Chantel Bingham and Dencia Branscum face off in House District 56 primary

Published 9:01 am Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Two Democrat women are set to challenge incumbent Republican Representative Daniel Fister in the District 56 primary election on May 21.

District 56 covers Woodford County, as well as parts of Franklin and Jessamine counties.

Next week, Democratic voters will decide whether Chantel Bingham or Dencia Branscum will compete against Fister in the November general election.

Bingham was elected to the Versailles City Council in 2022. She is also executive director of the Housing Authority of Versailles, the first Black woman to serve in the position.

In the past, Bingham has served on the Midway Planning and Zoning Commission and the Versailles, Midway, Woodford County Human Rights Commission. She’s fostered nine children since 2014.

Branscum is a former state employee for the Department for Community Based Services, where she worked in unemployment insurance. She said she’s been involved in community organizations since she was a teen.

Branscum has helped provide foster homes for pets of military personnel and has worked to get legislation through the General Assembly.

Branscum has raised about $5,200, while Bingham has raised approximately $4,700. Despite not having a primary challenger, Republican Fister has already raised over $16,000 with the aid of half a dozen PACs.

Why are they running?

Bingham said she wants to make Kentucky the best version of itself.

“I think that people are now also looking for public servants as leaders,” she said. “And I believe that through my servant leadership, I can give a new meaning to the word politics in the Commonwealth.”

When she started as the Housing Authority’s executive director, Bingham said it was in “shambles.” Its federal reserve money was at $252,000, but in three years she got it to $800,000 by renegotiating contracts, knocking on doors and creating and implementing policies to hold people accountable.

Now, she says, they have fewer police calls than ever. She can bring that effort to Frankfort, Bingham said.

Branscum’s path to candidacy began five years ago. Her son, Ethan, saw on television that Ohio had made rescue pets the symbolic state pet. He liked the idea as a way to get more rescue pets adopted, and wrote a letter—with his mother’s help—to his state legislator.

In 2020, a bill to make rescue pets the state pet was introduced by Republican Rep. Kevin Bratcher. It passed in the House, but died in the Senate. Each year since, the bill has been re-introduced, but hasn’t gotten to a vote again.

Branscum said she’ll be in Frankfort next session either way—”But the question is, do they want me there with them at the rally? Or do they want me there voting on the floor?”

Key issues

Bingham’s priorities are getting state retirees a cost of living adjustment and protecting women’s reproductive health.

While Fister voted against giving retirees a “13th check” in this year’s budget session, Bingham said she would fight for it.

She is pro-choice, and supports abortion exceptions for rape, incest and the health and safety of the mother.

Bingham added that she would be responsive to constituents, and values face-to-face meetings.

Branscum is primarily concerned with animal adoption and women’s health.

Kentucky ranks 45th for animal welfare in the country, and many end up in shelters. Branscum would work to address that.

The Commonwealth also ranks second worst for maternal health outcomes, she said. While the momnibus bill passed this year is a good start, she said there is a ways to go.

“We lose one to two women per week to death,” Branscum said. “Many of those could have been prevented with just basic prenatal care. We have 76 counties that don’t even have a practicing OB in them.”

Branscum also supports a state retiree COLA check.

Other issues

Neither candidate supports using public funds for non-public schools, and both support teacher raises.

Bingham said STEM academics may help recruit teachers in high school and improve the pipeline.

Bingham doesn’t support the income tax reduction, while Branscum said she only supports it if the triggers are met without political tricks.

Branscum wants to further broadband access, so that Kentuckians have more job and education opportunities.

Bingham, for her part, is passionate about diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives. Attempts to take DEI away would shut out a lot of people, including first generation students, students of color, people with disabilities and military veterans, she said.