Bevin’s quest for a second term in 2019 comes amid fallout over contentious teachers’ strike
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor
LEXINGTON, Kentucky (CFP) — After months of being tight-lipped about his political plans, Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin has announced that he will run for re-election in 2019, amid the fallout from a teachers’ strike earlier this year that roiled politics across the Bluegrass State.
His decision sets up a possible battle with Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear, who has used the powers of his office to become a significant thorn in the governor’s side over the last three years.
“You bet I’m running,” Bevin told a state GOP gathering in Lexington August 25. “There was not a chance that I was going to walk away and leave the seeds that we’ve put in the ground to be trampled on or intentionally dug up by any kind of people that choose to follow behind.”
Bevin told the assembled Republicans to “buckle up, because the next five years are going to be something to watch.”
Beshear responded to Bevin’s announcement on Twitter, saying, “For the sake of public education, our teachers and public servants, and our basic values of caring and decency, we must win this election! Kentucky deserves much better.”
Bevin, 51, was a businessman with no elected experience when he won the governorship in 2015, becoming just the third Republican to serve in the post in the previous 60 years. No Republican has ever been elected to two terms since Kentucky governors became eligible to seek re-election in 1995.
Beshear has sued the governor at least eight times, including a challenge to a pension reform bill that prompted thousands of public school teachers to converge on the State Capitol in protest earlier this year. A lower court judge blocked the plan on constitutional grounds, a decision which the Bevin administration is now appealing.
Bevin drew the ire of teachers for remarks he made in April after protests shut down a number of school districts: “I guarantee you somewhere in Kentucky today, a child was sexually assaulted that was left at home because there was nobody there to watch them. I guarantee you somewhere today, a child was physically harmed or ingested poison because they were left alone because a single parent didn’t have any money to take care of them.”
The governor later apologized for the comments, which drew the ire of even his fellow Republicans in the legislature. But his statement will no doubt live on in the governor’s race.
In April, after the battle over public employee pensions, Western Kentucky University’s Big Red Poll found that Bevin’s job approval stood at just 32 percent, with 56 percent disapproving. A majority of poll respondents also said they sided with teachers in their dispute with Bevin, while just 16 percent expressed support for the governor.
Beshear was the first Democrat to announce for governor in 2019. However, several other candidates are eyeing the race, including Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, State House Minority Leader Rocky Adkins and former State Auditor Adam Edelen.
A primary battle between Grimes and Beshear would put against each other the only two Democrats holding statewide office. Grimes made an unsuccessful challenge to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in 2014 — after McConnell first crushed Bevin in a GOP primary.
Beshear is the son of Bevin’s predecessor, former Governor Steve Beshear, who served afrom 2007 to 2015.
Kentucky is one of four states that elect their governors in off years, along with Mississippi, Virginia, and New Jersey. However, state legislators are up for election this fall, and nearly three dozen public school educators have filed to run for legislative seats across the commonwealth.