Gov. Andy Beshear is asking a legislative committee to dismiss an impeachment petition against him. Petitioners say Beshear violated the Kentucky Constitution when he imposed restrictions during the pandemic, including mandatory closures of non-essential businesses.
In a 45-page response to the petition, Beshear notes that the courts have upheld many of his restrictions, and describes the petitioners as “political activists ostensibly unhappy with the Governor’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and their lack of success in court.”
“The Petition cites no facts and little law in a last-ditch effort to upend our constitutional separation of powers, hoping the General Assembly will ignore the judgments of the judicial branch as well as the will of the people in electing their chief executive,” the response reads.
The four petitioners are Jacob Clark of Grayson County, Tony Wheatley of Mercer County, Randall Daniel of Bullitt County and Andrew Cooperrider of Fayette County. They say Beshear violated their Constitutional rights, including the right to freedom of assembly and religious freedom, with his executive orders temporarily closing businesses and churches to in-person worship.
One petitioner, Cooperrider, refused to close his Lexington coffee shop to in-person dining in November and December, in defiance of Beshear’s executive order.
In his response, Beshear points to petitioners’ political activity, and “inflammatory” rhetoric against the governor on social media.
“The common denominator among the four is a pattern of attacking and even attempting to instill fear in the Governor and his family,” the response reads.
According to Beshear, Wheatley was one of the organizers of the May 24, 2020 protest against the governor’s coronavirus restrictions, which ended with a small group of protesters hanging Beshear in effigy outside the governor’s mansion. According to the Courier Journal, Wheatley was at the protest, but said he did not support the effigy.
The response also says Cooperrider is under investigation after a business owner reported him to the authorities for saying “wait until you see what I have planned for the Governor’s mansion in the next couple of weeks.” Beshear says Cooperrider told Kentucky State Police he did not have violent intent.
Impeachment is rare in Kentucky. According to Beshear, it has only been used eight times in Kentucky history, and never against a governor.
Since state Republican lawmakers have decided to form a committee in response to this impeachment petition against Beshear, two more impeachment petitions have been filed: one against Republican Rep. Robert Goforth, who allegedly hogtied and strangled his wife with an ethernet cable; and another against state Attorney General Daniel Cameron, for his handling of the Breonna Taylor investigation.