The Paducah Mayoral Candidate forum was held Thursday evening in Paducah and hosted by the Paducah/McCracken County NAACP. The forum was town hall style and consisted of three mayoral candidates: Richard Abraham, George Bray, and write-in candidate Dujuan Thomas. The moderators were news anchors from WPSD.
Before answering questions, statistics were presented to the candidates by Shamarria Morrison from News Channel 6. Statistics concerning Paducah's demographic make-up based on race, median household income and black/white business ownership.
The first question dealt with racial data on business ownership in Paducah. According to WPSD stats, 81 percent of business owners in Paducah are white and less than one percent are black. Candidates were asked what solutions they might have to reduce the gap. Commissioner Abraham said he would take advantage of the new HUB at PTHS for training purposes. He said he would visit historically black colleges and encourage graduates to come to Paducah to work and live.
Businessman George Bray said his family had a company in Paducah for 150 years. He said he advocates for the black community and believes he can help drive ownership among black businessmen.
Thomas responded first on his plan to help unify the community and assist those in need. Thomas said he would be the leader the people could depend on and that he would donate his first year's salary to the citizens of Paducah.
Bray said he would tap into his connections with The United Way. He also mentioned his involvement in 'the tip jar' project that raised money for restaurant staff during the early weeks of the pandemic. And Abraham said that 'the city and municipalities are doing what we can and our partners are standing up. We work best when everyone takes responsibility."
The Breonna Taylor grand jury indictment was a talking point for the candidates. Bray said that he believed Kentucky's attorney general did a good job explaining the indictment as it stands. He admitted there are still questions that need to be answered. He said, "Paducah's not Louisville. We have a great police force and effective leadership."
Thomas said, "Breonna Taylor didn't receive justice. He said the community of Paducah is under-represented by minorities. He mentioned Raynarldo Henderson, Lakilia Bedeau, Robert Shy, and Corbin Snowden as four black candidates running for office this election year. Thomas said change can be made by representation.
Another forum question dealt with confederate flags and confederate statues and whether or not they should remain in the public eye. Thomas said "Considering the current climate, you don't put these (confederate) statues on a pedestal. They don't have statues of Hitler in Germany. " He went on to say that he didn't believe in erasing history and a museum may be a more appropriate place to remember heritage.
Bray said that having the confederate flag flying on interstate 24 at exit 16, 'isn't a good look for this community.' Bray discussed the tug of war between those wanting to keep confederate statues versus those that wanted them removed. He said, "If the black community comes together and are unified and there's a way to preserve our history, I'm all for it"
The question was asked that if elected mayor, to what lengths would they go to represent the entire city of Paducah. Abraham said he believed the "southside's going to get a lot of love over the next few years." With planned community meetings to fix sidewalks, gutters, and other necessary repairs to get it thriving again.
Bray said he would work with groups such as the Midtown Alliance that helped to revitalize Fountain Avenue to provide leadership and guidance to rejuvinate other areas of the city.
Each candidate was asked for their plans for a greater business community and each had a brief answer. Abraham referred to students he's mentored in the past and wisdom he's imparted, "if you show up drug free and on time, you can make a living for you and your family." He went on to say that a lot of funding goes into GPED. He said, "We just need to make sure we're ready when the big companies come visit."
Bray said a big problem is that many "don't have access to capitol and don't have access to training." He said, "we need to tailor to the workforce and the skill level we have available now."
Thomas' plan for a greater business community is, "By using common sense and focusing on priorities."
One of the more interesting questions was about youth leadership. How will we nurture our youth in Paducah? Bray said he had a long history of mentoring. He said there's a program the city participated in many years ago and thought it might have been under the leadership of Mayor Gerry Montgomery. It was a plan that provided teens an opportunity to work for the city during the summer months. He'd like to bring it back.
Each candidate made closing remarks. Thomas said he's the "common sense candidate." And he wants to represent the under-represented. Abraham said he understands how government works. He believes in our police department and their desire to be 'visual with the citizens.' Bray said he believed this election is 'the most' important to Paducah.' He said, "I have a track record for success in everything I've done."
After all was said and done. Each candidate was able to share their platform with the, mostly virtual audience. Remember to register to vote if you haven't already. There's several ways to vote this election year. November 3 is the day.