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20 candidates show for Friday’s American First Caucus speaking event at Wickland

Toni Wiley, a Republican seeking the nomination for 3rd District magistrate, spoke to a standing-room-only crowd Friday at the American First Caucus candidate forum.

By JIM BROOKS
Nelson County Gazette / WBRT Radio

Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022 — The historic Wickland mansion played host to a candidate speaking event hosted by the American First Nelson County Caucus.

With a “Let’s Go Brandon” banner as a backdrop, nearly two dozen candidates for local, state and federal office spoke for more than two hours to what amounted at times to a standing-room only crowd

Many of the candidates who spoke at the event left soon after their remarks to attend the Lincoln Day Dinner at the Old Kentucky Home Country Club sponsored by the Nelson County Organization of Republican Woman and the county GOP.

The event was hosted and organized by Don Thrasher, the former county GOP chairman who served as emcee and also spoke as a candidate for Nelson County Judge Executive.

TIM HUTCHINS / JUDGE EXECUTIVE. Former magistrate Tim Hutchins spoke about how deep his roots are in Nelson County. He operates the store, Handy Food Mart, his father started 50 years ago, and he’s worked in the store since he was 12.

Hutchins pointed to his 17 years of experience as a magistrate as experience that gives him an edge if elected as Nelson County judge executive.

Hutchins said he has a long history of working with officials from both parties in the past in order to get projects funding in the county, and will do so in the future if elected.

One of his goals will be to eliminate unnecessary county regulations and to simplify county government to make it more efficient and keep taxes low.

DON THRASHER / JUDGE EXECUTIVE. High Grove resident Don Thrasher said if he were elected judge executive, he would bring back public input to the fiscal court meetings. “For the past three years, we haven’t been able to do that. That’s one of the basic tenets of our democratic republic.”

In addition to being former county party chairman, Thrasher was co-founder of Los Angeles-based Zevia, a $500 million valued public traded drink company in California.

Thrasher promised if the General Assembly gives counties the option to have a local sales tax that he would oppose adding any additional sales tax to what the state currently collects.

Nelson County residents have one of the highest tax burdens in the state, Thrasher said, adding that the local library system spends more than $3 million a year in local tax money.

“It’s time that Nelson County taxpayers quit being gouged,” he said. “It’s time you have a judge executive who puts people, the county and American first.”

ADAM WHEATLEY / DISTRICT 2 MAGISTRATE. Retired insurance agent Adam Wheatley, cited his experience and local connections as his reason for wanting to serve as a magistrate.

“I’m a problem solver and I love a challenge,” he told the crowd. “I believe in freedom, the 2nd Amendment, patriotism, national pride, private property rights, national security, fiscal responsibility, economic stability, law and order, quality education and the right to life.”

TONI WILEY / DISTRICT 3 MAGISTRATE. The Ohio native and her family moved to Nelson County years ago and launched a successful small business. Later she accepted a moved to serve as head of admissions at St. Catharine College. She currently works for the Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority.

She’s been involved with a variety of local civic organizations like the Rotary Club, which helped with local projects like the Mayor’s Park at the corner of Third and Broadway, and with the Serenity Garden at Flaget Memorial Hospital.

In all her jobs and volunteer work, Wiley said she’s been efficient, effective and helped get resources to the places they are needed.

“I want to make sure we remain a safe and welcoming county.”

Bardstown businessman M.T. Harned speaks during Friday’s America First Caucus candidate forum.

M.T. HARNED / DISTRICT 3 MAGISTRATE. Businessman M.T. Harned, owner of Bud’s Produce in Elizabethtown and Loretto Foodland, pointed to his children’s future as his motivation for running for office. He praised retiring magistrate Bernard Ice and the many years of leadership he provided.

“I make financial decisions every day,” he said, which over the years has given him experience to help make good, honest decisions that he said. could help guide Nelson County in a positive direction.

