Democrats Erika Hancock and Kristie Powe vie for Frankfort seat

Published 5:24 pm Monday, May 13, 2024

After 21 years, longtime Frankfort state representative and current Democratic Minority Floor Leader Derrick Graham is retiring.

Two Democrats and one Republican filed to replace Graham in the upcoming election. The Democrats, Erika Hancock and Kristie Powe, will compete in the May 21 primary. The winner will face Republican Kyle Thompson in the November general election.

Why are the candidates running?

Erika Hancock has been building relationships in Frankfort for 23 years as a State Farm insurance agent. She’s served on several community boards, including United Way and the Sunshine Center, and said she’s a “unifier by nature.”

Hancock said she’s tired of the political divide. She wants to move forward with compromise, civility and mutual respect.

“In business, I’ve always had to take different perspectives, whether it be the company and the customer, and bring them to a mutual understanding when we make hard decisions,” Hancock said.

Hancock’s campaign  has raised $63,000, including contributions from the Kentucky Attorney’s Political Action Trust and First Lady Britainy Beshear.

Kristie Powe is a longtime Frankfort resident. She serves as chairperson of the Frankfort Human Rights Commission, president of Focus on Race Relations and is a member of the Frankfort Chamber of Commerce.

Powe worked for the nonpartisan Legislative Research Commission for eight years, handling requests from state legislators. She said she realized there was a need for change.

“There were a lot of constituents that no longer felt like they were being listened to, no longer felt like their needs were being addressed and started to feel like they weren’t part of that top percent that was being served by the bills that were being drafted,” Powe said.

Powe’s campaign has raised $11,000.

Key issues

Hancock has three priorities: supporting state workers and retirees, supporting local Frankfort growth and making childcare safer and more affordable.

House District 57 is home to many state workers and retirees. State workers haven’t gotten raises in over a decade, and state pensions are not sufficiently funded, particularly considering inflation, she said.

“It’s essential to our local economy to make sure we take care of those people,” Hancock said.

As a mother, Hancock said affordable childcare is crucial to keep families in the workforce. Universal pre-K would help prepare Kentucky kids for Kindergarten, she added.

Finally, Frankfort growth has stagnated recently, Hancock said. If elected, she said she would support growth measures.

Powe also thinks providing raises and cost of living increases to state workers and retirees is a top need. The majority of the district’s constituents are marginalized people, she said, but that’s not who the state legislature is serving.

“The majority of the bills that they introduced had to do with things to dismantle programs that were put in place to help marginalized people,” Powe said.

Powe also wants to address women’s health holistically, to ensure women have access to quality medical treatment and sound healthcare decision making.

She’s concerned about the closure of public services in Frankfort, like the Simon House, a nonprofit shelter for homeless families and individuals which will close this summer due to lack of funding and staff. Frankfort’s Sunshine Center may not be far behind.

“Our drug and opioid crisis here is out of control, yet we don’t have any centers that actually address the issue,” she said. “We don’t have any centers that help people with treatment, that house them.”

Frankfort as a Democrat

Democrats hold a super minority in the legislature, with 27 of 138 seats. Considering this, it’s difficult to pass Democratic priorities.

Hancock said this is where her commitment to civility and hearing other perspectives will come into play.

“I have no ego in it,” she said. “So even if I just contribute to an idea that somebody else puts their name on, that’s okay, as long as it gets done.”

As a former LRC employee, Powe said she’s already developed relationships on both sides of the aisle. She understands the importance of making bills “win wins” and knows how to make bad bills better, she said.

State issues

Hancock and Powe both oppose allowing state funds to go to non-public schools. In November, Kentucky voters will decide whether to change the state constitution to allow the legislature to legalize school choice measures like charter schools and private school vouchers.

Powe said “stifling education” is a problem: “When you close people off to what happened in the past, you’re going to repeat some of those mistakes in the future,” she said.

She supports diversity, equity and inclusion iniatives, because the problem DEI was established to fix—racism—still exists, Powe said.

She added that educators should be paid more, and that the SEEK increase was a baby step in the right direction.

Hancock said less people are going into education, and so Kentucky needs to figure out how to get people excited about teaching again, maybe with incentives or better tools. She sees behavior problems as one root cause of disinterest, and suggested focusing more on early mental health intervention to fix them.

“Let’s figure out ways to help people in those situations versus just shuffling them around or kicking them out of school, which only makes it worse,” Hancock said.

Powe does not support the income tax reduction, and Hancock said she only supports it if done for the “right reasons,” not for political gain.