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Democrat Andy Beshear Aims for Upset in KY Governor's Race

Democrat Andy Beshear – He Aims to Defeat Extremist GOPer Governor Matt Bevin in Bluegrass/ “Redgrass” State Kentucky September 15, 2019

Kentucky, the Bluegrass State. It received that nickname because of the Spanish explorers who brought the seeds of the “poa pratensis” species to the New World. The name KY bluegrass comes from flower heads, which are blue when that plant is allowed to grow to its natural 2-3 feet height (Anderson, M., “Aggie Horticulture, nytimes.com, Ryan, D., letter to editor, 6/03/1993). KY may be known as the Bluegrass State, but, politically, it is covered in GOP “Red Grass.” KY was originally settled by Scots-Irish Protestant pioneers, who were strong supporters of Democrats Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson. However, KY has flipped “big time,” like its ethnically similar neighboring W VA and TN, into the “Team Red” camp. KY is 85% white, the seventh whitest state in the U.S. and has very few blacks and Hispanics. It is also among the top ten rural states, which usually align with the GOP. KY’s main industry, coal, which had unionized pockets of Democrats, is declining. KY constitutes part of the fundamentalist Protestant Bible Belt, one of “Team Red’s” main pillars. KY is home to Kim Davis, the former Rowan County clerk. She became a “heroine” to many of her fellow “Red Grass” residents by refusing to sign same-sex marriage licenses. “Red Grass” KY boasts a $100 million Noah’s Ark tourist attraction and Creation Museum built by Biblical literalists in Williamstown, between Cincinnati, OH and Lexington, KY. In its first year, more than 1 million people visited it (Barone 2020 Political Almanac).

In the past five presidential elections, KY has gone GOP. Demagogue Donald is a perfect fit for the state. Trump won here by 30 points, 63%-33%. Hillary’s comment about putting “coal miners and coal companies out of business,” didn’t help, but no presidential candidate with a “D” after his/her name could win in “modern” day KY. Obama lost to Romney in 2012 by 22 points, 60%-38% (Barone 20). KY’s two U.S. Senators are hard-right GOPers. The junior libertarian Senator is Rand Paul. The senior Senator is master obstructionist Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who proudly calls himself the “Grim Reaper” of progressive Democratic legislation. KY’s congressional delegation in the current 116th Congress remains an unchanged 5R-1D from the previous 115th Congress. In 11/2018, Democrats thought they had a strong chance of ousting 6th Congressional District incumbent GOP Congressman Andy Barr but lost by 3 points (Barone 20). KY currently has a “Red” trifecta-- GOP Gov. Matt Bevin, a 29R-9D State Senate, and a 61R-39D State House. In the down-state offices, there are two elected Democrats, Sec. of State Alison Lundergan Grimes and Attorney General Andy Beshear. Grimes lost a Senate race to McConnell in 2014 by 15 points. Beshear is running against Governor Matt Bevin in 11/2019. KY is only one of three states holding a gubernatorial election in 2019 (shareblue.com, Martin, D., 4/25/19, Barone 20). Despite “Red Grass” KY’s usual political behavior, Gov. Bevin appears rather vulnerable. Let’s look at the Bevin-Beshear race.

Denver, CO native Matthew (Matt) Griswold Bevin (52) was raised in Shelburne, NH, the second of six children where he lived on a farm. Bevin told audiences that he shared a bedroom with three brothers in a house without central heating. From this background, Bevin developed the attitude of “self-reliance and that government should just get out of people’s way.” After attending a Christian school, he later enrolled at Gould Academy, a ME boarding school (See Barone 2020, Yetter, D., courierjournal.com, 10/15/15). Bevin graduated from VA’s Washington & Lee University in 1989 where he participated in the ROTC. He rose to captain, and served four years of active duty with the 5th Mechanized Infantry Division. After the Army, Bevin went into the financial industry and other entrepreneurial ventures and, according to ethics filings, amassed between $13.4 million and $54.9 million in net worth. He and his wife have nine children, four of them adopted from Ethiopia (Barone 2020).

