Kentucky governor flexes incumbency power in reelection bid

Jan 27, 2023, 7:38 PM | Updated: Jan 28, 2023, 9:39 am
FILE -Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear delivers his State of the Commonwealth speech in front of a joint ...

FILE -Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear delivers his State of the Commonwealth speech in front of a joint session of the legislature from the floor of the Kentucky House of Representatives, Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2023, in Frankfort, Ky. In his latest effort to ride the power of incumbency to reelection, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear touted the state's newest round of job-creation successes, honored a retiring police officer and highlighted recovery assistance for a flood-stricken region. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley, File)

(AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley, File)

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Playing up the advantages of incumbency he hopes to ride to reelectio n, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear recently touted the state’s newest round of job-creation successes, honored a retiring police officer and highlighted recovery assistance for a flood-stricken region.

The Democratic governor packed all three feel-good developments into his most recent news conference Thursday. In his regular media events — and at frequent appearances across the Bluegrass State — Beshear has nurtured his own upbeat political brand. He’s known simply as “Andy” across a state that has mostly turned against his political party and become a Republican stronghold.

“I think people see that this administration isn’t trying to pull Kentucky to the right or left, but just to move it forward,” Beshear said when asked Thursday about a fresh round of good polling news more than nine months before the November general election.

A dozen Republicans are competing for a shot at trying to unseat Beshear, whose approval ratings remain high despite steady criticism from the other side. He’s won praise for his responses to devastating tornadoes and flooding as well as a string of economic development and infrastructure successes. His GOP challengers include Attorney General Daniel Cameron, state Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles, former United Nations Ambassador Kelly Craft, state Auditor Mike Harmon and Somerset Mayor Alan Keck.

Beshear’s efforts to fend off red-state attacks by offering a steady dose of optimism come the year before national elections that will decide control of the White House and Congress. Beshear will have plenty of money to fight back, and the Democratic Governors Association has pegged his campaign as its top priority in 2023.

DGA spokesperson Sam Newton said the favorable polling stems from Beshear having “led the commonwealth through crises and delivered where it counts.”

The coming blitz of attack ads against the governor began recently when Craft tried connecting Beshear to President Joe Biden’s immigration policies on the nation’s southern border. Craft, who has made fighting illegal drugs a lynchpin of her campaign, blames those border policies for contributing to an influx of illegal drugs into Kentucky.

“We simply cannot wait any longer for Andy Beshear, Joe Biden and the federal government to secure the border,” Craft said in a follow-up statement.

Beshear, who has displayed a knack for strategic pushback, counterpunched by invoking the border’s defenders.

At his Thursday news conference, he declared that a “strong national security requires strong border security.”

Kentucky has done its part, he said, noting that hundreds of Kentucky National Guard soldiers have been deployed to the nation’s southwest border during his tenure and that a Kentucky guard member died while serving as part of the mission.

“For somebody wanting to be governor to talk about the border and to not mention the sacrifice and heroic service of our National Guard, and recognize their loss, I think is disrespectful and disqualifying,” the governor said.

For the most part, though, Beshear has tried to steer clear of national politics.

His ability to “operate mostly in non-ideological arenas” has positioned him as the early frontrunner, but the GOP has plenty of room to run against the incumbent, including his personal values that are “quite liberal,” said Scott Jennings, a Kentucky-based Republican political commentator and former adviser to former President George W. Bush with close ties to Sen. Mitch McConnell. Beshear’s policy disputes with the state’s GOP-dominated legislature also could become fodder for Republicans.

“He’s not unbeatable,” Jennings said. “There’s a path, but he starts the race ahead.”

Beshear’s deftness at steering clear of the national political fray was on display in recent days.

As he does at each weekly news conference, the governor touted new economic development projects Thursday — this time expected to create nearly 320 jobs and totaling more than $360 million in investments. Coming off a two-year stretch of record-setting private sector investments and job growth in Kentucky, the new projects show “we are not slowing down at all,” he said.

