(The Center Square) – Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear may be a Democrat, but on Thursday, he told reporters his job isn’t to bolster his party’s numbers in the state legislature.
“Listen, my job as governor is to be governor for all the people of Kentucky, and my commitment when I ran and how I’ve served is to spend the vast majority of my time being governor, not moving the state to the right or the left, but moving it forward,” Beshear said toward the end of his press conference Thursday in Frankfort.
In his first three years in office, Beshear has had several battles with a state legislature with Republican super majorities in both chambers. Most notably, Beshear and General Assembly leaders sparred over the emergency actions the governor put in place at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Kentucky Supreme Court eventually sided with lawmakers in that case.
While Beshear and GOP leaders have been able to work on such issues as disaster recovery efforts in western and eastern parts of the state, they have been chilly toward each other on other issues.
That includes education. After state and national report cards came out in the last couple of weeks noting Kentucky students’ low scores in reading, math and science, Beshear proposed to increase teacher pay and restore pension benefits cut by lawmakers. He said those were essential to attract new teachers and fill the current 11,000 vacant positions in public schools. Further, he added the money is there to pay for that and other initiatives – like fully funded pre-K – thanks to record budget surpluses.
GOP legislative leaders shot back, ripping Beshear’s COVID policies that shut down schools for the low test scores. They also reiterated they’re not interested in reopening the two-year budget, which they passed largely on their own earlier this year, at this time.
Republicans currently hold 75 of the 100 seats in the state House and 29 of the 38 state Senate seats. There is one vacant seat in the Senate due to then-state Sen. C.B. Embry, R-Morgantown, resigning just before his death in late September. The GOP is expected to add to their totals in next week’s election, especially in the House. That’s thanks to redistricting and the fact that Democrats are only contesting 56 of the House seats.
The Republicans also control every state elected office outside of the governor and lieutenant governor, which are elected as a ticket. Despite the Republican political dominance, Beshear has a 62% popularity rating, according to a poll conducted in September by Garin-Hart-Yang.
Beshear has come out to endorse Charles Booker, the Democrat challenging U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, and Craig Greenberg, the Democratic candidate for Louisville mayor.
But while the governor typically wields tremendous influence over his party’s politics, Beshear, whose father was Kentucky’s governor from 2007 to 2015, reminded reporters that he said he was “done with politics” during the pandemic.
Beshear even said that as he runs for re-election next year, his plan for the campaign is to be “the best governor that I can be.”
“I don’t think that when you run for these jobs, people are trying to elect a head of a party,” he said. “They’re trying to elect a governor or a representative or a senator.