Dupont’s ‘deep passion’ is education
Carolyn Dupont hasn’t held public office before, but public education has been her career, and community service her avocation.
If she’s elected to the 39th District Kentucky House seat Nov. 3, she said, being a voice for education and doing what she can for her community will be her priorities.
Dupont, a 60-year-old history professor at Eastern Kentucky University and community volunteer, calls public education her “deep passion,” and said she is a product of public schools, from grade school through grad school.
Dupont, a Democrat, is running against Republican Matt Lockett, 46, a financial adviser and his party’s county chairman. He, too, considers improving schools a priority, but they have different approaches.
“He talks about making education the best, but we’re not going to be able to do that if we’re taking money out to public schools and funneling it to charter schools” or giving students “scholarship tax credits,” Dupont said.
What Kentucky education needs, she said, is an expansion of preschool, smaller class sizes, more career and technical paths, and protection of defined-benefit pensions for teachers, including future teachers.
“We need the very best in our schools, and as a person who teaches teachers, I have seen an increasing trend among students who started out wanting to be educators, but because of their fear that our state is abandoning them … they’re changing their minds about this noble profession,” she said.
Dupont went to school in Texas and Missouri, but has been in the Bluegrass 32 years. She earned her bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees at the University of Kentucky, and has taught history for decades. Her husband, Greg Partain, has been a music professor at Transylvania University for nearly 30 years. They have three children and a daughter-in-law, and are going to be grandparents for the first time in May.
In addition to being a professional historian, Dupont is also an active community volunteer. She has helped start a preschool program for children from disadvantaged families, has been a GED tutor at the county jail, helped organize the community’s first Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration more than 20 years ago. She was recently involved in an effort to raise money for people who were out of work or in dire straits because of the coronavirus.
“That’s an important part of who I am,” she said. “I regard my running for this office as an outreach of the work that I’ve already been doing in the community.”
Both her experience in serving the community and her background as a historian are qualifications for the office, she said.
Historians, she said, are “evidence-based,” and that would be her approach to needs and solutions, she said.
She said she is also more “practical-minded” than ideological, and would take a bipartisan approach to legislating, working with those “across the aisle” in the House and across party lines.
Dupont said she is a moderate Democrat, but she doesn’t like labels.
In some ways, she said, she’s conservative and other ways liberal.
She wants to preserve values and traditions, which is conservative, she said, and wants to see us be a “generous society, especially generous in spirit,” which is liberal.
Being a moderate, however, doesn’t mean being “mushy,” she said. She said she is “not lukewarm” about the things she believes in and to which she is committed.
Lockett has made his anti-abortion stance a central part of his campaign.
“I am pro-life for the whole life,” Dupont said. “I do believe in protecting the unborn, but I also believe that it’s just as important to protect the lives of Kentuckians who are born.”
She said that unlike her opponent, she thinks there should be exceptions such as allowing abortion in the case of rape or a threat to the life of the mother.
She also believes there are other ways to reduce abortion than making it illegal. The number of abortions has steadily declined because wider access to birth control and sex education and providing opportunities for women, she said, but the county health department has had to outsource its women’s health services because of budget cuts and pension costs.
She said one can’t call oneself pro-life and not support single women with unwanted pregnancies and their children.
“We know the biggest driver of poverty is single parenthood,” she said, and the state needs to concentrate on ways to help single parents.
She said she also is against the death penalty.
Dupont said she supports a statewide fairness law for LGBT+ rights and religious freedom, but would have to study how a fairness law that protects exceptions for religious conscience is worded before she could decide whether to vote for it.
“Religious liberty does not give people the right to harm other people,” she said.
Dupont said she thinks Gov. Andy Beshear has done as well as he could to preserve people’s lives and health by issuing public health orders during the pandemic, but she realizes that has come at a cost to businesses, landlords and parents at home with their children rather than at work. She said she likes the fact that he has done things in a bipartisan manner, such as working with Secretary of State Michael Adams to expand absentee voting because of the virus.
“The wish to curb the governor’s powers strikes me as an example of partisanship,” she said.
Improving access to good, affordable health care, Dupont said, is another priority of hers. That includes continuing the Medicaid expansion. She said she has talked with voters who told her “they would be dead” if not for that change in the law.
“These are the kinds of concerns about everyday people our leaders need to address” and that she wants to address, she said. “And they shouldn’t be partisan.”