Bevin-Beshear war to take center stage in Kentucky governor's race

Published: May. 21, 2019 at 11:14 PM EDT
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A four-year war between Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin and the Beshear political family is expected to reach its peak heading into November's election.

This comes as the incumbent Republican governor will take on Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear in what will be a closely watched race throughout the country.

Kentucky elected Bevin in 2015, but the rising Republican would attack outgoing governor Steve Beshear's policies throughout the campaign. The attacks would continue when he took office, as he cut the health insurance marketplace Kynect when he took office. Kynect was the state's version of the Affordable Care Act.

"My job is to govern, not sit on the outside and be an armchair quarterback," Bevin said about his predecessor's policies in February 2016.

Steve Beshear would fire back with comments in April 2016.

"He has bullied our universities, he has bullied you in the media, and he has bullied organizations that rely on state funding, but he is not gonna get away with bullying me," Steve Beshear said.

Bevin's election came on the same night Andy Beshear would become the state's attorney general, and he would continue his father's legacy in the position by offering legal challenges to many of the governor's policies.

When Governor Bevin tried to cut funding to higher education, Attorney General Andy Beshear sued. The Kentucky Supreme Court ruled in the attorney general's favor. When the governor abolished and replaced the boards of trustees at the University of Louisville and the Kentucky Retirement Systems, the attorney general sued. That makes lawsuits two and three.

The fourth time the two went to court, was on challenging the executive order that made those actions possible. The Kentucky Supreme Court declined to rule on whether it was legal for the governor to abolish and replace the board. Because the state legislature passed a law later in the year, Governor Bevin would have more power to remove trustees. The Kentucky Supreme Court dismissed the case, saying the issue was moot.

When the debate turned toward Kentucky's troubled pension system, the battle between Matt Bevin and Andy Beshear became heated.

"The pension bill is government at its worst. It violates the rights of tens of thousands of Kentuckians," Beshear said in April 2018 about Senate Bill 151. The bill would have moved new teacher hires into a hybrid plan that puts less risk on the state but doesn't guarantee them the same benefits.

Bevin would sign it into law, and Beshear would once again file a lawsuit. The Kentucky Supreme Court would side with the attorney general in that dispute.

Beshear would take the Kentucky Labor Cabinet to court to try and stop the Bevin administration from subpoenaing school districts to get names of teachers who participated in sickouts to demonstrate at the State Capitol.

"It's 100 percent to do with politics," Bevin said of Beshear's action. "It's 100 percent to do with getting him elected. There is no mention in this lawsuit whatsoever of the free speech rights of any of these people at stake, not one word, because that's not what it's about. He is a hypocrite."

The Bevin administration would eventually receive the records, and Beshear was unable to prevent the governor's office from receiving the information it requested.