Smith will stand for Kentuckians in the Senate
After standing last year with thousands of union workers against the Republican majority’s legislation to drive down wages for Kentucky’s working families, Jeanie Smith couldn’t understand how lawmakers could ignore the thousands of people they claimed to represent.
In 2017, Smith, a current teacher and a former missionary, filed to run for the Senate seat representing all of Warren County.
“This was something I needed to do. People were being left behind and we weren’t represented in Frankfort they way we should be,” Smith said. “I am a Western Kentucky University graduate. Our family goes to church in Bowling Green, but we live in the county and I teach in the county. So when deciding how to best represent the people here, I knew running in the Senate was the right choice for me.”
Smith is one of several dozen Democrats who are current or former educators that decided they couldn’t stand by and watch the Republican majority’s continued war on public education and Kentucky’s working families.
“We are playing by the rules, but the game is rigged.”
During the last day’s of the 2018 session, the Republican majority made drastic changes to the pension benefits for teachers, new hires and public employees without addressing the state’s outstanding pension debt. The changes were ideological, not fiscal.
Coupled with budget cuts for local school districts and universities, including employee layoffs and cuts to entire departments, Smith’s perspective changed. The urgency and the need to for better representation for Warren County solidified her decision.
“When I made that decision, we knew bad policy was in the works,” Smith said. “The current senator for Warren County was supporting charter schools and we saw those things starting to happen. This past session we’ve seen all of that increase with a bad budget, with pension changes … and in just the past couples of days when we see the governor appointing people to the Kentucky Board of Education that don’t support public education. I’ve realized how much I need to be in there to fight for our families and our communities.”
“People are losing money out of their paychecks because of bad policy.”
Having a successful business means having an educated skilled workforce, Smith said. Responsible workers with critical thinking skills and a good work ethic are traits first taught in public schools. But public education isn’t the only issue on November’s ballot box.
The issues at hand: loss of wages, destabilized pensions, the defunding of public education and the Republican majority’s tax increase on 95 percent of Kentuckians by providing a tax break to corporations and the wealthy few transcend party lines. They affect all Kentuckians.
“The first thing we can do is find common ground with people. It’s not just an education thing when we are talking about people’s decreased wages. People are losing money out of their paychecks because of bad policy,” Smith said. “Families, workers and residents here in the state are struggling to make it. We are playing by the rules, but the game is rigged. People understand that because it’s most of us. The average Kentuckian is having a harder time making ends meet.”
Those average Kentuckians have shown up to support and back Smith. Her campaign remains a grassroots campaign.
“Our average contributions are around $30. The challenge is that it takes us longer to meet our fundraising goals. Unfortunately, it takes a lot of money to run a state campaign,” Smith said. “But on the flip side, every one of those contributions we are bringing in — those are votes. Those are people saying ‘I am ready for change and I’m willing to invest in this campaign so that we can bring change in November.'”
“I’m voting for you because I want to be able to trust my representative.”
People are tired of the dirty politics in Frankfort, Smith said. The sewage-pension bill secretly crafted behind closed doors and pushed through without allowing legislators to read it is just one example. Similarly, the Republican majority’s tax bill was pushed through both chambers of state government and voted on in less than 24 hours.
“I have had Republicans approach me and say ‘I’m voting for you because I want to be able to trust my representative,'” Smith said. “People are ready to be represented by someone who wants to work for them.”