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Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear wins Democratic nomination to face Governor Matt Bevin

Bevin barely clears a majority in GOP gubernatorial primary

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com

LOUISVILLE (CFP) — Attorney General Andy Beshear narrowly won the Democratic primary for Kentucky governor, setting up a November showdown with Republican Governor Matt Bevin, who turned in a mediocre primary result against weak competition.

Attorney General Andy Beshear

Beshear turned back a challenge in the May 21 primary from State Rep. Rocky Adkins, who led for most of election night after running up huge margins of victory in Eastern Kentucky, where he lives. His lead faded once more returns from Louisville, Lexington and Western Kentucky rolled in.

Former State Auditor Adam Edelen, who led the race in fundraising and touted himself as a fresh face in Kentucky politics, finished third, unable to beat Beshear in the state’s urban centers and winning just two counties.

Beshear took 38 percent to 32 percent for Adkins and 27 percent for Edelen.

The results from the May 21 primary contained potentially ill portents for Bevin as he fights to hang on to his job.

Despite a significant money advantage and the powers of the governorship at his disposal, he took just 52 percent in the GOP primary against three little-known opponents and received 13,000 fewer votes in his primary than did Beshear, who faced much stouter competition — leading to some gloating by Beshear in his victory speech.

“Tonight we not only won this primary, we did something we’re going to do in November — we got more raw votes than Matt Bevin,” Beshear told supporters in Louisville.

State Rep. Robert Goforth, who has crisscrossed the commonwealth trying to convince his fellow Republicans that Bevin is a sure loser in November, took 39 percent of the vote and beat the governor in 27 of Kentucky’s 120 counties.

In the end, more than 120,000 Republicans voted for someone other than Bevin, who wrapped himself in the mantle of President Donald Trump in his television ads.

Speaking to reporters outside the Governor’s Mansion in Frankfort after the results came in, Bevin said he was not surprised by the result, noting that Goforth had run a substantive campaign.

The governor also said “I think it’s a little concerning for [Beshear] that he couldn’t even hit 40 percent.”

Bevin’s approval ratings have sagged as he sparred with his fellow Republicans in the legislature and criticized public school teachers, who have descended on Frankfort during the past two legislative sessions to protest proposed changes in state pensions.

His November battle with Beshear will be nothing new. The two have clashed repeatedly in court over the last four years, including the attorney general’s successful lawsuit to scuttle a GOP pension reform plan passed in 2018.

In his victory speech, Beshear — whose father, Steve, was Bevin’s predecessor as governor — went directly after Bevin, saying the general election is not about left versus right but “right versus wrong” and hitting the governor for contention in state politics during his term.

“We were raised better than this. We were raised better than the bullying we see in Frankfort,” he said. “Matt Bevin is going to try to make this election about anything other than his record because it is one of total failure.”

But Bevin told reporters at his news conference that the fall election will come down to a “binary” choice between conservative and liberal candidates.

“What you’re going to have … is a very clear contrast on issues that matter significantly to people in Kentucky,” Bevin said, noting in particular Beshear’s support for legal abortion, which he opposes “You have somebody in Andy Beshear who proudly supported Hillary Clinton. That doesn’t play well in Kentucky.”

The governor said he expects Trump to travel to Kentucky to campaign for him during the general election contest.

In other primary races, Miss America 2000 Heather French Henry, the only Kentucky woman to ever win the title, easily won the Democratic nomination for secretary of state to replaced the term-limited Alison Lundergan Grimes.

Henry polled more than 260,000 votes statewide, more than any other candidate on the primary ballot in either party.

Henry will face Republican Michael Adams, a former general counsel for the Republican Governor’s Association whom Bevin appointed to the State Board of Elections.

In the Republican race for attorney general, Daniel Cameron, an attorney and former University of Louisville football player who served as legal counsel to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, defeated State Senator Wil Schroder, a former prosecutor from suburban Cincinnati.

He will now face Democrat Greg Stumbo, who held the attorney general’s job from 2004 to 2008.

Hanging on to the attorney generalship, which Beshear used with great effect to stymie Bevin, is an important aim for Democrats, who have held the office continuously since 1948.

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Democrat Amy McGrath will not run for Kentucky governor in 2019

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.

Amy McGrath

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.”

McGrath, 43, a retired Marine combat pilot, burst on the political scene in 2017 when a video announcing her run for the 6th District U.S. House seat went viral.

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.

Other Democrats considering the race including former State Auditor Adam Edelen from Lexington and State Rep. Attica Scott from Louisville.

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.

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Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin announces he’s running for re-election

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.

Governor Matt Bevin

“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.

Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear launches 2019 governor’s race

Democrat is running for top job after three years of legal tussling with Republican Governor Matt Bevin

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPoiltics.com editor

BOWLING GREEN, Kentucky (CFP) — Democratic Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear has launched his campaign to unseat Republican Governor Matt Bevin in 2019. taking a dig at the incumbent with a pledge to “set a standard for transparency and decency” in Frankfort.

