Oleka, Cooperrider, Metcalf aim for treasurer nomination

Published 4:49 pm Thursday, May 11, 2023

This is the third in a series of down-ballot candidate breakdowns the Bowling Green Daily News will be publishing each day before the primary election on Tuesday, May 16.

State governments have to spend money to do pretty much anything. That money often goes through the state treasurer, who monitors state investments, oversees teacher pensions and manages state financial accounts.

The Kentucky treasurer also sits on several boards relating to the lottery, teacher retirement, state investments and higher education. Their job is to ensure state funds are spent legally.

This year, there are three Republican candidates for state treasurer.

OJ Oleka served under current Treasurer Allison Ball as deputy treasurer for three years. Ball has endorsed him in the race.

Mark Metcalf is a combat veteran of Iraq who has spent 30 years as a prosecutor, served in the Justice Department under President Bush and been a judge on U.S. Immigration court in Miami.

Andrew Cooperrider is a business owner who gained national attention when he refused to comply with Gov. Andy Beshear’s mandate to close businesses, like Copperrider’s Lexington coffee shop, during the pandemic.

Why should you be the next state treasurer?

Cooperrider: “When I look at what’s going on right now in our Commonwealth and country, I’m seeing a whole lot of people who seem to be only experienced politicians that are leading us into a horrible position. At the state and local levels we’re facing record-high suicide rates, overdose deaths, continuing failures of education, despite the money we’re spending. …I think it’s time we have some competence and common sense in our state government and specifically in the treasurer’s office.”

Metcalf: “Kentucky borrows too much, taxes too much, spends too much and saves too little. That should be what everyone knows about me. I intend to fix these problems working with members of the General Assembly and with our governor, regardless of which party that governor is in.”

Oleka: “I think it’s important that we’ve got an experienced conservative who could do this job on day one, but we also need a treasurer who can promote the greatness of America and the goodness of Kentucky. …My family went from poverty to prosperity in a single generation. It is the American dream. And that is why I’m running. I want to fight to protect, preserve, defend but also promote the American Dream for every Kentuckian and every Kentucky family.”

What are 2-3 key parts of your platform?

Cooperrider’s primary goal is to increase public knowledge of what the government is spending. He said he would create a wasteful spending report so that the public and state legislators are more aware of illegal and unwise spending.

He would also expand Ball’s transparency website, allowing Kentuckians to know directly where their tax dollars are going.

Metcalf’s priorities include making sure Kentucky’s money is secure, identifying waste and fraud and pushing back against the “woke agenda.”

Specifically, he wants to ensure that no state agencies are “discriminating against” the fossil fuel industry in their investments.

“So the whole idea here is to maximize the return for our pensioners,” Metcalf said. “It should not be serving any particular political agenda.”

He also said he would work to cut Kentucky’s direct obligations in half in his first term by working with the General Assembly to pass budget cuts.

Oleka would also focus on high return investments, particularly avoiding “radical” ESG investments that include environmental, social and governance considerations in investment decisions.

“As the treasurer, I will fight for every teacher’s pension the same way that I will fight for my father’s own and my mother’s,” he said.

He would build upon his work with Ball on financial literacy education for Kentuckians, and expand it to incarcerated people to reduce recidivism.

Oleka said that he would find unique ways to make government more financially efficient. For example, he would eliminate most of the physical checks the state sends, which cost 64 cents a check, in favor of electronic checks, which cost 3 cents. This could save $3 million a year for the general fund, he said.

How do you distinguish yourself from your primary opponents?

Cooperrider said that he is not a “political climber.” He sees one of his opponents as a “lifelong politician” and the other as “part of that Frankfort elitist crowd there that seems to sit in their ivory towers believing they can solve all of our problems while destroying our lives.”

In contrast, Cooperrider said he is the business owner in the race, and the only one who has employed dozens of Kentuckians and managed a payroll. He understands how to problem solve, and would look for other ways to solve issues besides raising taxes and spending more money, he said.

Metcalf says “the breadth and depth of my experience” sets him apart from his opponents. His experience as a veteran, a judge and a prosecutor “builds familiarity with an array of problems,” he said.

When he worked for the Justice Department, Metcalf said he handled large programs like the Help America Vote Act, passed after the 2000 presidential election.

Oleka said he is the only candidate who has never run for political office before, and has experience in the treasurer’s office.

“We’re all Republicans, but there’s only one candidate who actually has the ability, who has the skill, the experience, the relationships and the conservative credentials to do the job effectively, the way that people Kentucky want it to be done,” he said. “And that’s me.”