Democrat Andy Beshear told Kentuckians on Wednesday that a vote for him as governor will be a vote to defend public education and access to health care, which he said are under attack by Republican Gov. Matt Bevin.
Starting a statewide bus tour to wrap up his campaign, Beshear said the future of public schools, health care for Kentucky's neediest and pensions for public employees are at stake in next Tuesday's election.
"It's about every family that is one paycheck away from falling into poverty," he told supporters at a Louisville coffeehouse. "It's about every family that's concerned about taking their parents or their kids to see a doctor because of the cost. This election is about every family and making sure that Matt Bevin doesn't turn the haves and the have-nots into the have-mores and the never-wills."
It's a sharp contrast to the upbeat message of economic growth delivered by Bevin, who points to low unemployment, job creation and business investments during his term.
Closing their final debate Tuesday night, Bevin said: "Are you better than you were four years ago? And if the answer is 'yes,' I would ask for your vote Nov. 5th."
Looking ahead to Election Day, Kentucky's secretary of state, Alison Lundergan Grimes, predicted that just 31% of Kentucky's registered voters will go to the polls — at or slightly above turnout in the 2015 governor's election. Grimes based her forecast on absentee voting trends.
Beshear said he expects higher turnout, pointing to his campaign's grassroots work and Bevin's combative words about teachers and others who opposed his policy goals.
"They (voters) are ready for a governor that listens more than he talks, that solves more problems than he creates and that would never engage in the bullying and name calling that we've seen," Beshear said.
Bevin marked his tenure by sharply criticizing teachers who used sick days to rally at Kentucky's Capitol against his pension and education proposals. Some days, so many teachers rallied that some schools had to close.
The bitter rivals' differences on education and health care are stark: Bevin supports charter schools, saying parents should have more options on where to send their children. Beshear opposes them, saying they'll divert money from existing public schools. Bevin defends his support of public education. During his tenure, he says teachers' pensions have been fully funded, 100% of lottery funds are going toward education and per-pupil public education funding has risen
On health care, the Democrat supports inserting the federal Affordable Care Act's consumer protections into state law, while Bevin wants to put some conditions on the Medicaid expansion. The Republican wants to require some "able-bodied" Medicaid recipients to get a job, go to school or volunteer to keep their benefits.
A federal judge blocked the work requirements and Bevin's administration is appealing. Medicaid is a joint federal and state health care program for poor and disabled people.
Beshear says Bevin's proposal would take away health coverage from tens of thousands of people while hurting rural hospitals. The Medicaid expansion occurred when Beshear's father, Steve, was governor.
On guns, Bevin planned to tout his support for gun ownership rights at a statehouse event in Frankfort later Wednesday. Beshear supports keeping guns away from people deemed as threats to themselves or others.
That bipartisan proposal, expected to come up in next year's legislative session, would empower courts to issue temporary orders barring someone from possessing guns based on a showing of imminent danger. Beshear said it's consistent with his support for Second Amendment rights while providing due-process rights for the person seen as a risk.