Editor’s note: Bailey Vandiver is a University of Kentucky journalism major who is covering the 2019 gubernatorial race for The State Journal.
FANCY FARM, Ky. — On the Fancy Farm stage, incumbent Republican Gov. Matt Bevin and Democratic challenger Attorney General Andy Beshear made their case to voters— including thousands in attendance who loudly voiced their support and disdain for the candidates.
Based on the passion of the crowd’s chants, it seemed that everyone in attendance had their mind made up— but many more were watching statewide who could still be swayed.
Beshear started his remarks with anti-Bevin quips, calling the governor “reckless and erratic” before listing what he said are the four main issues in this election: pensions, public education, jobs and health care. “Matt Bevin is the single greatest threat to public education we’ve ever seen,” he declared.
“I will listen to you instead of insulting you. ... I’m going to be a governor who governs by the Golden Rule,” Beshear said.
Bevin framed his extemporaneous remarks as a simple choice: “Do you want to keep going forward or do you want to go backward? The question I ask you to ask yourselves is, ’Which side are you on?’ ”
He asked, “Are you on the side of life or are you on the side of those that would take lives and profit from the blood money associated with it?” Bevin displayed an enlargement of an invitation to a Beshear fundraiser held by “the owner of the only abortion clinic left in Kentucky.”
Democrats didn’t mention their support for abortion rights, but several Republicans did, as they spoke to the picnic at St. Jerome Catholic Church in socially conservative western Kentucky.
But the crowd also included many supporters from elsewhere in the state, especially teachers aligned with Beshear.
Both candidates touted their record on public education, though with very different perspectives. Bevin said he is the first governor to ensure fully funded pensions and noted that Democrats failed to do so for years before him. He also said he put all state lottery money into education for the first time.
Beshear brought up Bevin’s disparaging comments about teachers and said that he, in contrast, believes in teachers “so much I chose one as my running mate.”
Beshear, referring to Bevin’s frequent description of his job as “shoveling out the barn” left by Beshear’s father, Gov. Steve Beshear, said, “In Kentucky we don’t shovel barns; we muck stalls … You’re more show pony than workhorse… . You’ve left us a lot of manure.”
Both lieutenant governor candidates reinforced the message of their ticket.
Jacqueline Coleman, assistant principal at Nelson County High School and a basketball coach, said Bevin is “the Christian Laettner of Kentucky politics” for several reasons, including “cheap shots.” Laettner made the game-winning shot for Duke University over the University of Kentucky in a 1992 Elite Eight game.
Coleman suggested several fanciful names for charter schools, including one named after Bevin for studying “the Napoleon complex” and one for his running mate, state Sen. Ralph Alvarado, for “doctors against medicine.” Alvarado recently said the government should not require parents to have their children vaccinated.
Alvarado, who spoke before Coleman, used a prepared text with key campaign points, starting with, “Kentucky is clearly better off than she was four years ago, and we’re just getting started,” and calling Beshear “Abortion Andy.”
Using a call-and-response format, he asked questions such as “Do you support creating high-paying jobs?” and “Do you support President Trump?”
When many in the crowd shouted yes, Alvarado said, “Then vote Matt Bevin.”
Alvarado said that he wasn’t groomed for a political career, unlike Beshear and attorney general candidate Greg Stumbo, who served as attorney general from 2004 through 2007.
Republican attorney general candidate Daniel Cameron said of his opponent, “Greg Stumbo is like the milk you have in the back of your refrigerator… When you open it up, it smells terrible.”
Cameron claimed Stumbo “wants open borders” and “won’t take responsibility for his own poor decisions.”
Stumbo touted his record as attorney general, saying he was the first in the nation to sue Purdue Pharma, the maker of Oxycontin, the painkiller blamed for sparking the opioid epidemic, and referring to his prosecution of Republican governor Ernie Fletcher.
“We proved that even the governor is not above the law,” Stumbo said.