Politics & Government

Republicans have targeted Adam Edelen in the governor’s race. What does that mean?

Listen to the Kentucky Democratic governor candidates on health care

Hear from =2019 Kentucky Democratic candidates Adam Edelen, Rocky Adkins, and Andy Beshear on how they plan to address health care access in Kentucky.
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Hear from =2019 Kentucky Democratic candidates Adam Edelen, Rocky Adkins, and Andy Beshear on how they plan to address health care access in Kentucky.

With just days left until Democrats go to the polls to choose the candidate they want to take on Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin in the fall, the Democratic candidates Wednesday gathered at the University of Kentucky to plead their case, and drill their talking points into voters’ heads, one more time.

There was Attorney General Andy Beshear, who touted his record as the state’s chief law enforcement official and the hot issues of the day: pensions, healthcare, opioids and education funding. There was House Minority Leader Rocky Adkins, who wanted to talk about his history of legislative experience and the desperate need to build better infrastructure to help rural Kentuckians diversify their economy. There was former Auditor Adam Edelen, who talked about positioning the state to capitalize on the economy of the future.

Then there was Geoff Young, who along with calling for legalizing recreational marijuana and taxing the rich, called Edelen and Beshear “crooks” and said he and Adkins are the only ones who can beat Bevin in November.

“Bless his heart,” Edelen said in response at one point.

It was an example of a rare attack in a race that has been relatively clean. While Edelen and a Super PAC supporting him have gone up on television with ads criticizing Beshear, almost as many criticisms have come from Republcians watching the race as the Democrats in it.

Wednesday was no different. While both the Republican Party of Kentucky and Bevin’s campaign chimed in after the debate lamenting “failed policies,” the Republican Governor’s Association went directly at Edelen in the morning for saying “there are no coal jobs left, man” and that he wanted coal jobs to be replaced with jobs in renewable energy.

Edelen has talked often on the campaign trail about his desire to bring the renewable energy industry to Kentucky and has backed it up with a business project that plans to install solar panels on a reclaimed surface mine in Eastern Kentucky. But the RGA took the statement as a chance to hit him for his “liberal” views. It’s the second time the group has gone after Edelen.

“Kentucky needs a governor who will work to push the frontiers of job creation while also protecting key industries like coal, but Edelen has made it clear he’s prepared to push his far-left agenda even if it means killing thousands of jobs,” said RGA deputy communications director John Burke.

Edelen used the ad to make an electability argument, saying he was the only candidate the Republicans didn’t want to see in the November election.

“Because I think I’m the only one they fear,” Edelen said.

Beshear’s campaign took the attack the opposite way, saying they were calling him the most liberal so that he would win the primary instead.

“The state Republican Party has hit me just about every day as Attorney General,” Beshear said. “This is a Democratic primary, nobody needs to be listening to a Republican national organization.”

The one candidate who has avoided basically all attacks, and hasn’t participated in any either, has been Adkins, the House Minority Leader.

“I’m not getting in the fray,” Adkins said. “I’m focused on how we’re going to build a better Kentucky as someone who has seasoned experience and proven leadership.”

The focus on Beshear and Edelen has left Adkins seeming like a quiet underdog in the race, the candidate the other candidates (and organizations) don’t appear to be worrying much about.

At an earlier debate, Adkins was used as a vehicle for Beshear, the frontrunner who has pledged to run a clean campaign and asked all the other candidates to join him, to criticize Edelen over his running mate’s tax returns.

“I’ve been the underdog all my life,” Adkins said that night. “And when I did play college basketball and high school basketball, I always liked for my opponent to hopefully look at me who was not competitive... the two candidates who were on the stage tonight, I hope they are overlooking our campaign because let me tell you there are going to be a lot of things happening in this race but one won’t, they will not outwork our campaign.”