Republican Gov. Matt Bevin touted Kentucky's economic performance under his leadership Friday while Democratic challenger Andy Beshear promoted his plans to swiftly reverse the incumbent's decisions on health care and education if he's elected.
During a radio interview, Beshear previewed his plans for an aggressive first week in the governor's office that he said would "set the tone" for his administration.
Beshear vowed to appoint new members to the Kentucky Board of Education and to rescind Bevin's proposed work-related requirements for some Medicaid recipients. Beshear, the state's attorney general, also promised to sign an executive order automatically restoring voting rights for all nonviolent felons who have completed their sentences.
"That's a pretty good first week, and it's going to set the tone for an administration that cares about our people," Beshear said during an interview on WFPL-FM.
Warming up his closing pitch to voters, Bevin declared that Kentuckians are better off than they were four years ago. At the start of a daylong bus tour through western Kentucky, Bevin pointed to overall job growth and higher investments and exports of Kentucky products during his tenure in office.
"Are people better off now than they were four years ago? Without any question, the answer is 'yes,'" he told reporters. "On every significant statistic in Kentucky, things have gotten better economically. And we're on a trajectory where that has the potential to continue."
Bevin and Beshear are headed toward a Nov. 5 election showdown. With three debates remaining, the bitter rivals will crisscross the state in the dwindling days left in the campaign.
Beshear has stressed "kitchen table" issues — from protecting health insurance coverage to creating more good-paying jobs and raising teachers' pay. His campaign has showcased a Fayette County teacher who works a second job as an Uber driver to make ends meet.
During the radio interview, he said many Kentucky families "feel left out and left behind."
"What they're looking for is a governor that listens more than he talks," Beshear said. "A governor that solves more problems than he creates."
Bevin was joined by other statewide GOP candidates for the campaign swing through the state's western regions. He urged Kentuckians to "vote your values and not your party." It's a pitch for support from conservative Democrats based on hot-button issues like abortion. Bevin has made his opposition to abortion a campaign staple. Beshear supports the U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide but says he supports "reasonable restrictions," especially on late-term procedures.
In a dig at Beshear, the governor said his challenger makes promises he can't deliver.
Beshear touts legalized casino gambling to help pay down the state's massive unfunded pension liabilities. He estimates casinos would generate more than $500 million in yearly tax revenue — money he says now flows to other states where Kentuckians go to gamble. Bevin calls casino gambling "fool's gold." Two top GOP lawmakers — Senate President Robert Stivers and Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer — recently said any effort to legalize casino gambling in Kentucky would be "dead on arrival" in the Senate.
"You have the ability to move Kentucky forward, or the ability to go backward, quite literally, with the same names and same ideas being offered on the other side," Bevin said.
Beshear's father, former two-term Gov. Steve Beshear, also called for legalizing casinos as a needed revenue generator but could not get a casino measure through the legislature.
This time is different, Andy Beshear said Friday. "No one has ever proposed sending 100% of the revenue from expanded gaming into the pension system," he said.