It’s a non-election year in Kentucky, which shrunk many things at the 137th annual Fancy Farm Picnic — the lines for barbeque, the list of speakers, the insults. But it didn’t shrink speculation about the 2019 race for governor.
Several names have been tossed around by politicians and pundits as they await the next election cycle, but perhaps no name has been mentioned more often than Attorney General Andy Beshear, who sounded a lot like a candidate for the state’s top job.
Beshear, a Democrat, released his tax returns during his speech Saturday afternoon and challenged Gov. Matt Bevin and legislative leaders to do the same.
“At a time when their plan for tax reform will let millionaires keep more while you and I pay more, we deserve to know if our leaders are enriching themselves,” Beshear said.
Bevin, a Republican, notoriously refused to release his tax returns while running for governor in 2015 and eventually admitted he would never release them.
Bevin did not attend Fancy Farm this year and his office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Beshear brushed off questions about whether he would run for governor in 2019.
“I don’t have any announcement and I’m not going to make any decision in the near future,” Beshear said. “I’m focused on being the best attorney general that I can be.”
Republicans at Fancy Farm scoffed at the idea of Beshear running for governor. The Republican Party of Kentucky handed out slips of paper outlining Beshear’s alleged conflicts of interest. Others brought up Tim Longmeyer, who was briefly Beshear’s second in command before being convicted of bribery in 2016.
“Andy Beshear has been a very active attorney general,” said state House Speaker Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown. “He will sue anything. Especially if your name is Matt Bevin.”
While Beshear wouldn’t talk about his gubernatorial aspirations, House Minority Floor Leader Rocky Adkins, D-Sandy Hook, did.
“I have been encouraged to run all across this state,” Adkins said. “People who have approached me have encouraged me to run and we are giving it consideration, we’re giving it serious consideration.”
Upon hearing that Adkins was interested, Hoover dismissed his potential candidacy in a speech Saturday morning.
“You know what, I don’t blame him,” Hoover said. “Because he’s never going to be speaker and he’s never again going to be in the majority.”
Speculation wasn’t limited to Democrats. Bevin has not officially declared that he’ll run for a second term and has said he misses his life in the private sector.
That has pushed whispers around the state Capitol that other Republicans may be interested in the race, namely U.S. Rep. James Comer, R-Tompkinsville. Comer lost the 2015 Republican gubernatorial primary by 83 votes before winning his congressional seat in 2016.
Comer, though, downplayed the idea that he would run in 2019 if Bevin doesn’t.
“I plan on staying in Congress,” Comer said.