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Matt Bevin Finds Himself In Striking Distance for Kentucky Gubernatorial Nomination

Abbey Oldham

Matt Bevin has done laps around Kentucky in a messy black suburban, searching for his big political break.

The search started last year with an unsuccessful  bid for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination. It started anew this year with a campaign to be the party’s gubernatorial nominee.

“This is the campaign-mobile in all its splendor,” Bevin said during an interview in his SUV crammed with the candidate’s belongings.

“I’ve got suits for later tonight and stuff I’ve got signs and all kinds of things. This is where it’s at. This thing’s got 186,000-plus miles on it and a lot of lovin’—this is the family truckster.”

After all those miles, Bevin is hoping that big break finally come as the presumed Republican front-runners—former Louisville Metro Councilman Hal Heiner and Agriculture Commissioner James Comer—duke it out in a nasty political fight.

Bevin trailed Heiner and Comer in March, but is now within striking distance, according to a poll released last week by Public Policy Polling.

Bevin said he got into the race because he felt none of the other GOP  candidates had specific plans.

“None of them were willing to tell people what they would do when they were governor,” Bevin said. “They simply wanted to be governor. And each of them wanted me to help them, and I appreciate that, but the reality is the people of Kentucky deserve better than that.”

Like his fellow candidates, Bevin says private sector job growth  is his chief priority and he wants to make Kentucky a “right to work” state, meaning workers couldn’t be required to pay union dues as an employment condition.

A Tea Party conservative, Bevin said he’d scrap the state’s health exchange, cut taxes and reduce the number of people employed by the state.

Bevin said he would focus the “Shaping Our Appalachian Region” initiative on reducing government regulations in eastern Kentucky instead of investing state dollars in the area.

Taking aim at what he calls “New Deal type” programs, Bevin says the welfare system keeps people from acting in their own best interests.

“[Recipients] have just enough financial wherewithal  to not have to work, to not have to be gainfully engaged and participating in civic environments around them and then they make poor personal choices,” Bevin said.

“So you’ve seen systemic problems as it relates to drugs and other life decisions that people make that frankly are bad for the family unit, bad for individuals, bad for the communities.”

Bevin’s campaign has beenlargely self-funded. So far, he’s loaned his campaign $1.75 million and raised less than $100,000.

“I’ve not focused on fundraising,” Bevin said. “I’m focusing on getting the message out.”

Bevin is a more seasoned politician than the Senate campaign, his first. So far, he has avoided the last campaign’s gaffes, such as when he spoke at a cockfighting rally.

He said he didn’t realize it was a cockfighting rally.

Bevin grew up in northern New Hampshire where his family led a spartan existence. His father, Avery, spent most of his life working in a wood mill; his mother, Louise, worked a few days a month as a hospital secretary.

We grew up below the poverty level raising crops, raising animals and just learning how to work hard, learning how to make one’s own way,” Bevin said. “My father raised us with a good work ethic. An understanding that our word was our bond and we were raised with good Christian values.

“I’m grateful for that.”

Bevin would go on to attend a prep school in Maine, the tuition for which he said he paid for through financial aid, working in the cafeteria and summer jobs.

He then attended Washington & Lee University, where he majored in East Asian studies on an ROTC scholarship. Bevin served four years as an Army officer in Texas and Louisiana.

In 1999, Bevin moved to Louisville to work for National Integrity Management. And in 2003 he opened Integrity Asset Management, an investment firm which manages over $5 billion in assets.

He’s also co-owner of Bevin Brothers Manufacturing, which makes bells. Bevin and his wife Glenna have nine children, four of whom were adopted from Ethiopia. Growing up,  he wanted to run an orphanage, he said.

“And I’ll tell you it’s important too because this way we can be a walking, living billboard for the importance of expanding your heart, expanding your lives and doing for the world things that need to be done,” Bevin said.

“It’s easy to assume that somebody else is going to do it, but sometimes we’re the somebody.”

The Bevins upgraded to a 12-passenger van after adopting—the former “family truckster” that’s now the “campaign-mobile.”

This week, we’re profiling Kentucky’s Republican candidates for governor. Tomorrow, we’ll have a profile of James Comer.

Ryland Barton is the Managing Editor for Collaboratives. He's covered politics and state government for NPR member stations KWBU in Waco and KUT in Austin. He has a bachelor's degree from the University of Chicago and a master's degree in journalism from the University of Texas. He grew up in Lexington.

Email Ryland at
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