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Beginning in January, Hardin County will be represented in Washington for the first time since 1994 by a congressman who doesn't live here.
Republican Ron Lewis' attempt to boost the chances of one of his Elizabethtown-based staff members to succeed him by announcing his retirement at the last minute backfired. So in the May primary elections Republicans nominated state Sen. Brett Guthrie, 44, a Bowling Green manufacturer; and Democrats selected state Sen. David Boswell, 58, a former Owensboro marketing director.
The 2nd Congressional District of Kentucky is heavily Democratic by registration but tends to vote conservative. The decision will be frustrating for 2nd District voters who show up at the polls Nov. 4 without being prepared. They have a rare but difficult choice between two experienced, qualified and ethical candidates.
But it's a choice voters will have to make.
Both candidates are conservative on political as well as social issues. Either one would bring a broader knowledge base and government experience to the job than their predecessor. Neither shuns the kind of public debates of important issues as was the practice of their predecessor, Lewis.
There's not much distance separating the two on most issues.
On Iraq, Guthrie says the U.S. must pull back but not before securing and stabilizing the country, the decision being made by civil authorities based on information from the military. Boswell says there has to be more of a diplomatic resolution to get all of the countries in Iraq out of the middle of what has become a civil war costing the United States $10 billion a month.
Because of his four-years as state agriculture commissioner, Boswell is strong on issues that matter to the farming community and ag businesses so vital throughout the widespread 2nd District. The district is largely rural, but includes one of the largest cities in the state, Owensboro, as well as Elizabethtown, Radcliff, Bowling Green and Glasgow.
Guthrie, who knows what its like to make a payroll, because of his business experience is strong on the economic and financial issues that will dominate the early days of the next Congress, and on transportation issues as a result of chairing the Kentucky Senate Transportation Committee. As a graduate of West Point who took some training at Fort Knox, Guthrie has knowledge of the military and the post.
Both candidates have pledged to continue a full-service congressional office in Elizabethtown and to be visible in the county. Both understand and support the costly efforts of local communities to prepare for the coming growth at Fort Knox, as well as the impact that will have on not only Hardin but neighboring counties as well.
Boswell was first elected to the Kentucky House of Representatives in 1978 where he chaired the Subcommittee on Energy until 1984 when he was elected the youngest Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture in history. He was elected to the Senate in 1990 where he leads the Democratic Caucus. Guthrie was elected to the Kentucky Senate in 1998 and is chairman of the Transportation Committee and serves on committees with responsibilities for education, economic development, tourism and labor.
Boswell's experience as agriculture commissioner, and the alternative energy expertise developed as a 15-year member of the University of Kentucky Center for Applied Energy Research and the Southern States Energy Board's Clean Coal Technology Committee, give him an important decisive edge, in the view of The News-Enterprise editorial board. In addition, he has been endorsed by the "Blue Dog" coalition, a group of conservative Democrats in the House of Representatives.
In a race between two such promising candidates, the decision boils down to this: Which man, if sent to Washington to represent us, is most likely to be able to accomplish the goals he sets and produce results for Hardin County and all of the 2nd District?
If elected, Guthrie would join a dwindling Republican minority in the 435-member U.S. House of Representatives. As a Democrat Boswell would cast the district's vote with the majority. He has demonstrated in Frankfort that that doesn't mean he would ever become a rubber stamp for his legislative leadership or the chief executive. "I vote my constituency," he says.
As a result, as long as Democrats are in the majority in Congress, Boswell with his experience and expertise clearly would be more likely to have a voice in shaping the policies that are most important to residents of the 2nd Congressional District and the future of Hardin County.
The candidate who disagrees with the recommendation for the 2nd Congressional District will be provided space to write a rebuttal or response of 400 or fewer words, if submitted by Monday, Oct. 28, by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org; by fax to (270) 769-6965, or mail to Editorial Page, The News-Enterprise, 408 W. Dixie Ave., Elizabethtown, KY 42701.
This editorial represents a consensus of The News-Enterprise editorial board: R. Chris Ordway, Warren Wheat, Sarah Reddoch, Jeff D'Alessio, Holly Tabor, Michelle McGuffin, Kendra Stewart.