The first question the candidates tackled was what to do with the expansion of Medicaid. The candidates were asked what adjustments they would make, and asked specifically how many people would be enrolled next year when they take office.
Conway said he would continue Kentucky's expanded Medicaid program. He said the more than 400,000 people who "are enrolled now, will be enrolled in the future."
He said we can actually make it work, adding that Kynect, which has received praise on the national level, is a "a shinning example" for others. Conway also said that people will get off medicaid when they have better jobs and he won’t "kick people off" like Bevin.
“To kick them off now would be callus,” Conway said.
Bevin immediately defended his campaign's position and said "these things are lies."
"I’ve never said I’d kick people off," he said.
Bevin said there is a need for healthcare, but it was "faulty" to make a promise to somebody when "we we don’t have the ability to pay for it."
Bevin said he would scale back the expansion of the state's Medicaid program because the state cannot afford to continue paying for the health insurance of a quarter of the state's population.
Conway said Bevin was caught on camera saying he would reverse Governor Steve Beshear's actions to expand Medicaid.
"That videocamera caught you at the start of your campaign," he said. "When asked about Steve Beshear's executive order to expand Medicaid. You said 'absolutely, no question about it, I would reverse that immediately.' Now you owe the people an explanation how's that not going to kick nearly half a million people off their healthcare?"
Bevin of course didn't have an answer, which is why he's losing. Kentucky is one of the few states where, with a 92% white population and Bevin complaining about "a quarter" of the state on Medicaid, blaming those people doesn't exactly work very well. Bevin really did say he wanted to reverse the Medicaid expansion flat-out, and just about everyone here in Kentucky knows somebody who has been helped by Kynect.
If he had began his argument with the usual "well, some people who are on Medicaid don't deserve it" fraud/drug testing dog whistle he would have been in much better shape, frankly. But speaking of drugs, Bevin turned around and said he'd leagalize medical marijuana, where Jack Conway said he wouldn't because gateway drug (sigh, 1984's DARE program called Jack, they want their jargon back.)
But where both candidates had little difference? King Coal.
Bevin said he would fight for coal. He said Kentucky needs to be more involved in efforts everywhere to mine coal. As governor, he said, that he would be a champion for coal.
Conway noted that he worked under Kentucky Governor Paul E. Patton, who operated coal mines for decades, and also noted that he was among those who sued the EPA, vowing to "continue fighting against EPA rulemaking that harms Kentucky coal production and electricity rates."
"Of the two candidates standing on stage tonight, I am the only one who has ever done anything for coal," Conway said.
Indeed, as Attorney General, Jack Conway is helping Mitch the Turtle by suing the EPA along with 23 other states to stop the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan. He's real proud of that, and you'd better believe neither candidate will cooperate with the EPA directives on coal for any reason: it's immediate political suicide here.
Still voting for Conway, however. Either way it's going to be a close race, and a lot of it depends on who independent candidate and Fark creator Drew Curtis can hurt more. Curtis is hovering around 6-8% in the polls and his support seems to be coming from Bevin. If that holds true next week, Conway can pull out a narrow victory.
Somebody's going to win 48-44% with Curtis getting 7% or so, I just couldn't tell you if it's going to be Conway or Bevin on top.
The final debate is on KET's Kentucky Tonight program at 8, so if you get a chance, watch it. I'll be live-tweeting it tonight and I'll have a wrap-up tomorrow.