Bevin’s Army service in Fort Knox, KY reminded him of the area in which he grew up, and Bevin decided to move to KY (“News-Enterprise, Taylor, J., 7/16/19). In 2014, Bevin challenged then five-term U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in the GOP primary on the grounds that McConnell was not (LOL) “conservative enough (AP, Alford, 7/24/13).” Bevin had support and endorsements from Tea Party groups like Freedom Works as well as extremist talk radio hosts Mark Levin and Glenn Beck (noisyroom.com, “Christian Science Monitor,” Grier, P., 1/22/14, savingtherepublic.com, Levin). Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) Madison Project and the Senate Conservative Fund, allied with the Heritage foundation, funded Bevin’s candidacy (Barone 2020). McConnell strongly attacked Bevin. Politically inexperienced Bevin made numerous errors, including going to a cock-fighting rally and calling it a “state’s rights” event. McConnell crushed Bevin 60%-35%. After losing the primary, Bevin refused to endorse McConnell who still handily won the general election (See Barone 2020).

Shortly after his loss to McConnell, Bevin decided to run for Gov. of KY in 2015. Popular Democrat Steve Beshear, who had added more than 400,000 KY residents to Medicaid under Obamacare, with the successful Kynect health insurance exchange program, was term-limited. In the GOP primary, Bevin ran against three major candidates. In this bitter mud-slinging contest, Bevin surprisingly won by 83 votes (Barone 2020). In the general election, Bevin sought to repair ties with McConnell, and McConnell endorsed him. Bevin ran on a platform of enacting an anti-labor right-to-work law, implementing drug testing for recipients of public assistance, and most importantly, dismantling Obamacare Kynect. Bevin’s Democratic opponent, Attorney General Jack Conway, was modestly leading in most pre-election polls. However, 15% of the voters were undecided. Bevin decided to emphasize social issues. He visited clerk Kim Davis in jail for contempt for not signing same-sex marriage licenses. He later attended a rally celebrating her release. On Election Day 2015, Bevin, like Trump in 2016, won a surprise victory. He beat Conway by 9 points, 53%-44% (Barone 2020, Higaki, K., 9/08/15, whas.11co, Richmond, KY “Register,” Patrick, 8/11/15).

After being sworn into office on 12/08/2015, Bevin reversed orders by Democrat Beshear that restored voting rights for non-violent felons who had served their sentences. Gov. Bevin removed the names of county clerks from state marriage licenses. He reversed Beshear’s order raising the minimum wage for some state workers to $10.10 per hour (AP, Beam & Galofaro, 12/22/15). He declared both 2016 & 2017 the Year of the Bible in Ky (Watins, M., 12/22/16, courier-journal.com).

In 12/2015, Gov. Bevin announced KY would not renew advertising for Kynect. In 1/2016, Gov. Bevin notified federal authorities that he planned to dismantle Kynect by the end of 2016. The former Beshear administration stated this Kynect shutdown would cost KY $23 million, which Bevin denied (WHAS, 12/26/15, Yetter, courierjournal.com, 1/11/16, Cross, 2/01/16, “Richmond, KY Register”). As of 5/2016, Bevin had a 33% approval rating in KY, one of the lowest approval ratings among U.S. governors (5/30/16, WKYT). In 7/2018, after a federal judge rejected Bevin’s plans to overhaul Kynect, Gov. Bevin cut Medicaid dental and vision coverage for up to 460,000 Kentuckians. These included children, disabled adults, and pregnant women. Dentists had to turn children away, including some with significant tooth decay (AP, courier-journal.com, 7/03/18). Bevin signed an anti-union right-to-work law. He signed anti-abortion bills including one to ban the procedure after 20 weeks and one requiring a fetal ultrasound to be played audibly for and in view of the mother (Barone 2020). In 4/2016, Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear, former Gov. Steve Beshear’s son, sued Gov. Bevin over his cuts to the state university system and won in court on 9/21/2016 (courierjournal.com, Loftus, 4/11/16, wkyt.com, 9/21/16). Gov. Bevin pushed through a bill the day it was introduced into the KY state legislative chambers to reduce guaranteed retirement benefits for teachers and other government employees. When teachers went on sickouts to protest, Gov. Bevin angered them and much of the public by saying, “I guarantee you somewhere in KY today a child was sexually assaulted that was left at home because there was nobody to watch them. I guarantee you somewhere today that a child was physically harmed or ingested poison because they were home alone because a single parent didn’t have any money to take care of them.” (Barone 2020). Atty. Gen. Beshear filed suit over this pension-gutting bill and the KY Supreme Ct. ruled in his favor, calling it unconstitutional on 12/13/2018 (courier-journal.com).

