Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin announced Friday afternoon that state Sen. Ralph Alvarado, R-Winchester, will be his lieutenant governor running mate as he seeks re-election in 2019, putting an end to speculation about his political plans.
When asked why he chose not to run again with Lt. Gov. Jenean Hampton, the Republican said “because I chose to run with Ralph Alvarado.”
After a brief news conference in the Capitol Rotunda, Bevin and Alvarado walked down the hall to file their official paperwork to run with the secretary of state.
“This is somebody who moves with a sense of urgency that I think is needed as we look forward,” Bevin said of Alvarado. “He’s a guy who has relationships and strong ones with the very constituencies that are going to be imperative as we move forward.”
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Alvarado, a physician, became the first Hispanic elected to the Kentucky General Assembly in 2014. He represents Fayette, Clark and Montgomery counties in the state senate and serves as the vice chairman of the Senate Health and Welfare committee and is the co-chairman of the committee that oversees the state’s Medicaid program.
“I’m very proud to be a Kentuckian today and I’m looking forward to the fight ahead, I’m looking forward to the campaign and I’m looking forward to serving as the next lieutenant governor for the commonwealth,” Alvarado said.
Bevin described Hampton, who was the first black person elected to statewide office in Kentucky, as “a dear and personal friend,” but said Alvarado represents the American dream and aligns with what he would like to see “moving forward.”
“I’m honored by the fact that Ralph is willing to run with me, because I think the two of us together are going to get some phenomenal things done,” Bevin said.
Bevin said he would be committed to a full four-year term if re-elected.
Hampton had expressed interest in running with Bevin again, but on Jan. 16 she admitted that she didn’t think it was likely. Hampton’s office did not immediately respond Friday to a request for comment.
Bevin’s first four-year term has been controversial.
He has presided during a period of economic expansion and accomplished several key priorities for Kentucky Republicans with the help of the state’s first GOP-controlled legislature in modern history. Among other things, he signed legislation that ended a union’s ability to require dues from all workers in a unionized business, a tax-overhaul bill that lowered personal and corporate income taxes while expanding the sales tax to several services, new restrictions on abortion and a mechanism to allow charter schools in the state.
He’s also drawn ire over his handling of the state’s pension crisis, particularly his comments about teachers.
Those comments have chilled his relationship with the legislature, making it more difficult for him to pass his agenda. In December, he called a surprise special legislative session to address pension reform after the legislature’s 2018 pension law was struck down by the Kentucky Supreme Court, only to have lawmakers head home less than 24 hours later without passing a bill.
Having Alvarado’s name on the ticket will potentially help in two key areas. One of the ongoing policy goals of Bevin’s first term is his plan to overhaul Medicaid. The plan, which would create work or service requirements for some recipients of Medicaid, was struck down by the courts in 2018. The federal government has since approved a slightly revised plan, but it also is being challenged in court.
With Alvarado’s experience in medicine, he could potentially help Bevin implement the changes if they are allowed to move forward.
Alvarado could also help Bevin patch up his relationship with the legislature. Alvarado is well-regarded among Senate Republicans and helped push through a 2017 law requiring malpractice suits to pass through “medical review panels” composed of doctors deciding their merit. The Kentucky Supreme Court, though, struck that law down as unconstitutional in a 7-0 decision last fall.
“The relationship with the legislature is outstanding,” Bevin said before saying he’s accomplished more with the legislature than any governor in history. “So that’s the least of the concerns, although it certainly won’t hurt.”
Alvarado also has courted controversy. Last year, the Herald-Leader reported that he works at nearly a half-dozen substandard nursing homes while he fights in Frankfort to protect the nursing home industry from personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits.
Bevin’s status in the governor’s race had long been the subject of rumors among Kentucky Democrats and consternation among Kentucky Republicans.
While he announced in August that he would run for a second term, his delay in filing the paperwork to start raising money and announce a lieutenant governor running mate was unusual and opened the door to talk of potential Republican challengers.
U.S. Rep. James Comer, R-Tompkinsville, was the highest profile Republican politician to say he was interested in the governor’s race should Bevin decide not to run. Comer even talked with potential running mates, such as state Sen. Max Wise, R-Campbellsville, in anticipation of the race.
A spokesman for Comer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
State Rep. Robert Goforth, R-London, didn’t wait for Bevin to decide. He entered the race in early January and came out swinging against the first Republican governor since 2007, calling him arrogant and criticizing his stance on pension reform. Goforth’s campaign has since had to deny allegations of sexual assault.
Bevin said he has no concern about winning the Republican primary.
On the Democratic side, three high profile Democrats are elbowing each other for the chance to run against Bevin. House Minority Floor Leader Rocky Adkins, D-Sandy Hook; Attorney General Andy Beshear and former state auditor Adam Edelen have all either filed or announced their intention to run. Perennial candidate Geoff Young also is in the race.
Bevin took a swipe Friday at his Democratic opponents, saying they represent the past.
“It’s a lot of recycled names,” Bevin said. “A lot of has beens politically. A lot of people who are part of what has ailed us in many respects. So much of what has kept Kentucky back is now offering itself forward as a chance to return backwards.”
While Bevin is entering the race later than normal for an incumbent governor, raising money shouldn’t be an issue for the millionaire businessman. He loaned his 2015 campaign $4 million and is heavily involved with the Republican Governor’s Association and conservative political groups.