Eight minutes into the governor’s debate on Tuesday, moderator Shannon Cogan urged the audience at Lexington’s Singletary Center to remain silent. The candidates’ verbal jousts elicited whoops, boos, cheers and rare bits of laughter through the hour-long debate reflecting an audience as clearly divided on policy as the two men on stage.
Republican Gov. Matt Bevin and Democratic challenger Andy Beshear found little common ground during the debate on the University of Kentucky campus; that was evident on the hot-button issue of abortion.
Beshear said he supports Roe v. Wade and allowing options for women. Bevin, he said, was “an extremist and supports a total ban even in cases of rape and incest.”
Bevin was unapologetic for his stance. “You know who else needs an option, it is those people who can’t speak for themselves.” He said that includes the unborn.
A number of the questions, which were submitted by the public, centered on health care.
A key point of disagreement was a work requirement for some Kentucky Medicaid recipients that is working its way through the court.
Beshear said one of his first acts as governor would be to eliminate that requirement. Bevin said assuming Medicaid recipients can’t meet the requirements reflects a dismissive attitude toward the abilities of that population.
The rare point of agreement was that both candidates support medical marijuana. But even there, there was some disconnect. Beshear wants to tax medical marijuana to produce a revenue stream to shore up pensions. Bevin disagreed with that plan, and instead said the pension system needs a complete structural overhaul.
Both lauded the efforts of the Blackjewel miners who camped out for weeks on railroad tracks in eastern Kentucky to protest not receiving their paychecks when the mine closed. But each called out the other for not doing enough to enforce a law that requires coal companies to submit a bond so coal miners would receive pay if a mine closes.
As the clock ticked down to the end there was an overlap of boos and cheers as Bevin said backing the policies of President Donald Trump such as supporting gun rights and tax reform were critical to Kentuckians. Beshear said “kitchen table issues” like health care and funding public education are central in the race for Kentucky governor.
The debate was hosted by Gray Television, including WKYT in Lexington, the League of Women Voters of Kentucky and the UK Student Government Association.
Beshear and Bevin will face each other in several more debates before the Nov. 5 election.