In 2018, Gov. Bevin tried to enact work requirements for Medicaid recipients. A federal judge blocked Bevin’s initial plan in 6/2018, but an alternate policy was approved by Trump’s administration. It required most adults ages 19-64 to spend 80 hours a month either working in a job, looking for one, receiving job training, attending school, or volunteering (Barone 2020). Even with his GOP trifecta, Gov. Bevin ended up feuding with his own legislative leaders. Gov. Bevin’s aggressive style has often been compared to Trump’s. Bevin called a KY state judge a “political hack” and blocked people on social media. Bevin attacked Courier Journal Tom Loftus as “Peeping Tom” and “sick” and accused Bill Lamb, the general manager of a Louisville TV station, of lying.

In 2019, Bevin signed a tax cut bill for $107 million a year. In 2019, his revised state Medicaid work requirement suffered a setback in the courts as well as a law he signed banning abortions using the dilation and evacuation method. Bevin’s approval rating hit an abysmal 30% rating in 2018 (Barone 2020).

In KY Gubernatorial Campaign 2015, Attorney General Andy Beshear won the Democratic primary to challenge Bevin. Bevin racked up an unimpressive 52% vote in his GOP primary against a freshman state representative and two minor candidates. KY Attorney General Andy Beshear (41), as previously noted, is the son of former Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear. Andy Beshear, remember, recently won key cases against Bevin’s agenda in court. Beshear has filed nine lawsuits against drug companies for their alleged involvement in fueling KY’s opioid epidemic (Henry, M., wtvq.com, 11/19/18). In 12/2018, Andy Beshear joined 15 other attorney generals in opposing the ruling of a TX judge that Obamacare was unconstitutional. Atty. General Beshear called Obamacare, “a matter of life and death for so many families (courier-journal.com, 12/17/18).”

Can Andy Beshear defeat Matt Bevin? A 4/2019 Morning Consult Poll gave Bevin just a 33% approval rating to a “y uu ge” 52% disapproval score, making him the least popular U.S. Governor. He is the only governor disapproved by more than half the population (shareblue.com). Polling in 8/2019 has Bevin trailing Andy Beshear by 9 points. Demagogue Donald, VP Pence, and Donald Jr. have done rallies for him. Donald Jr.’s 8/27/2019 rally for Bevin in Pike County, which his father won by 80% in 2016, was one big flop. Only 200 people showed up at an arena with a 7,000- seating capacity (shareblue.com, Willis, 8/30/19). However, many Trump supporters in KY still love Bevin’s “mini-Donald” aggressive style and actions. In normally “Red Grass” KY, many people may not be telling pollsters their true feelings. Some will also claim that they remain “undecided,” as they “allegedly” were in 2015, but then broke for Bevin. Not many people are yet paying close attention to this race. Count on Bevin to get tons of right-wing money and to rev up to the tenth power all the social red-meat issues when Election Day gets closer. Yes, the polls look good. However, Democrat Conway’s 2015 polls looked good too. Elections, again, are won not by statistical poll samples, but actual turnout at the ballot box. KY Democrats and moderates must vote in droves to defeat “mini-Trump” Bevin. On 11/04/2019, Kentuckians must grow some true political “Blue Grass” by electing Andy Beshear.