PHILIP BISCHOFF / DISTRICT 3 MAGISTATE. Wearing a red Trump baseball cap, Bischoff explained his roots in the county run deep. He operates a successful cattle operation.

“I’m just a farmer trying to do the right thing. I promise you I’ll make the right decisions and not just becauase someone else wants it done.”

He called on county Republicans to vote in May and get involved.

“We have to build from the grass roots, we have to build from the foundation. We can’t have the government like we have now. We have the ability to take those five [fiscal court] seats in the courthouse for the Republican Party and we need to do that.”

ANN MARIE WILLIAMS / DISTRICT 2 MAGISTRATE. Calling herself a very strong, conservative Republican, Ann Marie Williams said her 25 years as an educator is proof of her passion for education.

She said she’s worked with some wonderful, effective leaders during her career, and then with some who were not-so-effective as leaders.

“We have to use our tax dollars carefully,” she said. “You’re only as good as your leaders.”

She asked voters to chose wisely at the polls in May. She is passionate about Nelson County because she wants her four children to be able to live and work in Nelson County and make it a great place to live.

JON SNOW / DISTRICT 2 MAGISTRATE. Retired law enforcement officer Jon Snow said he was motivated to run for District 5 magistrate by the lack of conservatives in current leadership positions.

“What I saw was that we need more conservatives running for office right here at home. We need more conservatives elected and involved,” he said. “After I retired from the sheriff’s office, I decided it was time for me to do something about it.”

Snow called on the members of the county GOP to work together rather than working against one another.

JASON WILLIAMS / NELSON COUNTY PVA. Jason Williams said he grew up working in his father’s businesses and it was a real education on running a successful business operation.

One of the motivations for seeking the PVA office was the significant jumps he’s seen in the property valuation of his own home, which jumped $75,000 in value over a two year period.

While he acknowledged that the operation of the PVA office is regulated by state statutes, principles of its operation still remain under the PVA’s individual control, which is where he sees opportunities for improvement.

SEN. RAND PAUL / U.S. SENATE. Robert Augustine, one of Paul’s field representatives, spoke on the Senator’s behalf.

“It’s great to see so many Republicans crowding in a room with so many candidates,” noting that there were fewer GOP candidates in local races in the days when he was party chairman.

Augustine cited Paul’s dedication to the tenets of fighting to preserve individual liberty in Kentucky and across America.

MIKE HARMON / KY GOVERNOR 2023. Harmon, who is currently the state auditor of public accounts, is an announced candidate for governor in 2023.

It was his office that discovered that 400,000 emails to the state’s unemployment office were archived and left unread.

Harmon said his motivation to see the office of governor was so he could work to make sure his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren could live in a state where the can believe they can accomplish anything they want to do.

He criticized Gov. Andy Beshear for opting for fear over freedom with the actions his administration took during the pandemic, which included shutting down small businesses and churches.

Harmon said he expects to face other Republicans in the primary for governor in 2023. Regardless of who wins the primary, “our one mission is to make sure Andy Beshear is a one-term governor.”

CANDY MASSARONI / 50TH DISTRICT REPRESENTATIVE. “I’m not a fancy polished politician, but I’m a patriot, I’m a mother, I’m a wife and I’m a neighbor,” Candy Massaroni told the crowd.

“And like many of you, I’m fed up with our politicans playing political theater.”

The Republican supermajority in the General Asssembly has done nothing, she said. The House leadership — incluing the incumbent — have taken no action on House Bill 28, a bill that would prohibit forcing employees to disclose immunization status, and prevent discrirmination against anyone based on immunizatiion information.

“They think its OK for corporations and companies to force mandates on people,” she said. “I actually call that ‘corporate communism,'” she said to applause.

Parents should be the ones who decide if they need to mask or vaccinate their children, not elected officials or bureaucrats.

LEE WATTS / 2ND CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT. Introducing himself as “Watts-his-name,” Watts, who has served as the volunteer chaplain in the State Capitol, is seeking to be the Republican nominee for the 2nd district congressional seat currently held by Rep. Brett Guthrie.

