Recent poll shows Republican Governor Matt Bevin vulnerable to Democratic challenge
LEXINGTON, Kentucky (CFP) — Amy McGrath will not seek Kentucky’s governorship in 2019, despite the urging of supporters who wanted the rising Democratic star to jump into the race against Republican Governor Matt Bevin, whose sagging popularity has made him vulnerable.
In a December 19 email to supporters, McGrath said she was “humbled by the encouragement” to get into the race but decided not to seek the governorship or any other statewide office next year.
“That doesn’t mean I’ll stop working for the values and beliefs we all care about,” she said. “I deeply wish to help move Kentucky and our country forward and I can assure you that I will continue to speak out on the important issues of the day.”
She went on to win the Democratic primary and raise $8.6 million for the race, the most by any Southern Democratic House challenger in the 2018 election cycle. In the end, she lost to Republican U.S. Rep. Andy Barr by 9,700 votes.
McGrath’s potential candidacy for governor faced a possible hurdle — Kentucky’s Constitution requires six years of continuous residence to run for governor, and McGrath had lived out of state during her military service before returning to run for Congress.
Had she run, the courts would have likely decided if McGrath’s out-of-state military service disqualified her.
However, that state requirement would not bar her from seeking federal office again — including the U.S. Senate seat held by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who is up for re-election in 2020.
Bevin announced in August that he plans to run for re-election in 2019. However, he has yet to file the paperwork needed to begin raising money for the race.
A Mason-Dixon poll taken Dec. 12-15 found Bevin’s approval rating at 38 percent, with 53 percent saying they disapproved of the governor’s performance. A year earlier, his approval was 45 percent in the same poll.
Earlier this month, the Kentucky Supreme Court unanimously struck down a pension reform bill crafted by Bevin and Republicans in the legislature, which sparked angry protests by teachers and state employees when it passed last spring.
Bevin then called lawmakers into special session to push through the pension measure again, only to see GOP leaders adjourn after one day without taking any action, which the governor criticized as “one of the worst financial days to have ever descended down on the Commonwealth.”
The legal fight to overturn the pension law was led by Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear, who is running to unseat Bevin. The Mason-Dixon poll showed Beshear with a 48 percent to 40 percent lead over Bevin in a hypothetical match-up, right at the poll’s margin of error.
Also in the Democratic race is House Minority Leader Rocky Adkins from Sandy Hook. The biggest unknown is whether Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes will run now that her father, Jerry Lundergan, has been indicted on charges of illegally funneling money into her 2014 U.S. Senate campaign.
Grimes, the only Democrat other than Beshear to hold statewide office, has not been implicated in the case. But her father’s trial is scheduled for August, right in the middle of the campaign.
Kentucky is one of five states that elect their governors in off years, along with Mississippi, Louisiana, Virginia, and New Jersey. Among those states, Mississippi and Louisiana are also up in 2019.
While Republicans hold most state and federal offices in Kentucky, and President Donald Trump carried the commonwealth by 30 points in 2016, Democrats have had more success winning the governorship.
Bevin is just the third Republican elected governor in the past 50 years, and no Republican has won re-election since the Constitution was changed in 1992 to allow governors to succeed themselves.