LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky’s Republican governor and Democratic attorney general have faced off in court at least eight times since 2016. Now voters could finally get a chance to settle the feud next year.
Andy Beshear announced Monday he will seek the Democratic nomination for governor in 2019. He is the first candidate to formally enter the race, as Republican Gov. Matt Bevin has not said whether he will seek re-election.
“We need a new generation of leadership willing to listen and work with people, not bully them and say it’s my way or the highway,” Beshear said.
Beshear’s announcement has been expected for months. He and Bevin have had a bitter relationship, highlighted by Beshear’s multiple lawsuits against the governor for his use of executive authority. Their latest clash was over a new law Bevin signed making changes to Kentucky’s underfunded pension system. The law prompted thousands of teachers to protest at the Capitol, forcing dozens of school districts to close.
Bevin said the protests forced working parents to leave their children home alone, where some were likely sexually assaulted. Bevin later apologized, but his comments infuriated teachers. At least 34 current and former teachers are seeking seats in the state legislature this year, with two-thirds of them running as Democrats. Their political momentum was reflected in Beshear’s choice for a running mate: Jacqueline Coleman, a former teacher and current assistant principal at Nelson County High School. Coleman ran unsuccessfully for a state House seat in 2014. And she is a member of the Kentucky Education Association, the state’s largest teachers’ union.
Beshear is the son of former two-term Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear. As attorney general, Andy Beshear has focused on preventing child abuse, protecting the elderly from scams and combating the state’s opioid epidemic. He has filed six lawsuits against opioid makers and distributors, including a suit last month against pharmacy giant Walgreens. And he has not been shy about criticizing Bevin. He has twice publicly released his tax returns while criticizing Bevin for refusing to reveal his. And last year, Beshear told a Democratic gathering at Fancy Farm — the state’s premier political event — that “this governor is failing.”
But Bevin and his Republican allies have portrayed Beshear as corrupt. Beshear’s first chief deputy, Tim Longmeyer, is now serving a federal prison sentence for taking bribes and kickbacks. Plus, Beshear awarded a retroactive multi-million dollar contract to a Louisville law firm that eventually hired former Democratic Attorney General Jack Conway as a law partner. That’s why Bevin told a radio station last year it would “be my dream” to run against Beshear in 2019.
“To me, that would be fantastic. He’s not even competent as attorney general. The idea of him running for a job with greater responsibility would be interesting to watch him try to make that case,” Bevin said at the time.
Federal authorities have said repeatedly Beshear had no knowledge about Longmeyer’s illegal activities. Beshear later appointed a special prosecutor to secure state charges against Longmeyer. And Beshear said the contract awarded to the law firm was to pay them for their work on securing a million settlement with Purdue Pharma, the maker of Oxycontin. Conway said he did not benefit from the contract.