Attorney General Andy Beshear greets a supporter July 10 at Western Kentucky University. (CFP/Rich Shumate)

“Instead of leadership, we see name calling and bullying. Instead of working together, our government says it’s my way or the highway,” Beshear said at a July 10 rally at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, the final stop on a two-day campaign kickoff tour. “Kentucky deserves better.”

Beshear is the first candidate to announce a run for governor in 2019, getting a jump on other Democratic candidates who are considering the race, including Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, State House Minority Leader Rocky Adkins and former State Auditor Adam Edelen.

Beshear and Bevin have been at war — in public and in court — since 2016, when Beshear assumed the attorney generalship and the governor took over as chief executive from Beshear’s father, former Governor Steve Beshear, who served as governor from 2007 to 2015.

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.

The potency of the teachers’ protests as a political issue is reflected in Beshear’s choice for a running mate for lieutenant governor — Jacqueline Coleman, 36, a civics teacher and high school basketball coach from Harrodsburg, who was active in the protest movement.

Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin

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 Coleman made it clear that Bevin’s comments will live on in the governor’s race.

“Make no mistake — public education is under an all-out assault,” she said. “We have been insulted, disrespected, devalued and even called names by our current governor.”

In April, after the battle over pensions, WKU’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.

In an early sign of how personal the governor’s race is likely to get, Bevin greeted news of Beshear’s candidacy with his own pointed tweet: “For those Kentuckians who did not get enough corruption, self-dealing, embezzlement and bribery during the 8 corrupt years of Governor Steve Beshear, his son, Andy, is now offering a chance for 4 more years of the same …” He added the hashtag #BeshearFamilyTradition.

Bevin’s comment stems from the conviction of Beshear’s former chief deputy for accepting bribes from lobbyists when he worked in the administration of Beshear. Neither Beshear has been implicated in the case.

Asked about Bevin’s tweet, Beshear said, “I’m running for governor to restore transparency and decency … I think our current governor’s comments show how much that decency is needed.”

Beshear, 40, is in his first term as attorney general. He and Grimes are the only Democrats holding statewide office in Kentucky and may face each other in the governor’s primary.

Grimes made an unsuccessful challenge to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in 2014 — after McConnell first crushed Bevin in a GOP primary.

The governor has not announced if he will seek re-election in 2019. No Republican has ever won a second term as governor.

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 this fall, and nearly three dozen public school educators have filed to run for legislative seats across the commonwealth.

Republican Matt Bevin wins Kentucky governor’s race

Bevin’s victory over Attorney General Jack Conway is another takeaway for the GOP in the South

♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor

kentucky mugLOUISVILLE (CFP) — Just a year after losing a bruising primary battle against U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Louisville businessman and Tea Party favorite Matt Bevin has won the Kentucky governorship, taking away one of the Democrats’ three remaining governor’s seats in the South.

Kentucky Governor-elect Matt Bevin

Kentucky Governor-elect Matt Bevin

Unofficial results from the Secretary of State’s office showed Bevin with 53 percent to 44 percent for Democratic  Attorney General Jack Conway in the November 3 vote.

The win marks a remarkable feat for Bevin, 48, who jumped into the race right before the filing deadline, won the Republican primary by less than 100 votes and trailed Conway in the polls throughout the general election.

“What an extraordinary night this is,” Bevin told cheering supporters in Louisville. “This is a chance for a fresh start, it truly is, and we desperately need it.”

Bevin also issued a call for unity, saying, “We are one Kentucky–black, white, rural, urban, at both ends of the socio-economic spectrum.”

A turning point in the race may have come in September, when Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis was jailed for refusing to issue marriage licenses for same-sex couples on religious grounds.

Bevin embraced Davis’s fight, meeting with her and calling on Democratic Governor Steve Beshear to issue an executive order relieving Davis of the responsibility for signing marriage licenses.

Republicans had a good night across the board in the Bluegrass State, taking five of the seven statewide constitutional offices, with the attorney general’s race too close to call. The only outright Democratic winner was Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, who also challenged McConnell unsuccessfully in 2014.

Bevin’s running mate for lieutenant governor, Jenean Hampton, a Tea Party activist and former Air Force captain, is the first African-American ever elected to statewide office in Kentucky.

Although the commonwealth has become reliably Republican at the federal level, Bevin is just the second Republican in the last 44 years to be elected governor. Beshear was term limited.

With the GOP’s takeaway in Kentucky, Democrats hold governorships in only two of the 14 Southern states, Virginia and West Virginia, with a race in Louisiana to be decided in a November 21 runoff between Democratic State Rep. John Bel Edwards and Republican U.S. Senator David Vitter.

Kentucky GOP switches from presidential primary to caucus to help Rand Paul

Decision means Paul will be able to pursue the White House and re-election to the Senate simultaneously

♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor

kentucky mugFRANKFORT, Kentucky (CFP) — With U.S. Senator Rand Paul looking on, Kentucky’s Republican central committee voted to switch the presidential contest in the Bluegrass State from a May primary to a March caucus, clearing the way for Paul to run for the Senate and the White House at the same time.

