The Kentucky Primary Election is on May 21 and voters will head to the polls to choose their top party candidates for the state's constitutional offices, including Governor, Attorney General and Secretary of State. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andy Beshear stopped by WKMS this week to speak with Matt Markgraf about his top priorities, big issues and what sets him apart from the other candidates.
Beshear On What Sets Him Apart
Andy Beshear says he’s a “fighter that gets results.” Beshear touted his many instances of fighting Governor Matt Bevin on various issues, including cuts to public higher education and changes to the retirement system. He said, as attorney general, he ended the rape kit backlog, has seven indictments coming from the cold case unit, has returned more than $3 million stolen from seniors, has tripled the number of child predators caught and has filed lawsuits against opioid distributors. He touted the launch of the Kentucky Opioid Disposal Program and more than $9 million in treatment statewide. Also, his cutting of $1.4 billion in utility rate increases.
On what sets him apart from the other Democratic Primary challengers (Rocky Adkins, Adam Edelen and Geoff Young), Beshear says “it’s talk versus action” and described his involvement in national lawsuits to preserve mandatory coverage for pre-existing conditions, against federal efforts to change women’s health benefits and caps on children with debilitating illness.
When asked how he, as governor, would handle a potentially litigious or disputatious attorney general (for which he has been criticized by Republicans), Beshear said, “Republicans can disagree all they want, but the Supreme Court has said time and time again that we were right.” He said this mean’s Bevin’s actions were illegal. “It’s pretty easy as a governor. Just follow the law. This governor refuses to do it because he wants to be a king and he does not want to be held accountable.” Beshear said he respects the law and understands that the government includes conflict and just because someone disagrees it doesn’t make them his enemy. “It’s time to end this bullying. It’s time to end the name calling. We were raised better than this in Kentucky and it’s time we started acting better than this, too.”
First, Beshear wants to create a public education system “that provides a world class education to all of our students. And that requires being an ally and not an adversary to our school system.” He explained this would involve investing and fully-funding public schools and “bringing teachers back to the table.”
Health care is another top priority, Beshear said, calling it “a basic human right.” He said everyone should have coverage and should be able to see a doctor when they’re sick without it breaking the bank. He said he wants it to be illegal in Kentucky for someone to be kicked off their coverage for pre-existing conditions, wants to rescind Bevin’s Medicaid waiver, wants to sign more people up for Medicaid and wants to lower individual and state costs - “because everyone listening pays too much for healthcare.”
The third issue, he said, is creating jobs for tomorrow, investing in areas such as agriculture technology. He said most of the jobs announced by Governor Bevin are in three cities and said west Kentucky needs jobs, too. He noted his family is from Dawson Springs in Hopkins County. “Western Kentucky is absolutely critical. And we’re going judge the job I do as governor by the jobs we create here.”
On his message to an increasingly conservative west Kentucky, Beshear said, “My message to them is ‘I am a candidate of right now.’” He said families are falling behind because wages aren’t increasing, despite increases in gas, groceries and utility bills. He also noted drug epidemic concerns and costly medical bills.
Other Big Issues
Pension Reform: The system is in crisis, but the way to deal with it is not to cut benefits or hoist it on cities, counties and universities. It’s the creation of new, dedicated revenue streams: expanded gaming, medicinal marijuana, closing “unfair” tax loopholes, stop giving state tax incentives to companies that aren’t creating jobs that pay a living wage.
Gambling: Supports casino, sports, fantasy sports and being prepared for online poker.
Marijuana: Supports medical marijuana because opioids don’t work for long term pain. Does not support recreational marijuana.
Expanded Medicaid: Healthcare is a basic human right. Wants to rescind Bevin’s waiver.
Minimum Wage: Need to make sure work is valued. If someone puts in a full week’s work they should be able to support themselves and their family. Need to increase minimum wage, but needs conversation with workers and businesses to find the right balance.
Funding For Higher Education: It’s wrong Kentucky continued to cut higher education funding after the recession. Kids should not have to mortgage their future to go to college. More graduates will raise per capita income. Yes to more funding.
Job/Skills Training: Not an either/or with college. We need more people going to both. Every Kentucky child should have a path toward supporting themselves and truly adding to the economy.
Abortion: Pro-choice and supports Roe v. Wade.
Open Records Law: Current administration “has hidden their actions more than any that I have ever seen.” Sunlight best disinfectant. Government should be transparent because citizens pay for it. Government should serve the people, not the other way around. Criticized Bevin’s mansion purchase from a political appointee and for his giving a friend a $300,000 government job. Beshear said he releases his tax returns every year. “They show that I work for Kentuckians and only Kentuckians. That no one will ever own me and I will always try to do the right thing.”
Finding Common Ground
Beshear said he wants to “flip the script” in the legislature and rather than starting with a contentious bill that consume the session, to instead start with bills that everyone agrees on. He suggests that after everyone passes the bills they agree on, they can then discuss the other ones in a civil manner.