In Gov. Matt Bevin’s first television commercial for the Nov. 5 election, he takes credit for new jobs and economic growth.
The 30-second ad, titled “Forward,” shows clips of planes, trucks and even his Democratic opponent, Attorney General Andy Beshear, moving in reverse to make them look like they’re going backward.
“Kentucky forever seemed to be moving backwards,” a female narrator says. Over a reversed clip of Beshear she reads, “We can’t afford to go back.”
The ad implicitly credits Bevin for the lowest unemployment in Kentucky’s history.
According to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, in December 2015, unemployment in Kentucky was 5.3%. In July 2019, it was 4.3%. Between March and May of 2019, it was 4%, which appears to have been the lowest rate in Kentucky in at least the last 40 years. The data shows that Kentucky’s unemployment rate has declined steadily after the end of the Great Recession in 2009.
The message of Bevin’s ad is illustrated with a map of Kentucky, showing dollar signs popping up all across the state.
Beshear says the ad is misleading.
“All across Kentucky, we have storefronts boarded up in our small towns,” Beshear said the day the ad began. “People haven't seen a raise in decades, and they are struggling just to get by."
According to a recent report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than half of Kentucky counties had fewer jobs in July than they had one year earlier. Of the 68 counties that lost jobs, 56 are categorized as rural.
Bevin’s campaign didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
His TV ad says 55,000 jobs have been created in Kentucky since he took office in December 2015.
The Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development said the 55,000 figure is the total number of jobs “announced” by companies building or expanding in Kentucky. These jobs are ones that employers have filled or are expecting to fill.
“There’s no immediate way to know which jobs have been filled,” Jack Mazurak, communications director for the Cabinet for Economic Development, said in an email. “Companies that receive state incentives submit reports to the state annually, but again, due to the lag time between announcement, site development, construction and the actual job creation and total ramp-up, it can take a few years.”
Bevin is set to spend $3.7 million on TV ads from now until the election, according to a press release. Bevin is also supported by ads from the Republican Governors Association that attack Beshear.
The Democrat has been running his own commercials since Aug. 5, focusing mainly on his work as attorney general for victims of rape, human trafficking and child abuse, and families worried about losing health insurance.
Noah Oldham, a University of Kentucky journalism student, covers the 2019 gubernatorial race for The State Journal. His colleague Bailey Vandiver contributed to this report.