Politics

Vice President Mike Pence was in Lexington on Friday to help raise money for Gov. Matt Bevin’s re-election effort.

Pence gave a speech at the Kentucky Aviation Museum to a crowd of donors who had to pay between $1,000 and $2,000 to attend.

The vice president highlighted his friendship with Bevin, which dates back to Pence’s term as governor of Indiana between 2013 and 2017.

Pence said Bevin got inspiration from him.

“He was looking across the Ohio River and he was seeing Indiana doing some things that he thought Kentucky ought to do. And I got to tell you, it’s amazing to look at what you’ve accomplished in four short years,” Pence said.

Bevin is running for re-election amid low polling numbers following comments criticizing teachers and other workers who oppose his efforts to overhaul the state’s pension systems.

He has drawn a primary challenge from Republican state Rep. Robert Goforth and three Democratic candidates: Attorney General Andy Beshear, former state Auditor Adam Edelen and longtime Democratic state Rep. Rocky Adkins.

But Bevin will be boosted by the popularity of President Donald Trump in Kentucky. And Pence’s visit shows that Bevin will use his connections in the White House to shore up his campaign.

“I bring the full and total endorsement of the 45th president of the United States of America, President Donald Trump,” Pence said.

Kentucky is one of three states — including Mississippi and Louisiana — that will elect a governor this year and the only one with an incumbent Republican.

Despite having more registered Democrats than Republicans in the state, Republicans have enjoyed a series of electoral successes in recent years.

In 2015, Bevin became only the third Republican governor elected in Kentucky since World War II. In 2016, Republicans won control of the statehouse for the first time in nearly a century.

And in 2018, Republicans maintained supermajorities in both the state House and Senate despite Bevin’s unpopularity.

Bevin bragged about his achievements with the Republican-led legislature.

“Most of those people said if you touch on that, you’ll never get elected. Nobody will ever elect somebody that says they’re going to bring ‘right to work’ to Kentucky. How ‘bout them apples? That thing worked out alright,” Bevin said.

Pence also used the Lexington event as an opportunity to single out Sen. Rand Paul for his opposition to Trump’s national emergency declaration over border security.

“We call on Sen. Rand Paul and every member of the United States Congress to stand with this president,” Pence said. “A vote against the president’s emergency declaration is a vote against border security.”

Paul recently indicated that he would vote in favor of a resolution to strike down Trump’s emergency declaration, making him the deciding Republican vote on the issue. It’s unlikely that there would be enough votes to override a veto of that resolution.

Ben Self, chair of the Kentucky Democratic Party, issued a statement after Pence’s visit.

“As Governor of Indiana, Mike Pence’s hateful agenda cost his state millions in lost business. He also oversaw one of the worst outbreaks of Hepatitis A in the nation as governor, just like the one we are experiencing now under Bevin. They’re two peas in a pod, and neither one of them knows what is best for Kentucky,” Self said.

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