Politics & Government

Beshear’s first ad touts his Baptist heritage. Bevin says Baptists should be insulted.

Gov. Matt Bevin continued his crusade to focus the 2019 gubernatorial election on the issue of abortion rights Wednesday, releasing a video that accused Attorney General Andy Beshear, the Democratic nominee for governor, of insulting people of Baptist faith.

The video was in response to Beshear’s first television ad of the general election, which featured Beshear talking about how his grandfather and great-grandfather were Baptist preachers and how their faith guided his principles.

“I think it’s insulting to the Baptist tradition, I think it’s insulting to the people of Baptist faith to try and couch what his grandfather and great grandfather did as sort of covering for his pro-abortion stance,” Bevin said in the video.

Bevin’s campaign has been almost singularly focused on abortion rights since Beshear attended a campaign fundraiser in Louisville last week that was co-sponsored by the owner of Kentucky’s only remaining abortion clinic.

The focus on abortion rights — the ever-constant, most controversial issue in Kentucky politics — underscores Bevin’s pitch to Kentuckians as he seeks a second-term: voters might not like him — polling has showed he is the least popular governor in the nation — but they like his policy positions better than Beshear’s.

In his video, he made an appeal to pastors, asking them to weigh in “on the issue of life” and declare which side they are on.

“There is no middle ground here, this is not a time to hold your powder dry and wait and see what someone else is doing,” Bevin said. “This is a time to stand up and be counted for, because if we can’t stand up for human life, the dignity of human life, that was given to us not by government... when can we.”

Beshear has responded to Bevin’s focus on abortion, and his use of the term “blood money” in particular, by calling the governor’s rhetoric “violent” and “unhinged.” On Wednesday, his campaign denounced Bevin’s use of the phrase “keep your powder dry,” which Bevin has often deployed when talking about the need for conservatives to vote.

“Matt Bevin continues to use the type of violent language that can get people hurt, and he is now specifically requesting for people not to ‘hold your powder dry,’” said Eric Hyers, Beshear’s campaign manager. “To make these unhinged comments after the tragic events of the last several days is unacceptable and sadly another example why Bevin is unfit to govern. For Bevin to attack Andy Beshear’s faith and his late grandfather’s and great grandfather’s service as baptist preachers in western Kentucky is disgraceful.”

Beshear hasn’t ceded the religious vote. When Bevin first went after Beshear’s campaign contributions from doctors who perform abortions, the Democrat was meeting with pastors in Western Kentucky. Then came the ad, titled “Dignity,” which underscored Beshear’s pledge to return “dignity” to the governor’s office.

“As governor, I’ll treat all Kentucky families with dignity and respect,” Beshear says in the ad. “Those are the values Britainy and I teach to our kids and those are the values I’ll bring back to Frankfort.”

Beshear attends and is a deacon at Beargrass Christian Church, a Disciples of Christ church in Louisville. The pastor, Leigh Bond, defended Beshear Wednesday.

“Even with their demanding schedule, the family makes it a priority to be present in worship,” Bond said. “And they don’t just ‘show up.’ Their faith and commitment to God inspire them to serve others and engage in ministry beyond the walls of the church.”

In his video, Bevin also claimed Beshear supported abortion at any stage of pregnancy.

While Beshear has said he is pro-choice and in favor of Roe vs. Wade — the landmark supreme court ruling that legalized abortion in all 50 states — he has helped defend a law passed in 2017 that requires doctors to perform an ultrasound and describe the results of that procedure to a woman seeking an abortion.

“It is also my duty to defend laws where the constitutionality is questionable and finality is needed,” Beshear said at the time. “Adhering to these duties is why, after close review, my agencies will defend the agencies sued over HB 2 that seek our representation.”

Bevin has criticized Beshear’s role in the case and his hesitancy to defend other abortion bills, referencing cases where Beshear’s office has made motions to be removed as a defendant.