Jim Gray

District/Office: 
Political party: 
Democrat
Incumbent: 
No
Question 1: 

What is your vision for the role of US Senator from Kentucky? How will our Commonwealth be different in six years if you are elected?

Growing up here in Kentucky, I learned the values of my family and our neighbors. Living by the golden rule – treating others the way we wanted to be treated ourselves – is core to that value system. And I was fortunate to grow up in a time when the American Dream meant good paying jobs, opportunities for our kids and having a sense of security for our families’ future. Today, that dream is out of reach for too many. Unfortunately, Washington is terribly broken. They spend more time fighting than they do fixing. I want to change that. I know hard work. My dad built a construction company from scratch and together we grew to create thousands of jobs right here in Kentucky. Gray Construction is today one of the nation’s leading construction businesses right here in out state. As Mayor of Lexington, we turned a deficit into surplus and saved taxpayers tens of millions of dollars. We cut the unemployment rate in half and created 15,000 new jobs – a rate much faster than the rest of the state. I’m running to put this experience to work in Washington and restore the American Dream for every family in Kentucky.

Question 2: 

What are your ideas for building a healthier and more diverse economy in Kentucky? Specifically in Eastern Kentucky?

I’m going to work to create new opportunities and careers across the Commonwealth. I’ve done this work throughout my career, in business and as Mayor. As Mayor we saw the need to work with our regional partners, including Louisville for the first time, to establish a new economic development plan. And that’s what we did through the Bluegrass Economic Advancement Movement (BEAM). That work highlights the importance of advanced manufacturing to Kentucky’s economy and establishes goals that are critical to providing jobs for Kentucky workers. We have to think globally when talking about job creation in our state and driving exports, training workers, and attracting foreign investment are three critical components to rebuilding our state’s unique economy.    

Public investment has a role as well. Investing in smart infrastructure, including expanded broadband, to attract the jobs that will diversify the economy, specifically in eastern Kentucky. I can’t stress enough how important high-speed internet is to businesses and economic development. One of my company’s customers, Champion Pet Foods, chose to locate in Auburn Kentucky, a small rural town outside Bowling Green. Most of their employees live in Bowling Green and commute to work. One of the reasons they chose Auburn over Bowling Green was internet speeds. They are a Canadian-based firm that must communicate quickly and at high volumes. This facility, which just opened last year, now has a big economic footprint in Auburn and employs more than 200 people. We can and will attract more employers like Champion if we make smart investments.    

As for transitioning and education, workforce training is critical. Through the BEAM initiative, we made technical training a priority. With Governor Beshear, the legislature, Toyota and Bluegrass Community Technical College as partners we are opening a training center next to Toyota’s campus in Georgetown. This facility will prepare Kentucky workers for good paying, high-skilled jobs. When people need or want to transition their career this approach offers mobility.    

I’m also supportive of the efforts of Governor Beshear and Congressman Rogers SOAR initiative and proposals such as mine-reclamation projects. They are attacking problems head on -- that’s what leadership is all about.  

Question 3: 

What measures would you take as US Senator to ensure access to affordable health care for all Kentuckians?

Taking people’s healthcare away is not an option. Making health care more affordable for families and businesses is a top priority, and I am committed to working with Democrats and Republicans to do more to hold down health care costs. Improvements to the law are needed and I’m ready to work to quickly make needed changes, while keeping protections, rights, and benefits in the law. What I won’t do is go back to a time when insurance companies discriminated against women, canceled people’s policies if they were sick, denied coverage to those with pre-existing conditions, and put caps on coverage that drove people into bankruptcy.    

As Mayor, we reformed the City’s employee health insurance program. It was painful but it had to be done. It was too heavy a burden for taxpayers. So we looked for the best solutions, solutions that drove down the cost of healthcare to employees and the employer as well as deliver excellent care. We opened our own health center and pharmacy, dedicated to our employees and their families. Doctor’s visits are free and prescriptions are offered without retail pharmacy markups, which our employees appreciated. Our employees and their families are getting life-saving screenings and living healthier and happier lives. This experience can help inform the improvements we need to make at the federal level.  

Question 4: 

Do you support implementation of the Clean Power Plan? What opportunities do you see in the CPP to create new jobs and energy savings for Kentuckians?

Kentucky deserves a senator that’s going to fight for what’s right for Kentucky and tell the truth. The combination of competition, a changing energy market and the power plan has hurt Kentucky families. That’s the truth. The economic rug has been pulled out from under many Kentucky families regardless of whether they worked directly in the mines. Mining jobs provide an enormous economic benefit to the entire state’s economy. And after more than 200 years, it’s part of our heritage and history. So it’s not part of my DNA to say let’s stop mining. That’s not the solution and it’s just not feasible. Coal is important to affordable power and it’s important to Kentucky families. As the nation’s energy markets shift we must fight to be sure coal is a bridge to the future.    

