Election 2019 Politics

Gov. Matt Bevin and Attorney General Andy Beshear squared off in another gubernatorial debate Monday night, one of the last opportunities for voters to see the candidates make their cases before Election Day.

Bevin and Beshear bickered their way through the debate on KET, while moderator Renee Shaw repeatedly brought them back to substantive policy issues like how to raise more money for the state, how to address the state’s pension debt and whether to keep the state’s Medicaid expansion.

Shaw started off by asking Bevin if he regretted making inflammatory statements about teachers, which have dinged his popularity rating. Bevin said he did not.

“Nothing that I’ve said about educators do I regret,” Bevin said. “There are many things my opponent has said that I’ve said. I’ve made comments about people behaving in ways that were reprehensible that weren’t said about teachers.”

Last year Bevin accused teachers who called in sick to protest his policies in Frankfort of leaving children vulnerable to sexual abuse. He also compared teachers who oppose his pension policies to drowning victims, saying “you just need to knock them out and drag them to shore. It’s for their own good and we have to save the system.”

Beshear’s signature plan is to raise revenue for the state by legalizing casino gambling, even though Republican leaders in the legislature oppose it. Beshear said lawmakers would come around.

“No proposal has ever dedicated 100 percent of the funding of expanded gaming to the pension system,” Beshear said.

Whoever is elected will have Republican supermajorities in both chambers of the state legislature when their term begins.

Leaders of the state Senate have said that Beshear’s proposal is “dead on arrival.”

Bevin said that Beshear’s list of priorities like giving teachers an across the board $2,000 pay raise and reverse cuts to higher education aren’t feasible.

“You’re promising things that cannot be delivered. You’re fighting a legislature, you said you’re going to actively work against your own supermajority legislature, you will not get this done,” Bevin said.

Bevin argued that the only way to raise more money for state coffers is to attract more businesses to the state, touting his plan to cut corporate and individual income taxes and increase the sales tax.

Beshear accused Bevin of pushing for a tax structure that solely benefits the wealthy.

“He thinks that they are a different class than other Kentuckians while he wants to raise the sales tax on all the rest of us,” Beshear said.

Early on in the debate, Bevin tried to clarify his claim from the WLKY debate last weekend that he never said that casino gambling leads to suicide every day.

Bevin said that he had never claimed people kill themselves “on a casino floor,” rather than “in a casino.”

“Which is entirely different from what you said repeatedly, even though I corrected you and you refused to allow me to qualify what I actually said by saying ‘on a casino floor.’ A casino floor is very different than a casino hotel room,” Bevin said.

The candidates have one more debate. On Tuesday night they will square off at Northern Kentucky University. Election Day is November 5.

Ryland Barton is the Capitol bureau chief for Kentucky Public Radio.