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Democrats Try To Set Themselves Apart In Louisville Gubernatorial Forum

Ryland Barton

With about a month to go before Kentucky’s primary elections, all three major Democratic candidates for governor appeared together on stage for the first time on Thursday.

During a forum held by Louisville’s Rotary Club, candidates differed only slightly in their stances on a wide range of issues including preserving Kentucky’s Medicaid expansion, shoring up public education and allowing casino gambling to generate revenue for the state’s ailing pension systems.

But the candidates are still trying to set themselves apart.

Front-runner Andy Beshear, the current attorney general, emphasized numerous lawsuits he has filed against Republican Gov. Matt Bevin, saying that he’s a “fighter.”

“We desperately have to beat Matt Bevin this fall. We don’t survive another four years of this governor. And I’ve shown you I can beat him,” Beshear said.

Beshear, the son of former Gov. Steve Beshear, still has a heavy lead among Kentucky Democrats, according to an internal poll from Adam Edelen’s campaign shared with Insider Louisville.

But the poll also showed that Edelen, a businessman and former state auditor, has made gains after a media blitz in Lexington and Louisville.

Edelen said he thinks the biggest issue facing Kentuckians is access to broadband internet and renewable energy.

“We don’t have the internet available to 100,000 Jefferson Countians and over half of our rural population, meaning they’re not relevant to the opportunities of the digital age,” Edelen said.

Longtime state representative Rocky Adkins touted his experience in the legislature, which he said would be necessary to hammer out compromises with the Republican-dominated statehouse.

Adkins, from Sandy Hook in Elliot County, said his top priority would be to “hold the jobs today and prepare ourselves for the jobs of tomorrow.”

“To where we can bring economic prosperity to rural parts of the state. That infuriates me when my region of the state — I see a depopulation of an entire region having to move to find a job someplace else,” Adkins said.

The candidates are scheduled to participate in four televised debates ahead of the primary on May 21.

The winner of the Democratic primary will face either Bevin or Republican challengers Robert Goforth, William Woods and Ike Lawrence.

Recent polls have showed that Bevin has a low approval rating, but support for Republicans and party registration has surged in Kentucky in recent years.

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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