FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Democratic Gov.-elect Andy Beshear said Friday that he won in the red state of Kentucky by distancing himself from national politics and connecting with voters desperate for leaders focused more on their needs and less on “the 24-hour cable news cycle.”
Beshear, who narrowly defeated Republican incumbent Matt Bevin in the closely watched race, also vowed to set a new tone at the top of Kentucky’s government. He said his administration would be “one where we live up to the values we were raised in, that we believe in the golden rule that everybody is our neighbor.”
In a Statehouse interview with The Associated Press, Beshear said the attention he paid to the everyday challenges facing voters helped propel him to victory.
“They’re anxieties that people worry about at the end of the night — whether they’re making enough money to support their kids, whether their kids are getting the type of education that will give them a better, brighter future, whether they can afford to take their families to a doctor when they’re sick,” he said.
Beshear and his running mate, Lt. Gov.-elect Jacqueline Coleman, overcame a strong GOP tide in Kentucky to win. Republicans won the other statewide offices in the Nov. 5 election. Bevin’s combative style, including his feud with teachers over pension and education policies, contributed to the GOP governor’s downfall.
National Democrats hailed Beshear’s victory, along with Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards’ reelection in Louisiana, heading into the 2020 presidential election. President Donald Trump campaigned for their GOP opponents with 11th-hour appearances in both states.
But Beshear studiously avoided being drawn into the national political fray, restraining his comments on the prospect of presidential impeachment and other matters during the campaign. Bevin campaigned with a series of nationally prominent Republicans, led by Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, and tried linking Beshear to liberal national Democrats — a common GOP tactic in conservative-leaning Kentucky.
Beshear, the state’s attorney general and the son of a former governor, cited his detachment from national politics as another reason he was elected.
“I believe that the people of Kentucky and in other parts of the United States are desperate for someone that’s focused on them and not the 24-hour cable news cycle that continues in Washington, D.C.,” he said Friday.
“I believe that we have wandered sometimes further and further away from the day-to-day needs of our people. ... Running on things that a governor can actually do to help the people of Kentucky is one of the main reasons that I’m sitting where I am now.”
Beshear has said he will prioritize public education, health care, job and income growth and public pension protection as governor.
Beshear strongly supports the federal Affordable Care Act and the Medicaid expansion put into place in Kentucky by his father — former two-term Gov. Steve Beshear, who preceded Bevin in office.
Steve Beshear used an executive order to increase the state’s Medicaid rolls by more than 400,000 people to include coverage for able-bodied adults. Medicaid is a joint federal and state health care program for the poor and disabled.
Bevin tried to require some “able-bodied” Medicaid recipients to get a job, go to school or volunteer to keep their benefits but was blocked by a federal judge. Bevin’s administration filed an appeal, but Andy Beshear has vowed to rescind the proposed work requirement, saying it would deprive tens of thousands of people of health coverage and hurt rural hospitals.
Asked about the “Medicare for All” proposals being touted by some Democratic presidential candidates, Andy Beshear said Friday that it “can mean a hundred different things in a hundred different ways.”
“What I believe is that every Kentuckian needs access to affordable, accessible health care,” he said. “And I believe that the private sector often provides that type of health care.”
Beshear waged a nearly four-year feud with Bevin that dominated Kentucky politics. As attorney general, Beshear challenged a series of Bevin’s executive actions. In the highest-profile case, Beshear filed a lawsuit that led Kentucky's Supreme Court to strike down a Bevin-supported pension law.
Beshear on Friday decried political divisions in Kentucky and across the country, and said he wants to help set a new tone that avoids bitter rancor.
“Governing may be combative sometimes but it doesn’t have to be miserable, and that’s what we’ve seen,” he said. “Let’s get to a point where we can agree and move forward where we agree, but that we can civilly disagree and it doesn’t stop us from doing that next important thing.”