The last time there was a contentious, three-way primary in a Kentucky gubernatorial election, it worked out well for Matt Bevin in 2015. So, I guess you could say there’s hope for Andy Beshear, the Democratic nominee who survived that slugfest last week.
What’s more likely, however, is that Wednesday, Nov. 6, will be the first day of Gov. Bevin’s second term in office. We will have a nasty hangover, and teachers and public employees will start updating their resumes, some eying early retirement, since they’ll have to rebuild their retirement plans from scratch.
Women will be frantically refreshing their various news feeds, following every word that comes out of the U.S. Supreme Court, hoping the one last line of defense will hold, protecting them and their doctors from the creepy, white, Republican men who know what’s best for them.
Bevin and Beshear and their supporters will have wasted $50 million in just five months, and nothing will have changed — except, maybe, Bevin will have a Republican attorney general to endorse his authoritarian edicts.
TV stations will have made a small fortune. Political consultants and PACs will have cleaned up on steak dinners and travel (to do more fundraising). The $50 million could have been spent shoring up the state retirement systems. Instead, it will simply evaporate into another election.
But, hey, President Trump will have become a regular visitor to the Bluegrass State. And Vice President Pence was here stumping for Bevin, as they share insatiable man crushes.
On top of the money, hope, too, will have been wasted.
The more statewide elections that I live through, the more this seems inevitable. I will convince myself that Jim Gray is the moderate businessman who can take out Rand Paul. Alison Lundergan Grimes is the right woman at the right time to beat Mitch McConnell. Jack Conway would be a great governor or senator… Kentucky has to realize this, right?
I am a chronic optimist. So, perhaps I am overreacting. Maybe Beshear can win.
What would that take?
Beshear would be a great governor, as he’s been a great attorney general, but he needs to be The Outlier to make that happen.
He won’t win by spending a lot of money.
He has to turn people out to vote. It doesn’t matter how he does it — positive, inspirational and policy-driven or bitter, nasty and personal — without improving turnout, nothing else matters.
People have to know there’s an election in November if they’re going to vote, and if it takes an all-out condemnation of Bevin — which is not unreasonable given the way he’s acted the last four years — go for it.
Ignore the Courier Journal Editorial Board’s call for a policy-centered campaign. When the governor is as unfit to lead as Bevin is, an examination of the policies takes a backseat to public discussion of his sanity and competency.
One key to this is going to be how the Beshear campaign decides to employ the previous governor, Andy’s dad, Steve. Sure, it’s a sensitive subject: Andy is his own man and has been a strong, effective AG on his own, and Steve vs. Bevin would make Andy’s run look like an old, petty family feud. But Steve has always been more popular and likable than has Bevin. He’s a hell of a lot more Kentucky than Bevin will ever be. And, most important, he can bring attention unlike any other surrogate the Democrats have.
Sure, let’s talk about policy: healthcare. Who has more credibility on the healthcare of Kentuckians than Steve Beshear? Beshear extended health coverage to 400,000 Kentuckians, and Bevin tried to take it back.
The other policy that matters politically is weed. Support for full legalization of marijuana crosses party lines. It would return more earned media attention than any paid advertising, and it would turn out more voters as a result.
Do not pay attention to the polls: In the weeks before the 2015 election, Conway outpolled Bevin before losing by 9 percentage points.
Beshear can’t afford to play it safe. You know who has the luxury of playing it safe? The incumbent. Incumbents have already won and have immeasurable intangible campaign advantages at their disposal. If Beshear takes risks and shows up all over the state, then we still have hope.
Too bad state law forbids candidates from selecting a running mate after the primary. If you look where Beshear and Bevin were most successful, it is the same eastern half of Kentucky where Democrat Rocky Adkins and Bevin’s opponent won by large margins.
Rocky as Beshear’s running mate would hit Bevin where he’s weakest… Republicans in Eastern Kentucky who demonstrated last week that they hate the sitting governor.
Alas, none of the above is going to happen.
Get ready for a hangover Nov. 6 and your first look at Gilead.