A new state lawmaker from eastern Kentucky has become the first Republican to formally launch a campaign for governor as speculation continues over whether Gov. Matt Bevin will run for re-election.
In an announcement Tuesday morning, Rep. Robert Goforth of East Bernstadt criticized Bevin’s character and stance on issues.
"I'm not a New England transplant using the people of Kentucky to feed my ego or audition for a job in Washington D.C.," Goforth said. "Rather, I empathize with millions of my fellow Kentuckians. I understand and I respect you because I am you."
Goforth is a pharmacist and drug store owner who was first sent to the legislature in 2018 after a special election. He was re-elected to the seat in November.
He was one of 11 Republicans to vote against the controversial pension bill that passed out of the legislature in 2018 — a measure that was supported by Bevin and ultimately struck down by the Kentucky Supreme Court.
Goforth said that he disagreed with the main feature of the pension bill — giving future teachers "hybrid" 401k-style retirement plans instead of traditional defined benefit pensions.
"Our people are tired of being talked down to and maligned by someone who thinks he is better than us, that he alone has all the answers to the problems that we face," Goforth said.
Goforth recently filed a bill that would be one of the most restrictive abortion policies in the country, banning the procedure once a fetal heartbeat can be detected.
Goforth's running mate is Mike Hogan, an attorney from Lawrence County who ran for attorney general in 2015 but lost in the Republican primary.
Bevin has said he will run for re-election, but he hasn’t formally filed or committed to running with current Lieutenant Gov. Jenean Hampton.
Speculation has swirled over why Bevin hasn't filed yet — whether he is "freezing the field" in order to keep would-be candidates in the wings ahead of the Jan. 29 deadline or he has been unable to settle on a running mate.
Bevin is also rumored to be a candidate to serve in President Donald Trump's administration, possibly a replacement for 81-year-old Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who is embroiled in several scandals.
Republican Congressman James Comer has said he is interested in running, but said he won't challenge Bevin in a primary election.
Comer, who previously served in the legislature and as state agriculture commissioner, lost to Bevin in the 2015 Republican primary election by 83 votes.
Democrats who have launched campaigns for governor include Attorney General Andy Beshear, House Minority Leader Rocky Adkins and former state auditor Adam Edelen.