Matt Bevin's own words are used against him in a new campaign ad replaying some of the Kentucky Republican governor's harshest criticism of public school teachers for opposing his pension plans.
The TV ad by Democratic challenger Andy Beshear debuted statewide Monday. It strikes at one of Bevin's biggest vulnerabilities in his reelection bid — his long-running feud with education groups. The ad also shows Bevin saying he regretted nothing he ever said about an educator.
"This governor has failed each and every decency test," Beshear, the state's attorney general, said in an interview. "We're going to let his words stand for who he is."
Bevin's campaign responded by pointing to the governor's record on education — teachers' pensions have been fully funded, 100% of lottery funds are going toward education and per-pupil public education funding has risen. Bevin campaign manager Davis Paine said in a statement that the governor is "committed to continuing to improve public education."
The new commercial comes at a time when TV ads are pouring in from both sides in this year's hard-hitting governor's campaign.
The race is being watched closely for any signs of vulnerability among Republican incumbents aligned with President Donald Trump heading into the 2020 elections. Bevin routinely plays up his ties to Trump.
Beshear's quick-hitting ad replays some of Bevin's harshest criticism of teachers and others who opposed his efforts to make changes to the state's public pension system, which is among the worst-funded retirement systems in the country.
The ad shows video of Bevin guaranteeing, without any evidence, that a child was sexually assaulted in Kentucky because they were left home alone on a day teachers closed schools to protest his proposed pension changes. Bevin later apologized, but he's more than doubled down on his criticism since then.
The ad also shows Bevin comparing opponents of his pension plan to "drowning victims" who need to be knocked out and dragged to shore. It ends with Bevin saying he regretted nothing he's said about teachers.
Bevin has continued to take aim at teachers who opposed his policies. Earlier this year, the governor connected a girl's shooting in Louisville with school closings caused by teacher protests.
The governor suggested in a recent radio interview that protesting teachers only caused "sickouts" while schools were in session because they wanted paid time off work, instead of protesting during the summer when it wouldn't affect students.
Education has been an ongoing flashpoint in the campaign.
An earlier Beshear ad accused Bevin of supporting budget cuts that the Democratic challenger claimed could imperil Kentucky's rural schools.
Bevin quickly condemned the ad as a "scare tactic" and vigorously defended his record of funding teachers' pensions and public schools.
Beshear's campaign said that claim was based on Bevin's past budget proposals to shift millions of dollars in transportation and health insurance costs to local school districts and erase an outlay for textbooks and instructional materials.
Beshear has proposed a $2,000 across-the-board pay raise for Kentucky's public school teachers — an incentive he said is needed to help address a statewide teacher shortage. Bevin has ridiculed his challenger for not offering specifics on how he'd pay for the salary boost, which Beshear estimates would cost about $84 million.
Bevin has supported school-choice initiatives that are opposed by Beshear, whose running mate, Jacqueline Coleman, is an educator.
Last week, Bevin rolled out ads touting his stands against abortion and illegal immigration, while a Republican Governors Association-backed group ran an ad that brought up a kickback and bribery scandal that sent Beshear's former top deputy in the AG's office, Tim Longmeyer, to prison.
Longmeyer previously worked in the administration of former Gov. Steve Beshear, who is Andy Beshear's father. Federal authorities have said that neither Beshear had knowledge of Longmeyer's crimes
Meanwhile, a group backed by the Democratic Governors Association is expected to resume its TV ad campaign this week.