For the first time since 1955, the Commonwealth of Kentucky will elect a governor from Jefferson County. Unfortunately, the race could not be less reflective of the progressive city and county from which both candidates hail. And while progressives in Louisville yearn for a candidate who will campaign against the NRA and big coal and take a passionate stand against the unlawful actions of Kim Davis, there is still only one clear-cut choice for who should be the next Governor of Kentucky: Jack Conway.
I have been close friends with Jack most of my life, and I have never missed an opportunity to vote for him. Next Tuesday, November 3, I will confidently cast another vote for him as governor. And I will do so even though I disagree with some of the positions he has taken. For starters, he is dead wrong on the issue of medical marijuana. In a recent debate he based his opposition on the gateway-drug theory and the dangers of increasing access. Another issue on which he missed an opportunity is when he discussed drug testing welfare recipients. Outside of its questionable constitutionality, drug testing has proven to be nothing more than a waste of money and an invasion of privacy.
Ultimately though, this race is not about marijuana or drug testing. The primary question of this election is whether or not the signature accomplishment of the Beshear administration will continue and strengthen, or be trashed by a clueless conservative zealot, Matt Bevin.
Bevin is arrogantly ignorant in his misunderstanding about health care reform, in particular Kynect — Kentucky’s health insurance exchange. In a recent debate, he repeatedly conflated the closing of an insurance co-op with the failure of Kynect and Obamacare. The two are completely unrelated, and in fact, the failure of the co-op demonstrates that Kynect and Obamacare have made private insurance available, affordable and appealing enough that a nonprofit option was unnecessary. And unlike before Obamacare, when private insurers kicked people off of their insurance arbitrarily, or when people tried to use it, the 51,000 Kentuckians who will lose their insurance through the co-op will have time, coverage and support while they transfer to a plan on the Kynect exchange.
Bevin’s health care plan is to disband Kynect, and transition to a federal healthcare exchange. Never mind the millions it would cost to transition away from Kynect (which it would) but Bevin clearly has no idea what Obamacare and Kynect actually are, and masks it with political pandering. On his own website, he explains in a video that he wants to “transition everybody from the state level, Obamacare exchange, which is the Kynect exchange, to the federal level exchange.”
Hey, Matt, the “federal level exchange” is Obamacare!
He continued, “At the end of 2016, before the federal subsidies run out, and the cost begins, we will go ahead and eliminate this program.” First, the federal subsidies he is referring to have nothing to do with Kynect. The only federal subsidies Kentucky stands to lose are in regard to expanded Medicaid. And if those are the subsidies to which he was referring, they don’t run out. They begin to phase back over five years to 90 percent. Second, in regards to expanded Medicaid, according to a non-partisan Deloitte study, “Medicaid expansion will add 40,000 jobs and $30 billion to the state’s economy through 2021 … [and] will also generate a net positive impact of nearly $820 million to state and local government budgets.”
Beyond Bevin’s startling, I would argue disqualifying, ignorance of our health care system, he would undoubtedly turn Kentucky into a right-to-work state, direct public funding to charter schools and, “without any question,” support Kim Davis.
Back to Jack, when WLKY asked what three words best describe him, he responded: “pragmatic, detail-oriented and caring.” Jack has proven that he is each of these. So, while many progressives, including myself, wanted a more passionate response to Kim Davis, Jack, as attorney general of Kentucky, provided a measured, pragmatic response that was congruent with his legal assessment as the state’s chief legal advisor — instead of trying to capitalize politically.
Possibly my favorite moment of Jack’s political career came in the same conversation with WLKY, when he addressed the knock against his abilities as a retail politician. He said, “I will readily acknowledge that I’m not the best in the world at walking into a diner to people I don’t know and sticking my hand right in the middle of their breakfast and saying, ‘Oh, I know you just want to meet me.’”
Jack will freely admit his political scars and shortcomings. One thing I know about Jack, however, is that any political faults will be overcome by job performance. He will take a careful, pragmatic approach, and ultimately base any decision on sound, defensible evidence. There is no candidate better qualified to be the next governor of Kentucky than Jack Conway.