The 2019 Kentucky gubernatorial race looms over Fancy Farm
By: Scott Jennings
A week from this Saturday, Kentucky’s politicos and their supporters will converge at Fancy Farm, Kentucky, home of St. Jerome’s Catholic Parish and its famous political stump speaking event.
With no statewide races on the 2018 ballot, the 2019 gubernatorial race looms large. Will Gov. Matt Bevin seek re-election? How many Democrats will challenge Attorney General Andy Beshear in the primary? Here’s a preview of the most important players:
Matt Bevin (R) – It is no secret that the governor dislikes Fancy Farm despite having formidable public speaking skills. He has yet to commit, although people close to him say he’s edging toward a re-election campaign nonetheless. Whether he appears or not, I predict Bevin runs for re-election and wins.
While Bevin has faced turbulence over his pension reform comments, the underlying political dynamics have undeniably shifted in his favor since 2015. Democrats have fallen under 50 percent in voter registration, even as the Democratic Party spins a yarn of supposedly greater enthusiasm. Republicans gained a supermajority in the state house in 2016, and President Donald Trump remains popular.
Andy Beshear (D) – Kentucky’s attorney general is the first Democrat to launch a gubernatorial campaign, and he hopes to amass early donor and organizational support sufficient to ward off primary opponents. Beshear must find a stronger voice at Fancy Farm, something he lacked in his announcement speech. Beshear must show his bloodthirsty base that he can land the punches necessary to beat a tough incumbent.
A condition of Democratic primaries these days is that you must run hard left to win. Beshear, a former corporate lawyer who knows better than to buy into the socialism garbage popular in his party, would rather not fall into this trap. But with liberals Alison Grimes and Attica Scott possibly lurking on his left, perceived moderates Ben Chandler and Rocky Adkins on his right, and slick chameleon Adam Edelen jumping from flank to flank, Beshear could find himself in a complicated game of multi-dimensional chess
I expect Kentucky teachers and liberal activists to turn out in force for this year’s picnic. If they appear to be supporting Beshear, other Democrats could be dissuaded. Can Andy rally the troops, or are they looking for someone angrier and more liberal?
Mitch McConnell (R) – He’s not up until 2020, but the Senate majority leader has already launched a re-election campaign with a staffer and digital advertising. He should focus on two things: his stewardship of the Trump agenda and the socialists following him around Louisville. McConnell’s hecklers buoy his re-election chances with every insult and threat.
Some pundits — trying to cause trouble for both men — chatter about Bevin challenging McConnell in 2020, recalling memories of 1938 when Alben Barkley, the last Senate majority leader from Kentucky, faced a primary from upstart Gov. Happy Chandler. With the support of a popular president, the powerful Barkley easily dispatched the pesky and ambitious Chandler, who had designs on the presidency himself.
McConnell would surely enjoy Trump’s support in a primary against any opponent. Just as Barkley shepherded Roosevelt’s New Deal through Congress, McConnell has moved Trump’s tax cuts, regulatory reforms, military spending and judges through a closely divided Senate. History has tethered these unlikely partners on policy and politics, something McConnell should plug in his speech.
Alison Grimes (D) – Best wishes to the term-limited secretary of state, who recently announced that she is having a baby in December. Grimes has several options ahead of her in 2019 and 2020, and would be formidable in any Democratic primary for governor, attorney general or U.S. Senate. As a parent who has taken her kids to Fancy Farm, Grimes will soon know the joy of plying one with barbecue and carnival games that benefit the church!
Ryan Quarles (R) – The popular agriculture commissioner will serve as emcee of this year’s stump speaking. He is running for re-election in 2019 and his elevation to emcee tracks perfectly with his ascension as one of the GOP’s brightest stars.
Scott Jennings is a CNN Contributor and partner at RunSwitch Public Relations. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or @ScottJenningsKY on Twitter.