Election 2019 Politics

Before a packed crowd at Northern Kentucky University Tuesday night, Gov. Matt Bevin and Attorney General Andy Beshear capped off a series of five televised debates, making their final pitches ahead of next week’s election.

During the debate that aired on WLWT, both candidates said they would make it a priority to address the crumbling Brent-Spence Bridge that connects Covington to Cincinnati.

The issue has been a focal point for northern Kentuckians for years but has failed to get funding from the Ohio or Kentucky governments.

When pressed, Bevin said he would support tolling to help finance the bridge — a policy that has been unpopular with some local residents who use it frequently.

“You have, with technology, the ability to use variable tolling based on local traffic, through traffic, commercial traffic, private traffic but there’s no way around having some type of tolling on a bridge of this size,” Bevin said.

Beshear said that the bridge’s conditions are getting to the point where drivers should fear for their safety. He would not say whether he would support tolling on the bridge, but that the “people of northern Kentucky and not this governor” should decide how to finance it.

Bevin accused Beshear of not being capable of making difficult decisions.

The candidates differed on whether they would support gun restrictions like an assault weapons ban or a “red flag” law that would allow courts to temporarily take guns away from people deemed to be dangerous.

Bevin said he would not support new gun restrictions.

“You can pooh-pooh all you want, but the reality is it is an evil person who kills people, not the weapon,” Bevin said. “They can do it with a gun, they can do it with a knife, they can do it with vehicle. And if a person wants to kill another person, they can find a way.”

Beshear said he would support a red flag law, and when pressed he said he would not support an assault weapons ban.

WLWT Anchor Sheree Paolello, who moderated the date, noted that the candidates had “found some common ground.”

“Yeah, I think we backed into that one, didn’t we,” Bevin said.

The candidates also revived an argument over Bevin’s claim from over the summer that “every night somewhere in America somebody takes their life in a casino because they’ve wasted the last semblance of dignity.”

Bevin has provided no evidence for the claim and during a debate on Saturday denied ever making it.

During the debate on Tuesday, Bevin again doubled down on the issue, saying that people kill themselves in Las Vegas hotel rooms every other night.

“They’re doing it in hotel rooms, they’re doing it in bathrooms, they’re doing it off of parking garages. It is happening systemically,” said Bevin. “Look at the city of Las Vegas where every other night in a hotel room someone commits suicide in one city alone.”

Bevin has used the claim to attack Beshear’s proposal to legalize casino gambling in an attempt to raise money for the state’s ailing pension systems.

“Folks, this is someone who cannot admit when they have made something up and they’ve been caught,” Beshear said.

Republican leaders of the legislature have said Beshear’s casino gambling proposal is a non-starter.

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