January 19, 2024 12:00pm

Most Power Poll members think Trump should be barred from Kentucky's ballot on 14th Amendment grounds

They also oppose two education bills that would restrict "divisive concepts" at public universities and have state Board of Education members run in partisan elections.

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Lexington, KY Correspondent
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More than 60 percent of Lexington Power Poll members think former President Donald Trump should be barred from the Kentucky ballot for the Republican presidential nomination on 14th Amendment grounds because of his role in the deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

And even bigger majorities oppose two education bills pending in the Kentucky state Senate. One bill would restrict diversity programs at state colleges and universities and discourage the teaching of “divisive concepts” about history and race; the other would have Kentucky Board of Education members run in partisan regional elections rather than be appointed by the governor.

Trump, who continues to spread lies about the 2020 election, is a strong frontrunner for his party’s nomination this year. That is despite the fact he is facing 91 felony counts in four different cases and has been found guilty in civil cases of sexual assault, fraud and defamation. He has a long history of illegal behavior and lawsuits.

Among the criminal charges Trump faces are four counts related to inciting the Capitol insurrection and other efforts to remain in power despite losing the 2020 election to President Joe Biden. The insurrection has been blamed for several deaths, injuries to 174 police officers and millions of dollars in damage to the Capitol.

The 14th Amendment, passed by Congress and ratified by state legislatures after the Civil War, prohibits anyone who engages in insurrection against the United States government from holding public office. It was designed to try to keep Confederates from regaining power despite their continued popularity in the vanquished South.

Maine and Colorado have barred Trump from their ballots, citing the 14th amendment, and challenges are pending in 18 other states. Trump has filed to run in Kentucky, although no official ballot challenge has been made here.

Several prominent legal scholars, both liberal and conservative, have opined that the 14th Amendment makes Trump ineligible to become president again. But the final decision will be up to the U.S. Supreme Court, whose 6-3 conservative majority includes three justices appointed by Trump and another, Clarence Thomas, who has been called upon to recuse himself because his wife was involved in efforts to keep Trump in power.

In the meantime, Lexington Power Poll members have opinions. Sixty-one percent (126 members) said they thought Trump should be barred from Kentucky’s ballot, while 30 percent (62 people) didn’t think so. Eighteen people (9 percent) had no opinion on the issue.

State Sen. Mike Wilson, a Republican from Bowling Green, has introduced two pieces of education legislation that have attracted attention in the General Assembly’s 2024 session, which began Jan. 2.

The first, modeled on laws passed by Republican legislators in Tennessee and other states, would allow people to sue public colleges and universities for as much as $100,000 if they felt discriminated against for rejecting “divisive concepts” about the history of racism in America. One such concept defined by the bill is that “the Commonwealth of Kentucky or the United States of America is fundamentally or irredeemably racist or sexist.” The bill also seeks to curb universities’ diversity, equity and inclusion programs. (Click here for more details and click here to read the bill’s text.)

Asked their opinion of the legislation, 87 percent of Power Poll members (179 people) opposed Wilson’s bill, while 10 percent (21 people) supported it. Six people (3 percent) had no opinion.

“I strongly disagree with any proposed legislation that controls what content educational institutions can or cannot teach,” said poll member Brian Chellgren, a partner in the law firm Dentons Bingham Greenebaum. “If a politician from one side passes legislation blocking certain content disfavored by that side, it opens the door for a politician from the other side to block content disfavored by the other side. It is a lose-lose situation.”

Wilson’s other bill calls for members of the Kentucky Board of Education, who are now appointed by the governor, to be elected in partisan elections regionally, two from each of the seven state Supreme Court districts.

The bill is one of many the General Assembly’s Republican super-majority has passed to take power away from Gov. Andy Beshear, a Democrat, who was re-elected to a second term in November. Lawmakers last year passed legislation requiring the state education commissioner be confirmed by the Senate, and overrode Beshear’s veto of it.

Seventy-five percent of Power Poll members (155 people) said they opposed the idea of a partisan elected Kentucky Board of Education, while 15 percent (30 people) said they supported it. Ten percent (21 people) had no opinion.

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About Power Poll: Power Poll asks questions of the most powerful, influential people in U.S. cities. It is not a scientific survey. But because the people responding to the surveys comprise the leadership structure of their cities, the results afford a fascinating glimpse into the thoughts, opinions, and beliefs of those in a position to make change. Power Poll is distinctly nonpartisan.

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