Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to clarify the timeframe at issue and to add a response from Teresa Barton.
Veterans supporting former lawmaker Gex “Jay” Williams in his bid for the open 20th Senate District race are calling on his Democratic challenger Teresa Barton to apologize.
The veterans are taking up for Williams after a stinging letter was published in Frankfort State Journal alleging Williams lied about serving in the military in his bio when he joined the state Senate back in 1991.
The issue reared its head when Williams sought a Congressional seat in 1998, and now the claim is coming back. At issue is whether or not Williams falsely stated in his bio from 1992 to 1994 that he graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy. Barton is following part of that path used in the 1998 race with ads attacking Williams for falsely claiming he graduated from the academy.
Williams attended the U.S. Naval Academy for 2 years and then went on to graduate from the University of Florida. His campaign has tapped numerous veterans to make this case, and to call on Barton to make an apology for using this attack.
“The only thing that is dishonorable is his opponent’s use of this staff error to falsely accuse Gex of having “stolen valor” from Veterans, who she then asked to report this information in a false light in her campaign ads,” said U.S. Army Col. (Ret) Arthur L. Kelly.
Aaron Reed, a former Navy SEAL, who was running for the open Senate seat before redistricting placed him in another district, made a video for the Williams campaign also defending him.
“As a combat veteran, I’m disgusted by the lies that Democrat Teresa Barton is telling about Gex Williams. I’ve gotten to know Gex, I’ve looked him in the eye, I’ve shaken his hand,” Reed said. “He’s a good and honest man, and a Christian at that. His grandfather and his father served in the World Wars. Three of Gex’s sons served in the military and one is still active duty after 21 years. So don’t listen to the lies about Gex. He cares about veterans and he’ll be a great state senator for veterans. I’m supporting him, and I hope you will too.”
Barton rejected the claims, calling Williams desperate in the 11th hour of the campaign.
“This is not true and it is disgraceful that Gex Williams would lie to his supporters who are veterans, in a desperate attempt to get them to defend him. There is no defense for Gex Williams,” Barton said in a statement. “The KY Legislative Handbook listing each legislator and their bio, was published not once, not twice, but THREE times spanning a period of at least three years – 1992 – 1994. In all three issues Gex claimed to have graduated from the prestigious U.S. Naval Academy. The facts clearly show that Gex did not attempt to “correct the report as soon as it was published.”
“As a daughter of a veteran and the mother of a Combat Veteran who fought and was wounded in Afghanistan, every veteran and every voter should be outraged that Gex Williams continues to lie to cover up his initial lie,” she continued. “I urge the voters of the Kentucky Senate District 20 to support Kentucky’s veterans by supporting me – a state senator who will fight for and defend our veterans on the issues important to them – education, job training, health benefits, and legalizing medical cannabis to help those suffering with PTSD.”
Early voting is already taking place across Kentucky. Election Day is Nov. 8.