Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear is trying to capitalize on Gov. Matt Bevin’s unpopularity with school teachers. He’s focusing his run for governor on public education and has selected a rural high school administrator as his running mate.
Beshear, a Democrat, announced that he would run for governor on Monday after months of speculation that he would challenge Republican Gov. Bevin, who he has sued eight times since taking office in 2016.
"As your governor, I will listen especially to those who disagree with me and together we will move forward and these days of bullying, name calling and 'my way or the highway' will be in the past," Beshear said in his announcement.
Beshear is the son of former two-term Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear, who left office in 2015.
Earlier this year, thousands of teachers and other state workers swarmed the state Capitol to protest changes to public pension benefits proposed by Bevin and Republican leaders of the legislature, forcing dozens of school districts to shut down.
Bevin lashed out at members of the state teachers union several times throughout the pension debate, at one point accusing protesters of leaving their students vulnerable to sexual assault by demonstrating in Frankfort.
Beshear sued Bevin for signing the changes into law. A judge ruled in Beshear’s favor, saying that lawmakers violated the state constitution by not following proper procedures and rushing the legislation.
Beshear said he would "continue to fight for our teachers" if elected.
"They will be respected, our state will keep its promises to them and they will have a seat at the table," Beshear said. "Because their voice is a critical voice. That is the voice that educates and prepares our most precious resource, our children."
Beshear tapped Jacqueline Coleman, an assistant principal at Nelson County High School, to be his running mate in the gubernatorial race.
Coleman criticized Bevin for supporting a state takeover of Jefferson County's public school system, which was recommended by Kentucky’s interim education commissioner earlier this year.
"If you think they will stop there, you are wrong," Coleman said. "This is the first step in the Bevin administration’s plan to dismantle public education across Kentucky."
After the announcement, Bevin responded via his personal Twitter account by tweeting news stories about the corruption scandal of Beshear’s former top deputy Tim Longmeyer.
"For those Kentuckians who did not get enough corruption, self-dealing, embezzlement and bribery during the 8 corrupt years of Governor Steve Beshear, his son, Andy, is now offering a chance for 4 more years of the same…," Bevin tweeted.
For those Kentuckians who did not get enough corruption, self-dealing, embezzlement and bribery during the 8 corrupt years of Governor Steve Beshear, his son, Andy, is now offering a chance for 4 more years of the same...#BeshearFamilyTradition https://t.co/iZZrEVlham
— Matt Bevin (@MattBevin) July 9, 2018
Beshear has promised to donate campaign funds received by Longmeyer to an ethics watchdog group once an audit of his campaign account is complete — that hasn’t happened yet.