“With all of these new jobs and new industries we’re locating, we’re getting ever closer to reversing that trend of our kids leaving Kentucky to go somewhere else,” Beshear said.

During a recent visit to Pikeville in eastern Kentucky — where he announced assistance to expand access to clean water and support nonprofits — the governor promoted efforts, backed by state lawmakers, to help the region recover from last summer’s historic flooding. Beshear gives frequent updates on recovery efforts from tornadoes in western Kentucky and flooding in the east.

Pointing to the state’s resilience to overcome epic storms and the COVID-19 pandemic, Beshear said: “I truly believe as a state that we are turning the page from adversity to prosperity.”

At his Thursday news conference, the governor said he’s plugged into issues that matter most to families — good-paying jobs, affordable health care and quality education. It’s a reprise of his 2019 campaign, when he unseated the state’s former Republican governor, Matt Bevin. Public safety is another core issue, Beshear said Thursday as he honored a retiring police officer from Georgetown, Kentucky.

“To all our law enforcement across the commonwealth, we love you,” said Beshear, a former state attorney general. “We care about you. Please stay safe.”

Republicans, meanwhile, aren’t persuaded that Beshear can ride the feel-good vibes to a second term. They say he’s simply out of step with Kentuckians on too many issues.

“Andy Beshear can drape himself in whatever costume he likes, but it won’t change the fact that he is an ideological believer in the values of the Democrat Party,” said Kentucky Republican Party spokesperson Sean Southard.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


File - People shop at an Apple store in the Westfield Garden State Plaza mall in Paramus, New Jerse...
Associated Press

A key inflation gauge tracked by the Fed slowed in February

The Federal Reserve's favored inflation gauge slowed sharply last month, an encouraging sign in the Fed's yearlong effort to cool price pressures through steadily higher interest rates.
1 day ago
FILE - The OpenAI logo is seen on a mobile phone in front of a computer screen displaying output fr...
Associated Press

Musk, scientists call for halt to AI race sparked by ChatGPT

Are tech companies moving too fast in rolling out powerful artificial intelligence technology that could one day outsmart humans?
2 days ago
Associated Press

Starbucks leader grilled by Senate over anti-union actions

Longtime Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz faced sharp questioning Wednesday before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee
3 days ago
FILE - The overdose-reversal drug Narcan is displayed during training for employees of the Public H...
Associated Press

FDA approves over-the-counter Narcan; here’s what it means

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday approved selling naloxone without a prescription, the first over-the-counter opioid treatment.
3 days ago
FILE - A Seattle police officer walks past tents used by people experiencing homelessness, March 11...
Associated Press

Seattle, feds seek to end most oversight of city’s police

  SEATTLE (AP) — The U.S. Justice Department and Seattle officials asked a judge Tuesday to end most federal oversight of the city’s police department, saying its sustained, decade-long reform efforts are a model for other cities whose law enforcement agencies face federal civil rights investigations. Seattle has overhauled virtually all aspects of its police […]
4 days ago
capital gains tax budgets...
Associated Press

Washington moves to end child sex abuse lawsuit time limits

People who were sexually abused as children in Washington state may soon be able to bring lawsuits against the state, schools or other institutions for failing to stop the abuse, no matter when it happened.
4 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Compassion International...

Brock Huard and Friends Rally Around The Fight for First Campaign

Professional athletes are teaming up to prevent infant mortality and empower women at risk in communities facing severe poverty.
Emergency Preparedness...

Prepare for the next disaster at the Emergency Preparedness Conference

Being prepared before the next emergency arrives is key to preserving businesses and organizations of many kinds.
SHIBA volunteer...

Volunteer to help people understand their Medicare options!

If you’re retired or getting ready to retire and looking for new ways to stay active, becoming a SHIBA volunteer could be for you!
safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Kentucky governor flexes incumbency power in reelection bid