Watts said that Guthrie often votes in favor of things that a true conservative would not.

If elected, Watts said he doesn’t plan to stay forever as he is a believer in term limits.

“Build the wall, open the pipeline, close the border. That pretty much sums up my agenda,” he said.

BRENT FEHER / 2ND CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT. Brent Feher said he decided to run because of how government mandates impacted and shutdown his entertainment businesses during the pandemic.

Feher is a resident of Owensboro who operates virtual reality arcades, and the shutdown kept his business closed for an extensive amount of time.

“It became very personal to me.”

He said he was also critical of some of the intrusive government reporting requirements for small businesses.

U.S. REP. THOMAS MASSIE / 4TH CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT. The Kentucky General Assembly’s redistricting maps late last year split Nelson County between the 2nd and 4th Congressional districts, with 4th District Congressman Massie now representing the northern half of the county.

Speaking on Massie’s behalf, T.J. Roberts, a second-year law student at Northern Kentucky University, said that when he went to chuch on Easter Sunday early during the pandemic, he came out to find a note on his car demanding that he quarantine for two weeks or face time in jail.

Three politicians took stands to support Roberts, one of whom was Thomas Massie. Roberts also spoke of Massie’s record of voting in support of liberty and freedom.

CLAIRE WIRTH / 4TH CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT. Speaking on behalf of Claire Wirth, and candidate for 4th District congressional nomination, a nurse who said her employer “voluntarily resigned” her over mandatory vaccinations, said that despite healthcare workers’ dedication to their jobs during the pandemic, there are no state or federal elected officials who are now standing up for their rights.

She said Wirth will stand up for individuals’ for freedom of medical choice. She’s a successful business woman and “a patriot who doesn’t like the way things are going and wants to try to change it.”

GEORGE FOCKING WASHINGTON / 4TH CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT. George Washington started his comments by holding a handful of masks overhead, and suggested that rather than blame the Chinese manufacturers, we place blame on the U.S. corporations who saved money to buy what he said were defective masks.

“I believe in free enterprise, but I do not believe in crony capitalism,” he said. “And I don’t believe in protectionist capitalism.”

Washington promised that if elected, he’ll work for half the regular pay a congressman receives, only serve a single term.

“And I promise you this — we will balance the budget, or we’ll all go straight to hell!”

Not balancing the budget amounts to selling out the future of our country, he said. “And we’re doing it every day.”

DR. VAL FREDRICK / U.S. SENATE. Murray resident Dr. Val Fredrick made it clear from the start that she’s no fan of current Sen. Rand Paul, who she said wants to replace American workers with what she called “cheap, immigrant labor.”

Fredrick called Paul a liary and a narcissist who failed his country by supporting Biden’s electors on Jan. 6th. She accused the national media of a cover-up of not discussing how Kentucky’s entire delegation betrayed Trump and Kentucky voters on Jan. 6th.

PAUL V. HAMILTON / U.S. SENATE. The Jessamine County native is an economics professor at Midway University. He said he’s driven by three things — truth, compassion and action.

Hamilton said he admires Sen. Rand Paul and shares some of his views, he made it clear he doesn’t agree with him on all points.

“I would do things differently,” he said.

He’s 100 percent pro-life, an advocate for simplifying the tax code, and in favor of a fair immigration policy. He’s concerned about the nation’s rapidly increasing debt, and rising inflation, and said if elected to the U.S. Senate, his votes would be guided by his conservative principles.

BARB BLACKSTONE / BARDSTOWN CITY COUNCIL. While Barb Blackstone is running for Bardstown City Council — a race that is not on the May primary ballot, she cited her long experience working with Bardstown Mainstreet to beautify the downtown district and serving as a chamber of commerce ambassadore.

In her 13 years living here, ,she said she’s seen better ways to get things accomplished, and was seeking a council seat so she could serve on a board where her vote actually mattered.

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