Four candidates are seeking Kentucky's Secretary of State office this year.
Republicans Bill Johnson and Hilda Legg and Democrats Elaine Walker and Allison Grimes will face off in the May 17 primary.
Republican incumbent Trey Grayson has stepped down to serve as the director of Harvard University's Institute of Politics. Gov. Steve Beshear appointed Walker to fill the remainder of Grayson's term.
Johnson, 45, of Elkton is a University of Kentucky graduate with a degree in engineering. He has completed the Naval Nuclear Power School and received his MBA from the College of William and Mary.
Johnson served for 10 years in the U.S. Navy as a nuclear propulsion engineer and has worked for 13 years in the private sector in information technology, process improvement and procurement.
He and his wife Delinda have a son and a daughter. He attends Elkton Baptist Church.
Johnson wrote that he has found ways to cut waste in large and small businesses, and he wants to use that experience to help Kentucky.
"I want to take my talents to Frankfort and work to get government out of the way of business," he wrote.
Johnson said that he is a "change agent" with a background in problem solving. He wrote that his military background has prepared his to serve with integrity, while his private sector work has required creativity and sound judgment.
Johnson would like to push for legislation requiring a picture ID to be presented before someone can vote.
"In addition, I will review the voter registration file and remove ineligible voters from the file," he wrote.
Johnson added that he would visit high school and local festivals to raise awareness about voting, and he wants government to get out of the way of business by working to making government-business interactions more efficient.
"I believe in citizen service and then returning to the private sector," Johnson said. "I don't intend to make a career out of government service. However, I feel compelled to help change the direction of Kentucky using my God given talents."
Legg, 58, of Somerset completed her master's degree in education at Western Kentucky University. She has worked as a high-speed Internet consultant, an administrator for USDA rural utilities, executive director of The Center for Rural Development, a member of the Appalachian Regional Commission, an administrator and instructor at Lindsey Wilson College, an assistant director for the U.S. Department of Education and a social science teacher in Adair County Schools.
She has a son, Dane, and she is involved with the Pulaski County Republican Women and First Baptist Church of Somerset, among other organizations.
Legg is a native of Kentucky with more than 30 years of experience working in the public and private sectors.
"Making Kentucky a place where the integrity of our elections is the highest priority, where jobs creators are supported and where government processes are streamlined and efficient for its citizens," she wrote about why she is running.
Preserving the integrity of elections involves making sure those who are legally entitled to vote can do so, according to Legg. One way to do this is to require would-be voters to provide proof of citizenship.
She added that she would work to create civic forums in every county and to engage with schools to promote active citizenship.
She added that her career has been focused on creating jobs, and she will always be mindful that the more assistance government can provide to businesses, the more jobs those businesses can create. One way to do this is to improve technology and to work with other offices to streamline government services.
"Our employees will be reminded that small and medium size businesses are the life blood of our economy and they deserve out help and assistance," she wrote.
Legg stated that she wants voters to feel that they are part of her office.
"I will be responsive to the taxpayers and will ask on every 'good idea' what will it cost Kentucky' taxpayer?" she wrote.
Grimes, 32, a native of Maysville, said politics run in her family.
"I am a lifelong Democrat, and I am a native of Kentucky. I was born and raised to believe in public service," she said.
She added that now is the time for a new generation to take the reigns and lead the state forward.
"As the Young Democrats say, we need to bring the party back to the Democratic Party," Grimes said.
To prepare for the position, she has been traveling the state, including a stop in Marion County last month. Grimes stated that Kentucky's previous secretaries of state have been attorneys, and she is the only attorney in the race. She said that is important because the secretary of state needs to be educated on election laws.
She says one of her goals is to guarantee that every vote is protected. She would like to place voting machines in veterans' hospitals and veterans' nursing homes.
To help domestic violence victims, some of who are hesitant to tell a judge where they are living, Grimes would like to allow them to register to vote using the Secretary of State's office as their address.
Grimes added that she wants to generate excitement about voting, and this includes getting out into schools to encourage young people to participate in the electoral process.
To help the economy, Grimes said she wants to have the most business-friendly laws on the books, and that includes nonprofits.
"We can be just as competitive as Ohio, Indiana and Tennessee and bring people here to do their charitable work," she said.
Grayson laid a great foundation, and Grimes says she wants to find more ways to take advantage of technology to help serve citizens and business owners in the state.
According to Grimes, this election is about the future of the state, and she hopes to have the support of local Democrats in the primary.
"Now is the time for my generation, a generation that is excited about where we've been, to take the reins," she said. "Together, we can build a better and brighter future for Kentucky."
Walker, 59, believes her background is an asset in the secretary of state's office.
"As a small business owner and a former mayor, I have created jobs and bring a unique perspective to the office of Secretary of State," she wrote.
Walker was serving as the mayor of Bowling Green when she was appointed to fill Grayson's term by Beshear. She also wrote that she is the only experienced public servant in the race.
"As an elected official, wife and daughter of a veteran, I understand the meaning of public service. I have always worked hard to work for the betterment of my community, state and country," she wrote.
She said she would like to see the implementation of Business One Stop legislation to streamline the businesses registration process for small business owners.
Since her appointment, Walker has met with county clerks across the state, and she would like to develop more online training opportunities because of the shrinking travel budgets on the state and local levels.
To encourage voter participation, she wrote that her office works with schools on all levels, and she will utilize her communications background to increase civic engagement.
Walker also wants voters to know who they are electing as secretary of state. She wrote that she has a record of public service, and she is not dependent on any political machine for her success.
"They have my commitment that I will bring the same level of integrity and strong work ethic to this job that I brought to my position as the longest serving mayor in Bowling Green's history," she wrote.
* Stephen Lega is News Editor at The Lebanon Enterprise.