Kentucky Public Radio Voter Guide: Gov. Andy Beshear runs for reelection
Andy Beshear is the only statewide elected Democrat in Kentucky and is seeking reelection.
Beshear became a familiar face to many as the state navigated trying times: a pandemic, one of the most destructive tornado systems in U.S. history and a devastating flood in eastern Kentucky.
Elected/government experience: Attorney General (2016 - 2019), Governor (2019-)
Campaign website: https://andybeshear.com/
Running mate: Jacqueline Coleman
Beshear and his Republican opponent Daniel Cameron declined to be interviewed for this voter guide.
Beshear actively supports exceptions to Kentucky's near-total ban on abortion and has said he believes it should be a legal, but “rare,” procedure.
“There are reasonable restrictions that could be placed on it. I’ve always been against late-term procedures,” Beshear said last year.
Beshear vetoed several legislative efforts to restrict abortion in Kentucky before the U.S. Supreme Court Dobbs ruling undercut abortion rights.
He allowed a bill that requires doctors to provide life-saving care to infants that show signs of life — including those who survive an abortion attempt — to become law without his signature in 2021.
He vetoed a proposed 15-week abortion ban last year, saying he believed it unconstitutional and expressing concerns over its lack of exceptions for rape and incest.
Abortion was barely mentioned during this year's race until Beshear began releasing ads on Labor Day weekend, condemning Republican opponent Daniel Cameron for not supporting exceptions to the ban.
Beshear does not often speak on climate change or solutions to slow it. Neither candidate lists it as a priority on their campaign websites. Beshear advocates for an across-the-board energy strategy that includes growing the state’s sustainable energy industry.
More than eight-times as many people worked in clean energy than coal mines in Kentucky last year, according to the 2023 Clean Jobs America report by the nonpartisan group E2.
During Beshear’s term, Ford and Toyota announced plans to build electric vehicle-related plants in Kentucky.
Beshear has not announced a climate action plan to deal with climate change. The most recent plan was crafted in 2011, when his father Gov. Steve Beshear was still in office.
The younger Beshear does acknowledge that climate change is real, but says he believes Kentucky needs to balance environmentalism with business and economic needs.
Beshear called for an across the board 11% raise for public school personnel as an effort to attract and retain talented teachers.
“The biggest threat to continued learning loss are vacancies,” Beshear said as part of a $1.1 billion education funding plan. “And our kids fall behind when we don't have the very best of the best. And if we don't compensate more, then we're not going to be able to give them the best.”
Beshear has also called for the state to fund universal pre-K, teacher student loan forgiveness and fully funding school district transportation needs.
Beshear signed a GOP-sponsored income tax cut earlier this year after vetoing a bill that both cut the income tax and expanded the sales tax in 2022. He called for caution in further cuts to the income tax to make sure the state can continue to provide vital services without the major source of state revenue.
“We have to make sure that we are also responsible,” Beshear said. “We're gonna have a good budget. We just need to be very thoughtful about what the right parameters are for any future reduction, and we'll have that discussion with the General Assembly.”
Beshear also said he hopes to provide relief to Kentuckians through other methods than straight tax relief. For example, he is advocating for an additional investment in clean water systems in the next budget cycle that would allow for upgrades while keeping utility rates level.
Beshear advocates for a further expansion of the government sponsored healthcare program.
“We have to get more of our people healthy. It's why I expanded Medicaid for vision, hearing and dental because if someone's out of the workforce and we want them to go to a job, they've got to be able to see well enough to drive to the job. A pair of glasses isn't that expensive, let's get them for them,” Beshear said during a recent candidate forum.
During the pandemic, significantly more people enrolled in Medicaid. By early 2023, enrollment in Kentucky was up 168% to more than 1.6 million people. But as people are required to requalify this year for the first time since the pandemic, some experts expect that number to decrease substantially.
Beshear has called for increasing pay and benefits for law enforcement, recommending better pension benefits, new training opportunities and stipends.
“With a historic budget surplus. There is no excuse not to provide the help that is needed and the best equipment to all law enforcement,” Beshear said. “Because heroes like these deserve the best wages, the best benefits, the best training, and that is exactly what my budget proposal will do.”
Just three years ago, thousands of Kentuckians marched through the streets to protest police violence, especially in the killing of Louisville’s Breonna Taylor.
Beshear faced criticism from some activists and politicians for sending the National Guard to Louisville early on in the protests. National Guard members were part of the crowd control efforts that resulted in David McAtee’s killing while he was at his barbeque restaurant.
"I know that it can be hard to see that presence, and I know that there are some that disagree with it," Beshear said after sending more troops a few months after McAtee’s death. "Why it's being done is to make sure that anyone and everyone can express their First Amendment rights, but that they can do so safely, that no one can incite violence.”
Beshear called for more accountability and transparency around the grand jury trial of the police officers involved in Taylor’s death. He signed legislation that limited the use of no-knock warrants, like the one that resulted in Taylor’s death, but many progressive Democrats believe the law did not go far enough.