Beshear launches reelection campaign for governor with bus tour starting in Paducah
This story has been updated to include a response from the Republican Party of Kentucky.
Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear took little time after his primary election victory to start campaigning for November, launching a TV ad blitz and statewide bus tour with stops throughout western, central, eastern and northern Kentucky.
The first stop outside Freight House restaurant in Paducah Friday morning drew a crowd of more than 100 people.
Beshear spoke about the series of unprecedented disasters and crises that have dominated his first term.
“These last four years we've been through a lot together. We've dealt with a pandemic, the worst tornadoes we've ever seen, the worst flooding we've ever seen,” Beshear said. “We are dealing with inflation that, while temporary, is still tough on our families.”
The governor said he chose the western Kentucky city to launch his campaign because of his roots in the region.
“This is where my parents were raised and they raised me with western Kentucky values,” Beshear said. “I believe that the people of this region see leadership that starts with compassion, and empathy, and love. And they want that over division and anger and even hate.”
But the region is also a former Democratic stronghold that, much like the rest of the state, has voted increasingly Republican in recent years. Beshear lost every far-western Kentucky county on his road to victory in 2019 and hopes to get as many votes as he can outside of the few remaining Democratic bastions in the state.
Beshear was joined by Mayfield Mayor Kathy O’Nan, who shepherded the far-western Kentucky city through the aftermath of the devastating tornado outbreak in late 2021. She praised the governor for his quick response after the disaster.
“The morning after the tornado, I stood with the governor at the candle factory. Daylight had just gotten there and it was difficult to see … but the governor did that day what he does so very well. He showed up. He showed up and he stood with me,” O’Nan said. “At first we didn't say much because we were just crying so hard. I knew what was in his heart without him saying a word. He showed up and I leaned on him.”
Beshear carried 91% of the votes in this year’s Democratic primary against two minor candidates.
Attorney General Daniel Cameron, the GOP nominee who was endorsed by former President Donald Trump, finished 26 percentage points ahead of his closest competitor in the 12-candidate field, state Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles. The dominant showing means Cameron won’t have much work to do to unite Republicans after the primary, but Beshear is hoping voters will cross party-lines to support his reelection.
Beshear predicted Republicans would campaign against him with “name calling, bullying, division” and “stoking hate.”
“You might think that would mean that this campaign isn't gonna be all that hard, folks. It is, and I hope you're ready,” he said. “What you're going to hear from the other side are attacks and name calling and attempts to create division.”
The incumbent Democrat – who polling numbers recently indicated was among the most popular Democratic governors in the nation – said he wouldn’t cede “family values” issues to his Republican opponent in a recent Associated Press interview.
During the event, the governor touted the state’s economic development efforts during his first term. Kentucky recently set a record low annual unemployment rate for 2022 at 3.9%, significant private sector gains and job creation in the state over a two-year period and the two largest economic development projects in the state’s history as it seeks to become one of the leading producers of electric vehicle batteries.
“We have the chance to be the generation that changes everything for everyone who comes after. We have a chance to turn our brain drain into a brain gain, to never lose our talented young people to other states ever again, and instead other states talented young people will be moving to Kentucky because this is where it's at,” he said.
Kentucky’s race for governor is expected to be one of the most expensive and closely-watched races in the nation, especially in an odd-numbered year when only a handful of states have elections on the ballot.
Within 48 hours of the primary election, Beshear released his first campaign ad of the general election, and a political group affiliated with the Democratic Governors Association released an ad attacking Cameron on Friday. According to Medium Buying, an agency that monitors political advertising, Beshear didn’t air his first ad in the 2019 election until Aug. 6.
Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman compared Cameron to former GOP Gov. Matt Bevin, who narrowly lost reelection to Beshear in 2019.
“Let me tell you what this election is about y'all: It is about building a Kentucky that lifts people up, not one that leaves people out,” Coleman said. “It's like our opponent dusted off Matt Bevin’s old playbook. He's out there dividing people. He's out there disrespecting our teachers. It didn’t work last time, and it's not going to work this time.”
The event was held in the parking lot of Freight House – the modern southern restaurant owned by Paducah native Sara Bradley, who recently competed on “Top Chef: World All-Stars” and earned the runner-up spot on the Kentucky-shot 16th season of the popular reality cooking competition show.
Bradley praised the governor’s efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I love what he did to keep me and my family safe during COVID,” she said. “This restaurant is still here today because of his support and I think that many other business owners would say the same thing.”
Other stops planned on the bus tour include Henderson, Owensboro, Bowling Green and Elizabethtown on Friday; Lexington, Morehead, Ashland, Pikeville and Prestonsburg Saturday; and Louisville and Newport on Sunday.
The Republican Party of Kentucky issued a statement in response to Beshear’s bus tour over the weekend. RPK spokesman Sean Southard drew comparisons between the Democratic Kentucky governor and U.S. President Joe Biden and attacked Beshear on unemployment, crime and disaster recovery.
“Joe Biden and Andy Beshear both campaigned as moderates but they’ve catered to the whims of the far-left wing of the Democrat Party,” Southard said. “No number of bus stops is going to make up for Andy’s failed leadership. We need to make sure we elect Daniel Cameron and the entire Republican ticket this November and rid ourselves of Joe Biden’s man in Kentucky.”