to fight the legislation.
Conway said he is putting Kentucky first and dealing with "practical issues that have day-to-day implications" on state residents.
Conway rejected a request from the Republicans in Kentucky's House and Senate to join the legal constitutional challenge of the reform last spring, and said the legal basis for those state lawsuits are "based on questionable legal principles."
"People in Kentucky are sick of hearing about Washington," Conway said. "I'm not going to take the thinly-stretched resources of Kentucky and put them on a Washington stump."
"One party domination is government at its worst," P'Pool said, adding that it was time for a change in the attorney general's office.
P'Pool was elected Hopkins County Attorney in 2006 and 2010, and was the first Republican elected to a countywide office since the Civil War. While he was county attorney, Hopkins County went from 90th in statewide child support collection to a top 10 county.
Gov. Steve Beshear awarded P'Pool's office the Statewide Outstanding Performance Award in 2009 and 2010.
Both governors Beshear and Ernie Fletcher appointed P'Pool to serve on the Federal Advisory Committee on Juvenile Justice.
P'Pool was born in Madisonville, where his family has worked in coal mining for four generations. He has undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Kentucky.
P'Pool and his wife, Shannon, have three daughters and "500 pairs of shoes," he said.
Conway said his campaign is one of "promises made and promises kept."
His cyber crimes unit has taken over 300,000 child pornography images off the internet, he said, and has launched over 200 investigations.
The unit has also reduced the turnaround time for processing digital forensic evidence from local agencies.
Conway said he has also worked to stop Medicaid fraud, and that Medicaid fraud collections have gone up more than 600 percent since he took office.
He also wants to look at for-profit colleges, some of which have a 30-40 percent default rate on student loans. There are 141 for-profit colleges in the state, and Conway said he has subpoenaed seven of them to date.
Conway, a Louisville native, has an undergraduate degree from Duke University and a law degree from George Washington University.
Conway — like P'Pool — lives in a house full of women. He and his wife, Elizabeth, have two daughters, Eva and Alex.
Want to learn more about the candidates?
Jack Conway, Democrat, www.jackconway.org
Todd P'Pool, Republican, www.toddppool.com
The candidates also debated on Kentucky Educational Television. That debate and others can be viewed online at www.ket.org/election.