Politics & Government

After nasty campaign, Beshear and Edelen pledge unity in Louisville coffee shop

Former state Auditor Adam Edelen called Attorney General Andy Beshear a “talking point politician” during the Democratic gubernatorial primary. He said Beshear benefited from campaign money from Big Pharma and talked about how one of his staffers pleaded guilty to accepting political bribes. He said Beshear “defended pedophiles in his private practice.”

But that was then, this is now.

At Heine Brothers’ Coffee in Louisville Wednesday morning, the two men stood side by side and pledged to represent a unified front heading into the general election against Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin this fall.

“Let’s address this out of the gate,” Edelen said. “Yes, Andy and I had a tough, competitive primary. But folks, tough primaries make tougher candidates. And a tough candidate will be a tough governor. And that’s what we’re going to need to solve difficult problems in Kentucky.”

Beshear kicked off the Democratic primary in February by asking his fellow candidates to sign a “clean campaign pledge,” a request Edelen summarily ignored. Both the Edelen campaign and the independent political action committee that supported him went up with several ads criticizing Beshear, which Beshear called “disappointing.”

“We’ve already put that aside,” Beshear said. “This is about one united team that knows this race is bigger than Adam Edelen and it’s bigger than me.”

The Republican Governor’s Association has already picked up at least one line of attack from Edelen: criticizing Beshear because of his association with Timothy Longmeyer, Beshear’s former deputy attorney general who went to prison for accepting political bribes. The RGA has been airing ads about Longmeyer since June 10.

“As Andy Beshear and Adam Edelen embark on the world’s most awkward coffee date, they’re reminding Kentucky voters that just weeks ago Edelen dismissed Beshear as a talking point-driven lawyer without the knowledge or the vision to be governor,” said Amelia Chassé Alcivar, the RGA Communications Director. “Just this once, Kentuckians should listen to Adam Edelen — you deserve better.”

Bevin’s campaign manager, Davis Paine, also echoed some of Edelen’s attacks in the Democratic primary.

“Edelen was right when he said ‘Andy Beshear has got no vision for the future’ and ‘doesn’t know anything about modern economic development other than talking points that have been written for him by somebody else,’” Paine said. “Governor Bevin has worked with President Trump to create over 50,000 jobs, so we agree with Edelen that Kentucky ‘deserves better’ than Andy Beshear.”

Edelen did not answer the question when asked if he believes his criticisms of Beshear were still the candidate’s largest vulnerabilities.

Edelen finished third in the primary, winning only two counties: Meade and Breckenridge. But his progressive platform resonated with Democrats in Lexington and Louisville and played a role in pushing Beshear to the left over the course of the campaign, to the point where Beshear announced an endorsement from the abortion-rights group NARAL the day before the election. Edelen would not say if he regretted his attacks against Beshear.

“I don’t think there’s any question that Andy Beshear is a demonstrably better candidate than he was in January,” Edelen said. “Politics ain’t bean-bag.”

One of Edelen’s biggest endorsements in the primary came from the Jefferson County Teachers’ Association, undercutting Beshear’s sustained argument that he was the best candidate for teachers after suing the legislature over their attempts to reform the teachers’ pension system and choosing a teacher as his running mate.

Mary Thurman, 56 of Louisville, is a member of the JCTA and came to Heine Brothers’ Coffee to see Beshear and Edelen. She said the union was split when it endorsed Edelen, but that it was a committee decision.

“We just knew that after Adam lost, we just needed to support whoever can beat Bevin,” Thurman said.

In a brief speech at the coffee shop, Beshear stuck mostly to his script, talking about health care, jobs and education. He pledged to invest heavily in a ground game for his campaign and gave a shout-out to high schoolers from the Kentucky Governor’s Scholars program at the coffee shop, saying he would be the first former governor’s scholar to be elected governor.

“I don’t want to be your governor just to stop what is wrong,” Beshear said. “It is an amazing opportunity to help people and it is an amazing opportunity to help people. And it’s an amazing opportunity to bring us together to start doing the right thing, each and every day.”

As was the theme during the primary, both Edelen and Beshear stressed their desire to get Bevin out of office.

“Andy and I are different men,” Edelen said. “We have different outlooks, we have different personalities. But the differences we have are dwarfed by the enormity of the challenge in front of us. And ladies and gentlemen that challenge is simply making Matt Bevin a one-term governor.”