U.S. Senator Rand Paul

U.S. Senator Rand Paul

However, the central committee made the switch contingent on Paul contributing at least $250,000 to defray expenses associated with the caucus, something Paul has promised to do. The committee set a deadline of Sept. 18 for the payment to be made.

The vote, held by secret ballot, was 111-36, more than the two-thirds majority necessary to make the change. After the vote was announced, Paul’s supporters stood and cheered.

Paul release a statement saying “holding a caucus will ensure that Kentucky is relevant and participates early in the process.”

“I am also grateful for the Republican Party’s trust in me, allowing me to run for re-election to the U.S. Senate and seek the nomination for the presidency of the United States,” he said.

The change was necessary because Kentucky law does not allow the same candidate to appear on the ballot twice in the same election. If the Kentucky GOP held a primary, Paul would have faced a choice of whether to seek a second term in the Senate or opt out of a presidential primary contest he is likely to win. The caucus is also earlier in the presidential nominating calendar, which could boost his White House prospects.

Kentucky Democrats, who control the state House and the governorship, have blocked efforts by Paul’s allies to change the state law against political double-dipping. While the change fixes Paul’s problem for the primary, he could still face the same issue in November 2016 if he wins the GOP presidential nomination.

Paul maintains the law is unconstitutional because of a 1995 Supreme Court ruling that a state can’t impose its own restrictions in races for federal offices. He had hinted that he would a federal lawsuit if any attempt is made to keep him from seeking both offices at the same time.

The switch to a caucus was criticized by the Bluegrass State’s top elections official, Democratic Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, who issued a statement saying “it is unfortunate that today a few insiders were able to disenfranchise over 1.2 million Republican voters.”

“One candidate should not be able to buy an election. Democracy demands that all eligible Kentuckians be a part of the election process. That didn’t happen today and won’t happen with a caucus.

There is historical precedent for running for both the presidency or vice presidency and Congress at the same time, most recently in 2012 when U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, the GOP’s vice presidential nominee, was re-elected to his House seat in Wisconsin.

Vice President Joe Biden also won Senate re-election in 2008 on the same day he was elected vice president, as did Lyndon Johnson in 1960.

The only other senator up for re-election in 2016 running for president, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, is giving up his Senate seat.

Kentucky GOP okays switch to 2016 caucus to help U.S. Senator Rand Paul

Decision to change presidential selection process clears way for Paul to seek both re-election and the White House

♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor

kentucky mugBOWLING GREEN Kentucky (CFP) — Republican Party leaders in Kentucky have agreed to switch their presidential nominating contest in 2016 from a primary to a caucus, clearing a potential hurdle in U.S. Senator Rand Paul’s expected run for the GOP presidential nomination.

U.S. Senator Rand Paul

U.S. Senator Rand Paul

After a closed-door meeting March 7, the state party’s executive committee approved the change, which must still be approved by the full party central committee in August.

Paul appeared at the executive committee meeting in Bowling Green to meet with party leaders and lobby for the change. His campaign has agreed to raise money to cover the costs associated with holding a caucus.

However, the proposed change was blasted by the Bluegrass State’s top elections official, Democratic Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, who said the switch to a caucus would introduce “chaos” into the process by disenfranchising voters who would not be able to attend.

“I call on the Republican Party of Kentucky to provide details on how all their voters would be able to participate and how the party intends to uphold the integrity of the process,” she said.

Paul has already kicked off his Senate re-election campaign and is expected to make a decision on the presidential race this spring.

Grimes, who ran unsuccessfully against Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in 2014, has been insisting that a state law prohibiting a candidate from appearing for two different offices on the same ballot precludes Paul from seeking re-election to the Senate while also running in the May 2016 presidential primary.

Kentucky Democrats, who control the state House and the governorship, have blocked efforts by Paul’s allies to change the state law against political double-dipping

The switch to a caucus, which would be held on a different day earlier in the year, would get around the problem, although if Paul were to win the GOP presidential nomination, he would face the same problem in the November 2016 general election.

Paul maintains the law is unconstitutional because of a 1995 Supreme Court ruling that a state can’t impose its own restrictions in races for federal offices. He has hinted that he may file a federal lawsuit if any attempt is made to keep him from seeking both offices.

A Bluegrass/Survey USA poll last September showed 66 percent of state voters and 54 percent of Republicans were opposed to changing the law.

There is historical precedent for running for both the presidency or vice presidency and Congress at the same time, most recently in 2012 when U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, the GOP’s vice presidential nominee, was re-elected to his House seat in Wisconsin.

Vice President Joe Biden also won Senate re-election in 2008 on the same day he was elected vice president, as did Lyndon Johnson in 1960.

The only other senator up for re-election in 2016 considering a White House bid, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, has said he will give up his Senate seat if he pursues the Republican presidential nomination.

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