Now that the 2019 General Assembly session is in the books, save the one day later this month set aside for vetoes, the real show begins.
Governor Mania takes centerstage, beginning a two-month sprint to the primary finish line when voters will decide the
Democrat and Republican who will do battle in Governor Mania II in November.
Gov. Matt Bevin doesn’t have much resistance from his own party but the battle for the Democratic nomination will be extremely interesting and likely not G-rated.
They all want a shot at Bevin because polls say he’s vulnerable in his re-election bid. Of course, they said the same thing about Republican lawmakers last November when teachers and others vowed “Remember in November” and not much changed –except the GOP even became a super majority in the Senate.
So the lesson here may be: Be careful what you wish for it might come true.
Nevertheless, the Democrat party’s nominee will likely come out battered and bruised from friendly fire that’s sure to come. They will have to try and not become too splintered after the whirlwind fray. It will be a closely watched primary with some major players in state politics trying to win over voters.
Attorney General Andy Beshear, House Democrat leader Rocky Adkins and former auditor Adam Edelen are the frontrunners for the Democrats. They threw their hats into the ring in that order and fundraising has begun in earnest.
Beshear said the objective is to unseat Bevin and he asked the other primary challengers to make it a kinder, less offensive primary for that reason. He wanted each challenger to sign a pledge promising not to run any negative radio or television commercials.
Beshear’s three-pronged pledge said each candidate should not air negative commercials or send negative mail pieces; enthusiastically and wholeheartedly support the primary’s winner; and publicly disavow negative attacks from third-party of independent groups.
The reaction from the challenger’s camps? Crickets.
Translation: The gloves are coming off.
A new super PAC is already throwing its support to Edelen and that may be a harbinger of things to come in what will likely be race that is hard to watch. Super PACs typically mean some negative campaigning is to follow which is what Beshear, in theory anyway, was trying to avoid.
Governor Mania may have some mudslinging elements to it, at least when it comes to the Democratic side.
Bevin, who scoffs at poll numbers that say he’s unpopular among voters in Kentucky, will sit back in the catbird’s seat for the next two months and watch his potential November challengers hammer on each other. He will enjoy the view and be taking notes.
But the guess here is that no matter how ugly the primary season becomes for the Democrats, you can multiply that exponentially for Governor Mania II. That’s when some bare-knuckled fistfights will seem like child’s play. It will be a battered and bruised path like the state hasn’t seen in some time.
In other words, you ain’t seen nothing yet.
MARK MAYNARD is managing editor of Kentucky Today. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org