The Koch brothers-backed Americans for Prosperity has waded into Kentucky's elections, announcing endorsements Wednesday for five Republican incumbents facing challenges from public school teachers.
At least 29 current and former teachers are running as Democrats for seats in the Kentucky legislature this November, buoyed by a backlash to the Republican-controlled legislature's changes to the state's struggling public pension systems. In May, House Majority Floor Leader Jonathan Shell lost to high school math teacher Travis Brenda in a Republican primary.
But Americans for Prosperity-Kentucky state director Andrew McNeill said the group's evaluation was "solely focused on candidates' legislative leadership on key issues that align with our organization's goals, and did not take into account who their opponents were."
The group is supporting Richard Heath in district 2, Jim Gooch in district 12, DJ Johnson in district 13, Kevin Bratcher in district 29 and Phil Moffett in district 32. The group also endorsed state Rep. Brandon Reed in district 24. Reed is not facing a challenge from a teacher.
The endorsement comes with more than just a news release. McNeil said the group plans to support candidates by canvassing, phone banking and sending mail to voters.
In a news release, the group announced support for Bratcher because of his efforts in 2017 to pass laws outlawing mandatory union dues and eliminating the prevailing wage — two proposal vigorously opposed by labor unions.
"I welcome their support," said Bratcher, who is the House majority whip. He added: "I don't agree with the Koch brothers on everything, and I don't agree with Americans for Prosperity on everything."
Bratcher is challenged by Ronel Brown Sr., an instructional assistant at Dupont Manual High School in Louisville.
"I'm sure they're worried about him losing his seat," Brown said. "He's not for the people of Kentucky, he's just for the rich ones."