Opinion

The Lexington Herald-Leader endorses Andy Beshear for governor

Four years ago, this editorial board called gubernatorial candidate Matt Bevin, “fundamentally unsuited to govern, both by temperament and experience.”

Four years later, Gov. Bevin has gained some experience, but those words about his suitability and temperament have proven all too true.

He is still thin-skinned, rude to those who disagree with him and staunchly convinced that he’s the smartest man in whatever room he enters. When trapped, he adopts a Trumpian style of gaslighting by denying words clearly caught on tape. He claims to value transparency, but has hidden personal trips on a state airplane behind a dodge of security concerns, and has never released his tax returns. He has declined to meet with the Herald-Leader editorial board, including an invitation to interview for this endorsement. His treatment and speech toward teachers, our state’s most valuable public servants, have rightly made him one of the most unpopular governors in the country.

His actions are even worse: He’s tried to gut funding for higher education, and paved the way for charter schools that could take sorely needed resources from K-12 schools. But his main policy goal appears to be undoing one of the most important changes in Kentucky history: the Medicaid expansion that cut in half the number of Kentuckians without health insurance.

If there were no other reason to vote for Attorney General Andy Beshear, it would be because on day one of his term, he would nullify Bevin’s destructive plans to force thousands of people off their health insurance with costly new requirements. The Medicaid expansion is critical not only to the health of people but to the economy in struggling rural areas. In states that have not adopted the Medicaid expansion, rural hospitals are shutting down, whereas in Kentucky, they are adding crucial healthcare jobs.

Fortunately, there are plenty more reasons to support Beshear. As Attorney General, Beshear has provided a crucial bulwark against the excesses of Bevin and the Republican legislature, with numerous lawsuits, including those that stopped Bevin’s attempt to hijack higher education funding and the Republican sewer bill, which would have gutted public pensions in a secretive and rushed bill.

Thanks to his father, former Gov. Steve Beshear, and four years as the state’s top law enforcement officer, Beshear has a deep understanding of Kentucky’s most crucial issues, from school funding to the opioid crisis. We believe he is somewhat unrealistic about his ability to sway majority Republican votes in the General Assembly on such issues as medical marijuana and expanded gaming, which are critical features to his plans to raise revenue. But at least those plans are better than the Bevin/Alvarado ticket’s proposal to replace income tax with more sales taxes, a regressive plan that hurts Kentucky’s most vulnerable citizens.

(Speaking of Ralph Alvarado, his major achievements as a state senator are bills to loosen restrictions for nursing homes, a new low in legislative self-dealing as he is a physician who works for several of them.)

Thanks to Beshear’s much more impressive running mate, Jacqueline Coleman, an assistant principal, Beshear understands exactly where Kentucky’s revenue-starved schools need the most help, and he supports pay raises and moral support to overworked teachers. He also supports more funding for higher education, with a re-examination of performance funding, a good idea at its core, but implemented in Kentucky with Ayn Randian fantasies about competition that could critically damage the state’s smaller public universities.

Although Republicans have tried to paint him as a patsy for the pharmaceutical industry, Beshear has filed nine lawsuits against the makers and distributors of the opioids that have ravaged this state. At the same time, he understands the importance of criminal justice reform that could provide a more humane approach to addiction, while at the same time easing the burden of our dangerously over-crowded prisons.

In these final weeks of the election, Bevin has tightened up the race with shameless flogging of cultural issues that have very little to do with the economic problems that affect Kentuckians most, from squawking about abortion to preacher parties in the Governor’s Mansion. But like much of Bevin’s tenure, this is “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” Andy Beshear is both temperamentally and substantively ready for the Governor’s office and deserves your vote.

BEHIND OUR REPORTING

Why do we endorse?

The Herald-Leader believes the tradition of candidate endorsements enhances interest and participation in the civic process, whether readers agree with the newspaper’s recommendations or not. The paper has unusual access to candidates and their backgrounds, and considers part of its responsibility to help citizens sort through campaign issues and rhetoric.

An endorsement represents the consensus of the editorial board. The decisions have no connection to the news coverage of political races and is wholly separate from journalists who cover those races. This fall, we will also be posting video excerpts from the candidates’ interviews with the editorial board.

We will endorse in key state and local races. Unendorsed candidates can respond with 250-word letters that will be published as soon as possible.

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