I’m talking to business leaders and energy experts about what shifting energy trends will mean for our economy and consumers. Does solar, wind or water generation work for Kentucky? Does improving energy efficiency of homes and businesses have a market in the state? If so, we have skilled workers ready to work. These are attractive options but we need to confirm the viability before we declare victory. We must attack economic development intentionally from all angles. There is no silver bullet here. This world’s problems didn’t happen overnight and we can’t fix all its problems overnight either.    

As Mayor, we invested in energy efficiency and it resulted in savings. One of the City’s largest facilities, our detention center, was the first project. We upgraded technology, lighting and insulation. The project will pay for itself in 5 years and produce real energy savings over the next 20 years. Projects like this show that smart investments do pay and we can share this story so others see the benefits.   

Question 5: 

As US Senator, what policies would you support to protect public health and ensure access to clean water and air for all Kentuckians?

We’ve been fortunate to have a true professional running Lexington’s Department of Public Health, Dr. Rice Leach. I hired Dr. Leach as one of my first acts as Mayor and he’s retiring this year. Under his leadership we’ve seen great strides in transparency, public education and disease prevention through programs like the syringe exchange, one of the state’s first, which gets dirty needles off the streets and prevents transmission of HIV and hepatitis. Our work with Dr. Leach gives me perspective on how to stay ahead of the things that affect everyone whether it’s visible on the surface or not.    

Flint Michigan is an example of a total failure to protect public health. With that example and my experience in mind, I’ll be an advocate for clean water and air in the US Senate. Clean water and air are priorities in the Mayor’s office and we’ve made real investments and improvements since I took office in 2011.  

Question 6: 

How would you increase economic opportunity for Kentuckians, and reduce income and wealth inequality? Do you support a minimum wage increase?

My top priority is to grow the economy and make sure it works for all of us, especially hardworking families who play by the rules. Our economy has changed, and our policies need to change with it. We need to focus on growth, help small businesses thrive, revitalize manufacturing, empower startups to takeoff, promote innovation, and strengthen our workforce. Wages need to get moving in the right direction again, whether it’s raising the minimum wage – which we’ve done in Lexington – pay equity for women, or encouraging companies to see the value in investing more in their employees. Kentuckians who work hard and do their best should have an enjoyable and healthy life, which means enough money for a secure retirement, a good education for their kids, and a place to raise a family.

Question 7: 

As US Senator, what would you do to support greater racial justice and address racial inequality in the United States?

Racial justice should be a priority for anyone in elected office. Just talking about equality and diversity isn’t enough, to make an impact you must take action. As Mayor I appointed the city’s first African American Fire Chief and the city’s first female Chief Administrative Officer. In Lexington, we are intentional in officer recruiting and training efforts. We can always do better but we’ve taken steps to make sure our officers reflect and respect the community they serve. And we’ll be on the forefront as one of the first cities to use body cameras to protect citizens and build trust with officers. We’re listening to the community and using their input to create the guidelines for the program and then improve going forward. This is a significant financial investment for Lexington and it’s the right one.    

Additionally, our fiber project’s goal is to make Lexington a gigabit city, but one of my core goals is to ensure that this faster internet access is widely shared, reaching every neighborhood so that school kids – regardless of their parents’ income -- can tap the internet to as they work on their homework, and so that anyone looking for a job can do so online, where the listings are. We must confront racial injustice wherever we find it, and we must do all that we can to ensure a level playing field.  

Question 8: 

Do you support the restoration of voting rights for former felons who have served their full sentence? Are there other policies you support to increase voting rights and access to voting?

Yes, and I’ve supported former Representative Jessie Crenshaw’s efforts to restore voting rights. Kentucky’s felony disenfranchisement law is one of the harshest in the nation. One of the most inherently American privileges is the right to vote. Yet, thousands of Kentuckians are denied this basic right. Once individuals fully complete their sentences and pay all restitution, society expects them to reintegrate into the community and become law-abiding and productive citizens. A key part of that transition is the right to vote. I support restoring this right to those with non-violent convictions. This would affect more than 170,000 citizens who live, work and pay taxes in Kentucky. It’s critical that we protect the integrity of our elections, but the efforts underway to limit access to the ballot box undermine our democracy. Instead of defending the Constitution, some politicians are trying to dismantle our constitutional guarantee to have a voice in our democracy—manipulating our election laws to make it harder for eligible citizens of our state to vote — including seniors, minorities, young people and veterans. I will fight against this injustice. And I will work to preserve and extend this most basic right of our democracy.