Republican candidates for state treasurer faced voters at recent forum

Published 1:51 pm Friday, February 24, 2023

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The second floor of the Central Bank on Main Street in Nicholasville was recently filled to the brim with residents wanting to meet the Republican candidates for Kentucky treasurer: Andrew Cooperrider, OJ Oleka and Mark Metcalf.

The purpose of this forum, according to the president of Jessamine County Republican Women, Dorothy Van Epps, was for locals to get to know the candidates through audience questions and conversation.

Andrew Cooperrider is a business owner of Brewed, a coffee shop in Lexington. In 2022, he ran and lost against Senator Donald Douglass in the primary for the 22nd District Senate seat. He is well-known for his vehement rejection of Kentucky pandemic restrictions as he refused to follow statewide lockdown protocols. The Fayette County Health Department sued Cooperrider’s business for refusing to close indoor dining, but the lawsuit expired when Governor Andy Beshear loosened lockdown restrictions.

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“My wife and I founded our first company with 3,000. Today it’s worth several million and has 30 employees.” Cooperrider said. “The very foundation of our country- faith, family and freedom is under attack…True transparency isn’t me having to spend hours to answer, ‘What did you spend a million-dollar contract on? What was their job?’ That’s not true transparency. True transparency is having that available to you.”

OJ Oleka touts his experience in the public and private sectors as the only candidate with previous involvement in a financial or treasury position.

He once worked alongside current Kentucky Treasurer Allison Ball as the deputy treasurer, where he developed financial literacy standards for Kentucky schools. Oleka also recently stepped down from his position as president of the Association of Independent Kentucky Colleges and Universities (AIKCU).

At the forum, he highlighted one major success in this position at the forum: keeping all 18 AIKCU institutions open for student learning during the pandemic.

“I ask you to choose me because I can be an experienced conservative, a new generation of Republican leader, that you can be proud to vote for in May and excited to vote for in November because you have full confidence that I can do this job on the very first day,” Oleka said.

The audience questioned Oleka about posts he made on Twitter and later deleted about former President Donald Trump, racism, and the police.

To that, Oleka responded that he was wrong about Trump.

“In 2015, there was a real estate icon from New York City who didn’t have the most conservative record, so I was certainly concerned as a conservative, as a Republican,” Oleka continued, “My wife will tell you I don’t admit when I am wrong very often. But, thankfully, this is when I was wrong. President Trump has been one of the strongest Republican conservative presidents we’ve had.”

Oleka also said that he respects the police and the safety they provide. He also said that “racism is bad” and that it leaves voters on the table. He also responded to an audience member that he is pro-life.

Mark Metcalf has been practicing law for 33 years as a private practitioner and a state and federal prosecutor. He is an Iraq combat veteran and has served as a judge in Miami’s immigration court.

“In 1998, I authored the Kentucky Crime Restitution and Reimbursement Act. Now, crime victims can collect their losses,” Metcalf said. “Jails can make inmates pay for their time behind bars.”

Metcalf currently serves as the Garrard County Attorney in Lancaster. He was elected to this position multiple times: 1990, 1994, 2010, 2014, and 2018. In addition, he was selected as Kentucky’s Outstanding County Attorney in 2013.

“Success can be seen by the way we serve the public. Employees never let the phones ring more than three times. And when we quit at five, we don’t leave unless the lobby is empty. We return all our calls, never refuse an appointment, and treat others like we want to be treated.” Metcalf said.

He also said that should he be elected, his office would prosecute cybercrime and call out businesses that seek to “destroy” oil, coal, and natural gas.

After the forum, resident Pamela Hubbard said she enjoyed the event and felt informed. “I’m so glad they came to Jessamine County because this is a county that is mostly Republican right now, and I’m glad of that,” Hubbard said, “I’m just happy to be here, and I love Jessamine County and hope we can continue to do good work.”

Van Epps counted around 70 attendees and felt the forum was successful.

“I was very pleased with several things. Number one, the three candidates expressed themselves very well. They gave us information that we can go home within the back of our minds so that when we go to the poll, we’ve got something to remember each one of those people by,” she said.

The next Jessamine County Republican Women event will be a regular meeting. It will take place on Tuesday, March 21, on the second floor of the Central Bank.

The next election-based event will be a gubernatorial forum held on Thursday, April 13, at 6 pm at the Wilmore City Hall.