“You bet I’m running,” Gov. Matt Bevin declared, drawing a standing ovation from donors at the state Republican Party’s annual Lincoln Day dinner.
Kentucky Democrats were even happier.
“Praise be to God,” tweeted former state Auditor Adam Edelen, one of at least five Democrats considering a run for governor next year.
Why are Democrats so excited? Because, like President Donald Trump, Bevin is a deeply polarizing figure who has energized their party.
Bevin was ranked as the nation’s fourth-most unpopular governor last month by Morning Consult, a respected political research firm. Its poll, with a 1 percent margin of error, put Bevin’s approval rating in Kentucky at 29 percent and his disapproval rating at 57 percent.
Bevin provides Democrats with a big target to shoot at and a clear record to run against.
Bevin has done his best to take away pensions and benefits from public school teachers, state workers and some retirees, creating a powerful force of well-connected enemies and their families in all 120 counties.
He has staged a takeover of education boards and commissions to try to privatize public education and open the door to for-profit charter schools. He also has gone after universities, which he seems to want to replace with trade schools.
Bevin has tried his best to take health care away from hundreds of thousands of poor and middle-class Kentuckians who finally got it under his predecessor, Steve Beshear, and former President Barack Obama. If successful, his efforts will make Kentucky less healthy and take millions of health care dollars out of local communities.
Bevin constantly takes credit for companies creating jobs, and his anti-worker policies probably have helped convince some business executives that Kentucky is ripe for picking. But these policies will end up being a lot more profitable for big corporations than their workers.
Bevin has echoed the industry’s “war on coal” propaganda and backed the Trump EPA efforts to make Kentucky’s air and water dirtier. The result? Coal employment in Kentucky has fallen this year, not risen.
Bevin’s next focus is tax reform, but we’ve already had a glimpse of what he has in mind: Shifting the tax burden from the wealthy to the poor and middle-classes. Thanks to this year’s Republican-controlled General Assembly, low-income workers now pay tax on car repairs so they can get to work while high-income Kentuckians pay less in income taxes.
And don’t forget Bevin’s devotion to the billionaire Koch brothers, who have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in Republican politicians in their quest to transform America into a corporate oligarchy.
“There’s much work yet to be done,” Bevin told the Republican crowd Saturday night, saying he and the General Assembly “are just getting warmed up.”
If anyone needed a reminder than the Grand Old Party (GOP) of Lincoln is now the fact-averse Party of Trump (POT), the Lexington dinner’s keynote speaker was the second-biggest liar in the White House, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
Sanders said Bevin reminds her of Trump, which she surely meant as a compliment. Bevin reminds many other people of Trump, too, and not in a good way.
Many Kentuckians are turned off by Bevin’s towering ego, his bullying personality and his constant stream of insults toward anyone who challenges him. Trump is at least smart enough not to insult average citizens, which Bevin does constantly.
Like Trump, Bevin was a wealthy businessman who never held public office before his current job. A native of Colorado who grew up in New Hampshire, Bevin moved to Louisville in 1999. His words, policies and actions often reveal a profound cluelessness about this state and its people beyond his wealthy Louisville suburb.
Bevin sees government employees as freeloaders who couldn’t hack it in private industry, where the likes of him could more easily dominate them.
When he speaks of public school teachers, Bevin seems to see only teachers’ unions. Most Kentuckians see relatives, friends, fellow church members, respected citizens of their communities and people who shaped their young lives for the better.
In remarks to reporters after the Republican dinner, Bevin arrogantly dismissed his Democratic challengers: “There is not a one of them that is even remotely worthy of carrying the torch for the people of Kentucky.”
What the governor doesn’t seem to understand is that many Kentuckians are carrying a torch for him, and not in a good way.