Challenger Barry Harmon says area needs representation
Boyle County Jailer Barry Harmon said there are many reasons he decided to take on a four-term incumbent for the 54th District state representative seat, but one of the main things that spurred him to action was continued complaints from his fellow local officials.
Harmon, a Democrat, said Republican incumbent Mike Harmon has been so ineffective that local leaders often have to go to representatives from other districts if they want to get something done in Frankfort.
Harmon said the Ky. 33-34 connector project now under way, which his opponent cites as one of his major successes, was actually driven by local officials who had to work with people in the legislature other than Mike Harmon.
“We need a representative, and that’s why I’m running,” Harmon said. “There’s been a lot of things that could have come here that didn’t make it here, as far as economic investment, education. And as jailer, I’ve seen absolutely no representation whatsoever.”
If he’s elected, Harmon said he would be a familiar face at local government and economic development meetings.
“What we say is one thing, but what we do shows you what someone actually stands for,” Harmon said.
Harmon didn’t have to look far for one of the most pressing issues he thinks the state is facing. He said he has tried to reduce costs at the Boyle County Detention Center by doing things like buying bulk food and streamlining various information systems, but costs and populations have stayed high.
One of the major reasons Harmon is running is his belief in the need for a major overhaul in a corrections system where out-of-control costs are driven almost entirely by substance abuse. He pointed to the success of the Substance Abuse Program for state inmates, which he helped bring to the jail, as an example of the kind of therapeutic approach that needs to happen across the state.
“Locking up folks and putting them in a cell doesn’t work,” Harmon said. “They’re going to come out with the lifestyle they had before, and maybe worse.” Harmon touted a 93-percent success rate so far for the two-year-old Substance Abuse Program.
Harmon said he would have to look at various plans to fix looming problems with the pension system.
Improving schools and giving teachers resources they need are a major plank in his platform. “We can’t just stay where we are, we have to improve on it,” Harmon said.
Harmon is aware his opponent and other Republicans are seizing any opportunity to tie him to an unpopular president. It is a connection he shrugs off as ridiculous. “Obama is not my mama,” Harmon said. “(Mike Harmon’s) putting out ads trying to say if you vote for me, you are voting for Obama. That’s not true, and it’s ridiculous. In fact, if you vote for me, you are supporting someone you can vote for if you are a Republican or a Democrat.”
Mike Harmon also has pointed out in advertisements that Barry Harmon listed his political views as “moderate” on the Facebook page for his campaign. Barry Harmon said the classification was made by a campaign staff member, and he asked for it to be changed to “conservative” after it was pointed out to him because that is a more fitting description of his social and economic views.
With regard to abortion issues, Harmon said he is solidly pro-life, having participated in vigils and various other events opposing abortion over the years. However, he said the major decisions about abortion will be made by the Supreme Court, and he doesn’t believe his opponent should be making it a campaign issue.
“I’m not running as the pastor of New Harmony Baptist Church, I’m running for all the people of Boyle County, and my platform is education, re-investment in the local economy and dealing with substance abuse,” Harmon said. “Those are things I can take to Frankfort with me and actually get some things done on them.”
Harmon has had a decided advantage in fundraising, bringing in about $50,000, which includes $10,000 from the Kentucky Democratic House Caucus.
However, he said he has made introducing himself door-to-door his calling card.
While he had some ground to make up in Washington County, Harmon said his work with New Harmony Baptist, which is in the Mackville community, meant he already was familiar with may names and faces. By now, he said he has covered nearly every portion of both counties and won’t stop pounding the pavement until Election Day.
“I’m a people person, and I love to meet and talk to people,” Harmon said. “I think when people get to know me, they see I’m the type who is going to do what I say.”