Kentucky state representative Mike Harmon spoke to a crowd of 25-35 Centre students and Danville residents on Thursday night at the Campus Centre regarding SB 6, the Arizona-like immigration bill that recently passed the Kentucky Senate.
This was the first time that I was able to meet Representative Harmon in person. I didn’t know much about him other than that he’s a Republican representing my legislative district, which leans Democratic, and that he’s currently running for Lt. Governor in the Republican primary as the Tea Party candidate this fall.
I will admit that I was personally very impressed with Representative Harmon. He made clear from the outset that his purpose was to explain the provisions of the bill, answer any questions, and hear any concerns. Contrary to my expectations, he did not try to persuade his audience one way or another on the issue, although he admitted several times that there are various portions of the proposed law that he would “tweak” or change altogether if it were up to him. He acknowledged that there are a wide variety of opinions and passions on the immigration dilemma, and it was clear that most in the audience likely held political opinions very different from his own. As a result, he tried very hard to maintain an objective stance and was very respectful of everyone’s comments and opinions.
“Mike” came off as a very likable and well-informed fellow. He didn’t make you feel like he thought you were the devil incarnate if you happen to disagree with him on an issue. To be honest, this was a refreshing surprise given the heated rhetoric of many Tea Party-affiliated individuals and politicians at the national level.
At one point, one of the audience members pointedly asked what immigration “crisis” was currently occurring in Kentucky that the state Senate felt needed to dealt with. Representative Harmon tried his best not to assign motives to any one individual or group, and the most he gave us was: “Well… it’s an election year. I’ll let you connect the dots.”
As I’ve explained previously, the passage of SB 6 can best be understood as an election-year effort by a Republican gubernatorial candidate (Senate President David Williams) to shore up his conservative credentials and to peel off support among socially conservative Democrats, which are very common in Kentucky.
Trying to maintain elevated and respectful stance, however, Rep. Harmon tried his best not to make it personal, and I commend him for his efforts.