Politics

With a little more than a month until Election Day, Kentucky’s TV airwaves and social media feeds are saturated with commercials supporting or attacking Gov. Matt Bevin and his Democratic opponent, Attorney General Andy Beshear.

Advertisements from Bevin tout his relationship with President Donald Trump, Kentucky’s economic growth and his stance on divisive social issues like abortion and immigration.

And commercials from Beshear’s campaign hype up his lawsuits against opioid manufacturers and criticize Bevin’s divisive statements about teachers and other opponents.

But then there is another level of advertisements — those that are funded by independent political groups that are either trying to support their candidate of choice or knock down an opponent.

Bevin’s Health Care Policies

Bevin is demanding that TV stations take down a political commercial that accuses him of trying to take health care from children and people with preexisting conditions, claiming that the ad is inaccurate and “defamatory.”

The commercial features a Versailles resident named Hoppy Henton, who criticizes Bevin’s stance on health care issues and for being “not from around here.”

“It really hurts when Matt Bevin goes after people who are from around here,” Henton says in the ad. “Trying to take away healthcare coverage, including vision and dental from children. Or suing in court to take away protection now that people have for preexisting conditions. I just think it’s vicious.”

The commercial was funded by a political action committee group called Bluegrass Values, which is affiliated with the Democratic Governors Association.

Bevin’s campaign manager Davis Paine issued a statement saying that the ad relies on “erroneous reporting.”

“A look at the facts shows that every claim made in this ad is false. The D.C. political PAC behind it is funded by the abortion lobby and has no choice but to double down on desperate lies to save the most liberal nominee in Kentucky history, Andy Beshear,” Paine said.

Bevin has attempted to alter how Kentucky’s Medicaid system works by requiring beneficiaries to prove they are working, in school, volunteering or doing some other form of “community engagement” in order to keep their benefits.

So far, Bevin’s Medicaid changes have been blocked by federal courts, though in July 2018 the Bevin administration briefly cut vision and dental coverage for thousands of people after the court blocked Bevin’s policy.

The Courier Journal reported that some children were being denied dental benefits because they were mistakenly showing up in the state’s computer system as not having coverage.

Bevin’s campaign manager also refuted the commercial’s claim that Bevin is suing in court to take away protections for people with preexisting conditions.

The claim is a reference to Bevin’s support for a policy that would allow small businesses to sign up for association health plans, which are not required to comply with protections required by the Affordable Care Act.

Association health plans would allow small businesses or groups of people to band together and provide insurance that isn’t required to cover prescription drugs, emergency services and mental health treatment — all provisions that insurance companies are currently required to provide under the Affordable Care Act.

In his statement, Paine pointed to a Department of Labor rule that states “AHPs may not exclude coverage for preexisting conditions.”

Beshear’s Equality Stance

Meanwhile a political group backing Bevin’s reelection released an ad this week accusing Beshear of supporting a policy allowing transgender girls to compete in girls’ high school sports.

“Andy Beshear supports legislation that would destroy girls’ sports. He calls it equality. Maybe, but is it fair?” the narrator in the commercial asks.

The commercial was funded by the conservative group Campaign For American Principles.

Paul Dupont, communications director for the group, said that the claim was based on a Facebook post made by Beshear about Louisville’s Pride Parade, saying he would “stand up for equality.”

“That’s a statement that Democrats have typically used to show their support of the Equality Act and some other legislation,” DuPont said.

The Equality Act is federal legislation that seeks to prevent discrimination against LGBT people. It does not address athletics in school, but DuPont argued it could force schools to “allow students to participate based on their gender identity.”

Beshear’s spokesperson Sam Newton called the ad a “shameful and false attack from a shady group that will lead to bullying of our kids.”

“Andy opposes discrimination. Matt Bevin is an unhinged failure who is hurting our students by seeking to tear down public education. He even blamed teachers, without evidence, for the sexual abuse of children,” Newton wrote.

Bevin has joined other states in a lawsuit seeking to block a federal rule that says medical providers and insurance companies can’t discriminate against transgender patients. He has also joined a multi-state lawsuit to try and block a policy that requires public schools to allow transgender students to use the bathroom of their choosing.

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