Beshears take on Trump, optimistic about KY legislative victories

“We want to make sure we hold accountable the people who don’t support public education and send more people to Frankfort who do,” Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman said of this year’s legislative races.


For a Kentucky Democratic Party led by second-term Gov. Andy Beshear, Friday night’s “Forward, Together” celebration dinner wasn’t just a step forward.

It was a completely new walk.

At least that was the case when it came to discussing state legislative races and former Republican President Donald Trump.

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Seeking re-election in 2023, Beshear did not speak ill of the former president — now the presumptive nominee in this year’s race having won by more than 20 points in Kentucky — unless asked.

At Friday’s dinner, the first thing he mentioned was Trump.

“Folks, I am grateful to be here tonight, grateful to talk about how we move forward together, and grateful because together we defeated Donald Trump’s hand-picked nominee for governor last November,” Beshear told the crowd. about 300 attendees.

In referring to the candidate’s gubernatorial opponent, former Attorney General Daniel Cameron, Beshear also mentioned Cameron’s ties to Kentucky U.S. Senators Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul, and pointed to his victory at Paul’s home in Warren County.

Beshear’s father, former Gov. Steve Beshear, also made his own Trump comments.

“I recently shouted ‘hallelujah’ 34 times in a row for the first time ever,” the elder Beshear said in a dig at the 34 cases of falsifying corporate records of which Trump was recently found guilty.

The anti-Trump atmosphere was bookended by former Democratic U.S. Senator Doug Jones of Alabama.

Jones, a former US prosecutor, has filed a special complaint against Trump, targeting him for his efforts to undermine the 2020 election.

The subject suited the timing of the dinner. The party met on the eve of its state convention for the first time in eight years since the 2016 presidential election, as the 2020 dinner was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Much of the talk in the crowd centered around Saturday’s convention and who would serve as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention, where Democratic President Joe Biden is expected to clinch the party’s nomination later this summer, in Chicago .

While no pundit or politician predicts Biden will beat Trump in Kentucky, some Democrats are hopeful that Trump’s distaste in the suburbs could help flip a handful of seats in Louisville, Lexington and Northern Kentucky.

That was another dominant theme from the state’s top Democrats: predictions that the top of the ticket will work with the state’s legislative gains.

That would be new. Democrats have grown accustomed to diminished relevance in the House and Senate since 2016, when the House became the last legislative chamber in the American South to go from blue to red.

In 2023, the focus was almost exclusively on Andy Beshear’s reelection chances, and while many understood the strategy, it did not please all corners of the party. There was some complacency Friday night — “five points difference,” the governor jokingly interjected from the crowd as party chairman Colmon Elridge celebrated victory — but the most talked about election was for the state Legislature.

“We are I am going to win seats in our state legislature in November,” Beshear emphasized.

Republicans have a four-fifths majority in both chambers. Democrats claim only 20 House members in the 100-person chamber and seven senators in that 38-person chamber.

Much of that has to do with the amendment on the November ballot asking voters to allow the state to provide public dollars to non-public and charter schools is one way, many speakers suggested.

Not a single Democratic lawmaker voted for the Republican Party-backed House Bill 2 during this year’s General Assembly.

For them, the question is not whether the amendment will fail, but how badly.

Governor Beshear: “We are going to strongly reject Constitutional Amendment No. 2 and protect public education.”

Former Gov. Beshear: “We’re going to blow that thing off the map.”

Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman: “I keep telling (Beshear) ‘I want to crush it,’ and he says, ‘Would you mind if we just beat it?’ No, I want to crush it.

Such a predicted outcome could lead to some legislative successes, they said.

“It’s also important that we make the people who voted for that amendment pay,” Coleman added. “We want to make sure we hold accountable the people who don’t support public education and send more people to Frankfort who do.”

“You better believe that as hard as we worked to build this economy and fight for public education, we will help these candidates every step of the way.

“Because we need help in Frankfort.”

That enthusiasm spilled over into the audience.

Former Lexington Democratic Senate candidate Chuck Eddy, who before switching parties led “Republicans for Beshear” in the governor’s first gubernatorial seat, left the dinner hopeful.

Eddy suspected that Democrats could gain a total of three to five seats in the House of Representatives. He is confident that Beshear and Coleman, unencumbered by their own elections, will do more for candidates in the state.

“I have a feeling they’re going to spend a lot of time on it,” Eddy said. “I think they’ll come out there more.”

What about the problems?

Overall, Beshear became more progressive than in recent years. He emphasized that his victory “showed the country” that Democrats are standing strong against Republicans on current issues such as abortion rights; diversity, equity and inclusion programs; and LGBTQ rights can win.

“Yes, we focus every morning on the issues that people are concerned about, but think about this: We re-elected a governor and a lieutenant governor who have said that women’s reproductive rights and freedoms are critical , we re-elected a governor and a lieutenant governor who proudly stood with our LGBTQ+ community (and) we won that election and stood proud by standing up for DEI programs.”

Also of note: Both Beshears praised the nomination of Court of Appeals Judge Pamela Goodwine for the Kentucky Supreme Court in an effort to bring the Democratic party closer to Goodwine, who is in a contentious race to replace retiring Chief Justice Laurance VanMeter for the Central Kentucky to replace. based on the 5th seat of the Kentucky Supreme Court District.

Goodwine was one of the first candidates to endorse Governor Beshear’s political action committee.

The Republican embrace of a Supreme Court nominee, and vice versa, raised alarms among Democrats and the Kentucky Judicial Conduct Commission two years ago.

Emphasizing the historic nature of her candidacy, Beshear predicted to loud cheers that Kentuckians would “elect the first Black woman in our history to be a Supreme Court justice.”

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Austin Horn is a political reporter for the Lexington Herald-Leader. He previously worked for the Frankfort State Journal and National Public Radio. Horn has roots in both Woodford and Martin Counties.