The forum, sponsored by the Independent Business Association of Northern Kentucky (IBANK), was held at DeVanna’s on U.S. 27 and moderated by editor and publisher of FortThomasMatters, Mark Collier.
The public forum came in prime-time, leading up to Tuesday’s primary election. All four candidates, two Republicans and two Democrats, were invited to participate in the forum. Democrats Michael O’Day and Scott Hildebrand and Republican Mike Jansen were present for the forum, while Republican incumbent Jeff Kidwell did not attend. All four candidates will appear on Tuesday’s primary ballot.
With Kidwell absent, the three candidates were in general agreement on many of the issues Collier posed, all voicing, for instance, what would be, if elected, a staunch refusal to enforce any federal restrictions on Campbell County residents’ second amendment rights.
“These are your guns,” said Jansen, who has served on the Newport, Erlanger, and Fort Thomas Police Departments, and currently serves as detective for the Campbell Co. Commonwealth Attorney’s Office. “I will not enforce any executive order from the federal government that would try to take them away,” he emphasized.
The candidates also echoed one another regarding proposals to merge certain law enforcement agencies throughout the county, as a means of cutting costs. “You’ve got to look at the business of cutting costs every day, not just in an election year,” Jansen said.
Hildebrand, who has served on the Cold Spring Police Department since 2008, mentioned he’d be willing to consider any sort of departmental merger “if it saves the taxpayers money while maintaining or improving service to the citizens."
O’Day, a former Dayton fire fighter and Fort Thomas city employee, nuanced the issue, though, by insisting the office practice due diligence in any budgetary decision: “Cutting the budget just to cut the budget is not a good business practice,” he said.
The most resounding consensus among the candidates regarded the regional heroin epidemic, with each candidate adding to each other’s proposed methods of addressing the issue from the Sheriff’s seat.
O’Day explained that his primary tactic would be to position the Sheriff’s office in a support role for local agencies. "It’s an epidemic, and I know the departments are overwhelmed by it,” he said.
Jansen echoed O'Day, vowing to "assist any agency that calls upon the Sheriff’s office to make their community a better place and eradicate the heroin problem in Campbell County and Northern Kentucky.”
Hildebrand, alluding to the recent failure of a KY House bill calling for stricter penalties for drug trafficking, added a procedural element to the mix, saying, "What [the Sheriff’s office] can do is do what it can to help push tougher legislation through.”
The primary election is next Tuesday, May 20th, after which one Democrat and one Republican will advance to the general election in November.
Photo: Candidates for Campbell County Sheriff debate at DeVanna's in Cold Spring/FTM file