Jim’s Political Notebook: PAC money heating up 50th District primary battle

State Rep. Candy Massaroni and challenge Andy Stone squared off in a debate sponsored by the Nelson County Reublican Party on Wednesday, May 1st. View the debate on the Gazette YouTube channel.

Nelson County Gazette

Tuesday, May 7, 2024 — With the primary election two weeks away, we’re starting to see the impact of the Jefferson County Teachers Union PAC money that is being spent to support Andy Stone in his bid to unseat 50th District state Rep. Candy Massaroni.

During the local candidate debates, Stone denied receiving money from a teacher’s union. He’s stated more than once that (and I’m paraphrasing), “my campaign has never seen a check.”

And technically, that’s absolutely correct. But from where I sit, the denial leaves out some important details — or as Paul Harvey would say, “The Rest of the Story.”

The Louisville teacher’s union did not send Andy Stone a campaign donation. But the teacher union’s political arm, Better Schools Kentucky, sent $200,000 to the Commonwealth Conservative Coalition PAC, and they are using a portion of that money to buy advertising in support of Andy Stone’s campaign.

I know this is true because I watched an Andy Stone commercial play three times during the 7 p.m. WAVE TV-3 newscast this evening. The ad noted it was paid for by the Commonwealth Conservation Coalition PAC.

To be fair, neither Stone nor his campaign have any control over how that PAC spends its money or how it crafts the commercials it pays for.

For what its worth, I found the PAC’s TV ad amusing. The ad attempts to make Stone and former President Donald Trump look like lifelong friends and golfing buddies. While I don’t know Andy Stone that well, I doubt that the content of that TV ad would have been his first choice if he had a say about its content. Those ads, for better or worse, have no direct connection to the candidate or the campaign.

WHY A TEACHERS UNION IS INVOLVED. During the debates, Stone said the teacher’s union isn’t for him, but they’re against Rep. Massaroni.

The real issue for the teachers union — and for superintendents, school board members, school officials and teachers across Kentucky — is the school choice issue, which most people in education are against.

There’s a tremendous amount of fear and concern about school choice. If the school choice constitutional amendment passes, the fear is that it will lead to the state taking needed public tax dollars away from public schools and giving it to non-public schools.

State funding of public schools declined significantly after 2008, and the loss of additional funding could have a detrimental impact on public schools’ ability to achieve their mission. I understand that concern.

If the measure is approved by voters, the 2025 General Assembly will craft the enabling legislation, and as they say, the devil will be in the details and determine what “school choice” will look like — for better or for worse.

Rep. Massaroni is a strong advocate for school choice. Stone is on the record saying that he’ll vote for the constitutional amendment. He’s said that school choice is likely to be limited to the urban areas of the state, which is a more limited view than that expressed by many school choice advocates.

From my perspective, the teacher’s union is betting that as a veteran school board member, Stone will be a more moderate, public school-friendly legislator when it comes to the school choice issue.

Massaroni comes from the more conservative, liberty-minded wing of the Republican Party. She doesn’t shy away from stating her values that include being a Mom and a Christian. She has a record of pissing off the GOP leadership due to her independent nature. For example, she insisted on reading legislation she was asked by House leadership to vote for it.

I kind of like a legislator who isn’t afraid to put doing what he or she believes is the right thing to do ahead of party politics, but that’s just me.

For many of us, making a choice in this election will be a tough choice. Both candidates bring a record of service and integrity to their respective campaigns.

Stone’s contributions to the community are many. He operated Keystone Cinemas, the place where my family and I spent many an afternoon with our kids watching a matinee showing of the latest movie. He’s been effective as a school board member, and he was the only city school board member I ever witness challenge the school board to accept less than a 4 percent revenue increase when setting the school property tax rates.

For a freshman legislator, Massaroni hit the ground running at the start of the 2023 General Assembly and has worked tirelessly for her constituents. She’s been an advocate for the community in Frankfort. Many people I’ve spoken to have thanked her for helping make things happen.

We are fortunate to have two very strong Republican candidates in this race.

In the next couple of weeks, my advice is to take the TV ads and mailers paid for by outside groups with a grain of salt. If you have questions about where a candidate stands on an issue, your best bet is to give him or her a call. Or better yet, talk to them both about the issue.

You can view the candidate’s first debate on PLG’s Facebook page. You can view the second debate on the Nelson County Gazette YouTube page.

In closing, be sure to get out and vote — in early voting 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Thursday, May 16th, Friday, May 17th or Saturday, May 18th, or from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Election Day Tuesday, May 21st.


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