Debate

Candidates for Kentucky governor Matt Bevin and Andy Beshear take part in a debate on Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019, at the Singletary Center for the Arts on the University of Kentucky campus in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Jordan Prather | Staff

In a heated, back-and-forth event, Kentucky’s second gubernatorial debate took place under a series of accusations and promises between candidates.

Tonight, incumbent Republican Gov. Matt Bevin and his Democratic challenger, Attorney General Andy Beshear went head to head at the University of Kentucky’s Singletary Center for the Arts.

The event was co-sponsored by the UK Student Government Association, the League of Women Voters of Kentucky and WKYT and partner networks under Gray Television.

The night kicked off with UK Student Body Vice President Kat Speece who thanked the sponsors, followed by President Michael Hamilton who announced the rules of the debate and introduced the monitors, news anchors Bill Bryant of WKYT and Shannon Cogan of WAVE in Louisville.

“We will be asking a series of questions that will impact Kentuckians from all walks of life,” Cogan said to start the debate.

The candidates had 60 seconds to respond to direct questions, and the other candidate had 30 seconds for a rebuttal. Questions from the public and UK students were prepared and delivered by Bryant and Cogan during the debate.

The first question was directed toward Beshear regarding Kentucky's pension crisis. The Kentucky pension crisis has been a large debate topic since Bevin’s election in 2016.

In early 2018, Republicans in the Kentucky legislature attempted to pass a Bevin-backed bill that would provide drastic changes to teacher pensions throughout Kentucky. The bill drew hundreds of protestors outside of Capitol Hill in Frankfort, and resulted in a large number of teacher sick-outs throughout the state.

The next question came from a UK student, who asked what the candidates would do to ensure a "well-educated workforce and citizenry" among skyrocketing tuition prices, taking a higher education option away from some throughout the state.

Bevin sided with the idea that cutting funding to some areas such as higher education is sometimes a must. He stated that institutions must prepare people for "jobs that actually exist," and focus on outcomes-based funding.

"Whatever it is that we want government to do comes out of your pocket," Bevin said. "Every single we want government to put into higher education is money that those of you in this audience, that those of you watching this, pay out of your tax dollars."

Beshear claimed that higher education should be one of the main focuses of the state's budget stating that he believes in higher education.

"It is a key to achieving the American dream," Beshear said.

From there, the candidates discussed issues such as affordable childcare, abortion, healthcare, mental illness, legalization of marijuana, opioid addiction, coal and state correctional systems.

A newer issue was also introduced regarding an eastern Kentucky water-drinking crisis, that, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader, has left residents in the Appalachia areas "afraid to drink tap water."

One area the candidates reached common ground on was medical marijuana. Both candidates believe that marijuana should be legalized for medicinal purposes to hopefully help reduce opioid addiction throughout the state. However, Beshear believes that once sale of medical marijuana is legal, it should be taxed, whereas Bevin believes the sale should not.

Abortion laws were also a hot topic during the night's conversation.

Beshear said that everyone should have the right to choose to have an abortion, focusing on instances where he has worked with human trafficking victims. He even called Bevin an “extremist” for his view that a woman should be required to carry to full term, no matter the circumstances. 

"I believe in Roe v. Wade," Beshear said. 

Throughout the debate, Bevin focused much attention on Beshear's father, former Kentucky governor Steve Beshear and his administration, calling them "crooks and frauds."

When asked how the former governor's term affects Andy's candidacy in a later press conference, Bevin responded that the "apple doesn't fall far from the tree."

Beshear frequently called Bevin a "bully to our teachers," and cited controversial legislation that has attempted to be passed under the Bevin administration, such as the pension bill Bevin signed that was ultimately overturned by the Kentucky Supreme Court.  

The debate came to a close at 8 p.m., where the candidates gave their closing statements for the night.

Bevin started, stating that Kentucky has a “decision to make.” He referred to Beshear’s father’s term as governor, calling the term corrupt, and claimed that if Beshear were to be re-elected the state would “be going backward.”

"Do we want to go backward or do we want to go forward?" Bevin asked.

Beshear rounded out the night by focusing in on the state's teacher pension crisis and reiterated that Bevin is a "bully."

"If he wants to see corruption, he can just look in the mirror," Beshear said of his opponent. 

The general election will take place on Tuesday, Nov. 5.