Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin said Saturday night he is running for re-election in 2019, eliminating speculation that he might not seek a second term.
“You bet I’m running,” Bevin said from the stage at the Republican Lincoln Dinner, a fundraiser for the Republican Party of Kentucky.
Bevin has not filed any official paperwork to run for re-election and would not say whether he will keep Lt. Gov. Jenean Hampton as his running mate.
“The specifics and the announcement of a campaign, all this, will come. I don’t want to distract at all from what we’re doing in 2018,” he said.
While many in the Republican Party had assumed Bevin would seeking re-election, he had refused to declare his intentions, saying he had until January to decide.
His announcement came in the midst of the largest Republican fundraiser of the year, which featured White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
Bevin will launch his campaign amid a backdrop of angry teachers, activated by his attempts to reform the state’s ailing pension system and comments he made about them. He has been shouted at by teachers in counties throughout the state as he’s traveled in recent months to tout economic successes.
Bevin bragged Saturday about record-breaking economic investment in the state and several conservative laws that were passed when Republicans gained control of the legislature for the first time in nearly 100 years in January 2017. But he said there’s still work to be done, particularly on pensions and tax reform.
“There was not a chance that I was going to walk away and leave the seeds that we’ve put in the ground to be trampled on or intentionally dug up by any kind of people that choose to follow behind,” Bevin said.
Along with the bubbling discontent over the pension issue has come a wave of Democrats who are considering running for the state’s highest office. Attorney General Andy Beshear is the only candidate who has officially declared, but House Minority Leader Rocky Adkins, former State Auditor Adam Edelen, Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes and State Rep. Attica Scott have all indicated they are considering a bid.
Edelen responded to the news on Twitter Saturday night, saying “Praise be to God.”
Bevin said he looked forward to the Democratic primary in his speech.
“What would be more fun than to watch a primary with lil Andy, Alison Grimes, Rocky and Attica Scott, wouldn’t that be fun?” Bevin said. “It would be fun for a change to watch them ripping each other up.”
Both Sanders and Bevin used stark language to describe a future governed by the Democratic Party, saying the Republicans in the room had an obligation to future generations to donate and campaign for conservative candidates.
“When people who are good don’t get engaged, we all suffer,” Bevin said. “...all it takes for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing.”
While Bevin drew attention in the last speech of the night, most of the focus was on U.S. Rep. Andy Barr’s re-election effort against Democrat Amy McGrath in Kentucky’s 6th Congressional District.
Several speakers recognized that the race will help determine whether Democrats win control of the U.S. Representatives in 2019.
“Andy Barr has been a critical supporter of the president and we need him again,” Sanders said.