Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin discussed a wide range of topics during a private local fundraising event last week in Corbin, but the one question he didn’t fully answer is if he plans to run for re-election.
The event, held last Thursday at the Corbin home of Eric and Kathryn Baker, served mostly as an open forum where Bevin encouraged those in attendance to ask him questions on any topic.
“Do you want to announce for governor right now?” was the first one he got.
“I’m not going to make that announcement right now,” he told the crowd. “Don’t’ be too worried about the future on that front. The people of Kentucky will ultimately decide what we do or don’t do. They will have choices.”
The only candidate currently declared for the 2019 gubernatorial Primary Election is current Attorney General Andy Beshear, a Democrat and the son of former Kentucky Gov.
“The only one in the race right now … gracious! Heaven help us. That’s all I’ll say about that,” Bevin told the group. “He’s aspirational. His mom and dad have wanted this for him for a long time. I’ve always believed you should be at least good at the job you are doing before you try to get another job.”
Bevin didn’t spend much time, though, taking political jabs and potential election rivals. Rather, he spoke at length on efforts he says he’s undertaken to try to root out what he deems “legal corruption,” which he said is prevalent in both political parties. He noted the practice of state offices being rented from individuals who are politically connected, and told a story about a company that won a bid to provide services or goods over another firm that had gotten a contract with the state, bid-free, for years.
“So much pressure was put on these people, after they won a fair and square contract … they said they don’t want the contract. It’s that kind of stuff that has to change.”
Bevin repeatedly referred to his administration as “planting seeds” for the future and tackling tough issues — making indirect reference to his effort to reform Kentucky’s moribund public pension system — that have festered for years.
Bevin did tout some short-term successes, however.
He noted economic investment in the state is at all all-time high: $9.2 billion last year, a one-year record, and $15.5 billion so far during his term as governor. He said close to 50,000 new jobs have been created.
Bevin also talked about the impact of his Beautify The Bluegrass initiative — a two-year-old contest that challenges communities across the state to compete by doing projects to make their towns more appealing. He noted that, in his inauguration speech, he encouraged Kentuckians to “pick up after themselves” and do what they could to preserve and protect the state’s natural beauty.
“It’s just one of my pet peeves, so I wanted to do something about it,” Bevin said. “I think it’s healthy competition between our communities. Everybody wins.”
The state of the beleaguered Kentucky Wired project was also discussed at length. Bevin said that the initiative — started with the purpose of offering high-speed, broadband Internet connectivity in every part of Kentucky — was ill conceived from the beginning, but that his administration had to try to “take a sow’s ear and turn it into the silk purse people were promised.”
“$273 million worth of bonds were sold in the final weeks of the previous administration that you all and your kids are going to be on the hook to pay off,” Bevin said. “They had no pole agreements, very few right-of-ways and no contracts in place. It was predicated on a lot of sloppiness.”
Bevin said his administration has worked tirelessly with communication companies to get the project jumpstarted and expects it to be mostly in place by 2020 despite objections from many state legislators, some in his own party.
“They didn’t want to put any funding to honor the payback of these bonds,” Bevin said. “That’s the good faith of the Commonwealth of Kentucky. We are already one of the worse credit risks of any state … that would have sent the message to the rest of the world, don’t ever buy a bond issued by Kentucky. It was just utterly unacceptable.”
Briefly, Bevin touched on efforts to curb the opioid addiction crisis in Kentucky, saying laws are now in place to limit initial prescription amounts and increase criminal penalties for the sale of stronger alternatives to traditional opioid drugs. He said there has been an increase in the number of beds available in drug treatment facilities, and that the state is using Medicaid money now to help treat addictions, something that could not be done before.
Before the event ended, Bevin thanked the group for supporting political candidates and asked that they find future candidates who were of “good character, competent and committed to serving other people.” He said that, often, the best leaders are ones who are “willing” to serve, not necessarily those who relish the opportunity to win elective office.
“If the best job they could ever have in their life is to be a publicly elected person on your dime, they are probably not the right person,” Bevin said.