Politics

The president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., headlined a sparsely-attended campaign rally for Gov. Matt Bevin in Pikeville on Thursday. It was the latest in a string of events attended by President Trump and his surrogates supporting Bevin’s reelection bid.

Bevin is facing a tough race against Democratic rival Andy Beshear and is trying to rally support in eastern Kentucky, which used to be a Democratic stronghold but has trended Republican in recent years.

Trump Jr. spent much of his speech criticizing Democratic presidential candidates and urged the audience to continue eastern Kentucky’s trend towards the Republican Party.

“What would your grandfather say about today’s Democratic platform?” Trump asked. “This is not your grandfather’s Democrat Party. Not even close. This is socialism pushing on communism.”

Only about 200 people attended the event, which was held in Appalachian Wireless Arena.

Last week, President Trump headlined a private campaign event in Louisville supporting Bevin. The White House has also sent Vice President Mike Pence and Ivanka Trump to attend campaign events with Bevin this year.

Pikeville and much of eastern Kentucky used to be a stronghold for Democrats in the commonwealth, but the region overwhelmingly voted in favor of Donald Trump during the 2016 election.

Bevin is trying to bolster support in the area after losing much of it to Republican challenger Robert Goforth during this year’s primary election.

Goforth is a relative political newcomer but garnered 39 percent of the vote statewide during the primary election.

At the rally, Bevin called on the audience to vote for him based on his stances opposing abortion and so-called “sanctuary” cities, while supporting the president and the rights of gun owners.

“Those values are not unique to any one party, but increasingly at the national level they all find themselves on one side,” Bevin said.

“I’m asking you, truly, in this race, in this election November 5, please I’m asking you: vote your values, not your party.”

Bevin is the most unpopular governor in the country according to a recent poll conducted by Morning Consult, partly due to a series of gaffes and inflammatory comments about teachers.

DeRonda Smith, a retired teacher from Hazard, said after the rally that Bevin unjustly “gets a bad rap” from teachers.

“I don’t think they really see what he’s trying to do for them. He’s trying to better their retirement,” Smith said. “People don’t like change. Change is never easy for anyone. That’s why he gets a finger pointed at him.”

Sam Newton, spokesperson for Beshear’s campaign released the following statement after Bevin’s rally:

“Matt Bevin’s small and poorly attended political event will do nothing to make the families of Eastern Kentucky forget how he’s attacked public education, ripped away health care, and insulted teachers,” Newton wrote.

“Under Governor Bevin, many Eastern Kentucky families are making less every year. And Bevin has still failed to explain why his administration ignored a paycheck protection law for nearly 1,000 miners — and could have paid the Blackjewel miners in Harlan.”

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