New AG Beshear must focus on citizen needs

Andy Beshear
Andy Beshear

Congratulations to Andy Beshear, the winner in the closely, and expensively, contested race for Kentucky Attorney General.

Beshear, who will be serving in his first public office, will face many challenges in the job as the state's lawyer but the first will be to prove that he's working only for the people of Kentucky.

He'll have to show that he's not looking out for the well-heeled donors who transferred their generosity to him from his father, Gov. Steve Beshear, who could not run for reelection; or for the clients of the law firm where he works, Stites & Harbison, which represents many companies that get in legal wrangles with the state, most notably Oxycontin maker Purdue Pharma.

We endorsed Beshear because his experience in complex litigation seemed to match better with the attorney general's job, and his priorities of fighting child sexual abuse, protecting elders from scams and addressing drug abuse all align with Kentucky's needs. His opponent, Sen. Whitney Westerfield, despite an impressive first term pushing successfully for juvenile justice reform and legislation to abate the heroin epidemic, promised on the campaign trail to use the power of the attorney general's office to find ways to sue the federal government and promote his personal social values.

Attorney general is a tough job, one that can require a politician to pursue wrongdoing in his own party, or the other and within state government, and to take on huge private interests like nursing homes, energy and pharmaceutical companies, for-profit schools — the list is endless. So many of these interests poured millions — on both sides — into this race, hoping to have a sympathetic ear.

It's the reality of modern politics but it is now Beshear's job to keep his ear finely tuned only on the needs of Kentucky's citizens.