Three GOP candidates in 6th District push conservative credentials

May 16, 2004|HERB BROCK

Tom Buford believes he stands out from the three-man crowd in Tuesday's Republican primary election for the U.S. 6th Congressional District seat on at least two points. First, he boasts that his Kentucky roots go back to the 18th century, while neither of his opponents is a native Kentuckian. Second, he points out that he has 14 years of elective public service on his resume, while his opponents have none.

But despite those differences, highlighted often by Buford, there are a lot more simililarities between the three candidates, starting with their political ideology. All three men identify themselves as conservatives and have been spending the campaign pushing their conservative credentials, in a sense trying to "out-conservative" each other.

Example: Don Swarthout, an ordained minister who carries a Bible and wears a Ten Commandments lapel pin to all campaign events, says that he is "by far the most conservative candidate" of the three, given his opposition to abortion under any circumstances and support for any measure that would not allow same sex marriage.


And for good measure, Swarthout said he plans to push legislation aimed at weakening an archvillain to conservatives - the American Civil Liberties Union.

But Buford and Bryan Coffman counter they are also pro-life and anti-gay marriage, although they didn't mention anything about the ACLU.

"I'm as conservative as the other or two, probably more so," said Coffman.

"My opponents can say they are conservative but I am the only one in the race with a voting record to prove it," said Buford.

Another thing the three Republicans have in common is that they each believe they can do a better job representing Boyle, Garrard and Mercer counties, part of Lincoln County, and the other counties in the 6th District than Democrat Ben Chandler, who won the seat in a special election earlier this year by 10 points over Republican Alice Forgy Kerr for the right to replace now-Gov. Ernie Fletcher. Kerr's name is on Tuesday's ballot but she has withdrawn from the race.

Here are capsule accounts of each of the three candidates, followed by their views on several issues:

Buford, 55, is a Nicholasville resident and native of Jessamine County. He is a land developer, a rental property manager and a banker. He has been 22nd state senator for 14 years, representing Boyle and Mercer counties.

Coffman, 40, was born in Calfornia but has lived in several other states before settling in Lexington nine years ago. He was a banker in Atlanta for 11 years and has been in private law practice in Lexington since he graduated from the University of Kentucky law school in 1999.

Swarthout, 60, is a native of Waukegan, Ill., and raised in Iowa. He has lived in Lexington for the last several years. He has been involved in human resources for many years at several companies, including one in Denver, and lately has been running his own human resources firm. He also is an ordained minister and president of Christians Reviving America's Values.

Iraq War/War on Terror

All three supported the invasion of Iraq and see the war there as part of the war on terror. They are concerned about the attacks on U.S. troops by insurgent Iraqis and outside terrorist groups that have led to a total of more than 700 deaths in the war, but they do not see it as a sequel to Vietnam. As a congressman, each said they would support the war effort, with Swarthout's support more limited than that of the other two, and believe in President Bush's effort to try to democratize the country.

"I fully support the president (Bush) and Defense Secretary (Donald) Rumsfield and, as 6th District representative, continue to support the war effort," said Buford.

"My dad and uncle fought in Vietnam and this is no Vietnam," said Coffman, referring to Democratic criticism of Bush's prosecution of the war. "Iraq is a map-maker's country where three distinct regions with competing and combative peoples, the Shiite and Sunni Muslims and the Kurds, living in each. But because of its natural resources, including farm land, rivers as well as oil, and its fairly well-education population, the country has potential. Democracy has a chance of working there."

While he still supports the war, Swarthout said he believes the situation in Iraq has gotten so badly "out of control" and has become such an "sbsolute mess"' that a plan for immediate withdrawal needs to be implemented. 'We need to get it relatively under control, turn it over to the Iraqis and get out," he said.

The American abuse of Iraqi prisoners disturbs each of the candidates but it doesn't diminish their support for the war, although Swarthout said it just "adds to the mess."

Tax cuts/economy

All three candidates support Bush's effort to make his tax cuts permanent. They note Chandler opposes Bush on that issue.

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