Andy Beshear's Early Days in Office after his Unlikely Win
By Thomas Freeman
Although quite a few Democrats have managed to make it to the Governor’s Mansion in the Blue Grass State over the past few decades Donald Trump’s 30-point lead over Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Presidential election had many assuming Republican victory in the state’s November gubernatorial election. Nevertheless, at the end of the tight race, Democratic candidate Andy Beshear beat Republican incumbent Matt Bevin with 49.19% of the vote. After Beshear declared rightful victory on November 3, Bevin refused to concede the race and submitted a recanvass request citing “significant irregularities.” High profile politicians in Kentucky including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senator Rand Paul encouraged Bevin to respect the results of the recanvass. Almost two weeks after the election, Bevin finally conceded.
What accounted for this unexpected victory was the fact that Matt Bevin was one of the most unpopular governors in the country who became nationally infamous for making himself an enemy of the state’s underpaid school teachers. Beshear certainty capitalized off of this rift, promising a $2000 dollar annual pay raise for all public school teachers in the state. Beshear also vowed to prioritize a host of other policies including protecting the ACA and expanding Medicaid, returning the vote to those with felony convictions who had served their sentences, and promoting equal pay in the workforce.
Shortly after becoming the 63rd governor of the Blue-Grass state on December 10, Beshear quickly got to work.
Just hours after being sworn in, Beshear’s Secretary of State, Allison Lundergan, signed an executive order that reorganized the Kentucky Board of Education with the blessing of Kentucky Education Association – the same organization that had been at odds with Gov. Bevin during his term. Beshear’s decision to make reorganizing the Kentucky Board of Education his first act in office showed his commitment to one of the most pressing issues in the state and was also incredibly politically savvy.
On December 12, Gov. Beshear issued an executive order which restored voting rights, to 140,000 former felons. This was a response to an executive order issued by the Gov. Bevin which overturned a previous executive order issued by former Gov. Steve Beshear – Andy Beshear’s father – which restored voting rights to former felons in 2015. Beshear claimed that the laws regarding voting rights represented a “racial injustice”and cited his faith and the importance of forgiveness before signing the executive order.
Just days after, Gov. Beshear began addressing healthcare coverage. On December 16, Gov. Beshear signed an executive order that rescinded Kentucky HEALTH – former Gov. Matt Bevin’s plan – which would have attached a work requirement to Medicaid recipiency. Previously, Kentucky HEALTH had been blocked in a federal court. Part of what prompted this executive order was a report published by the Milken Institute of Public Health at our own George Washington University which found that up to 136,000 Kentuckians could lose their health coverage if Kentucky HEALTH was implemented.
Beshear has used his first few days in office to postulate himself as an effective leader in a state where many did not believe a Democrat would have the political capacity to govern effectively and get the job done. Right now, the majority of the members of Kentucky’s state Legislature are Republicans. Hopefully, they will see Beshear’s win as a referendum on some of the unpopular policies that they helped to pass under the previous administration and will be willing to collaborate with him in the future. Beshear’s efficacy as governor, and the popularity of his policies in the future will be important for Democratic politicians in Kentucky and could also provide some insight on the results of Kentucky’s upcoming 2020 Senate election between Amy McGrath and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Note: The GW College Democrats News & Blog Committee’s mission is to highlight, empower, and facilitate the political expression of its members. As such, the views expressed in this article are based on the opinions of its author, and do not necessarily represent the views of the whole of GW College Democrats, its executive board, or its senior deputy board.