Andy Beshear

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Andy Beshear
Beshear2021.jpg
Beshear in 2021
63rd Governor of Kentucky
Assumed office
December 10, 2019
LieutenantJacqueline Coleman
Preceded byMatt Bevin
50th Attorney General of Kentucky
In office
January 4, 2016 – December 10, 2019
GovernorMatt Bevin
Preceded byJack Conway
Succeeded byDaniel Cameron
Personal details
Born
Andrew Graham Beshear

(1977-11-29) November 29, 1977 (age 45)
Louisville, Kentucky, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse
Britainy Beshear
(m. 2006)
Children2
RelativesSteve Beshear (father)
ResidenceGovernor's Mansion
EducationVanderbilt University (BA)
University of Virginia (JD)
Signature
WebsiteGovernment website

Andrew Graham Beshear (born November 29, 1977) is an American attorney and politician who has served as the 63rd governor of Kentucky since December 2019. A member of the Democratic Party, he is the son of the 61st governor of Kentucky, Steve Beshear.

Beshear was elected attorney general of Kentucky in 2015. As attorney general, he sued Governor Matt Bevin several times over issues such as pensions. He then challenged and defeated Bevin by 0.4% of the vote in the 2019 gubernatorial election. Beshear and Lieutenant Governor Jacqueline Coleman are Kentucky's only Democratic statewide elected officials.

Early life and education[edit]

Beshear was born in Louisville, the son of Steve and Jane (Klingner) Beshear.[1] He graduated from Henry Clay High School in Lexington, Kentucky.[2] His father, a lawyer and politician, was the governor of Kentucky from 2007 to 2015.[3]

Beshear attended Vanderbilt University in Tennessee, where he was a member of the Sigma Chi Fraternity and graduated in 2000 with a bachelor's degree in anthropology.[4][5] He then attended the University of Virginia School of Law, where he received a Juris Doctor in 2003.[6]

Legal career[edit]

In 2005, Beshear was hired by the law firm Stites & Harbison, at which his father was a partner.[7][8][9] He represented the developers of the Bluegrass Pipeline, which would have transported natural gas liquid through Kentucky. The project was controversial; critics voiced environmental concerns and objections to the use of eminent domain for the pipeline. His father's office maintained that there was no conflict of interest with the son's representation.[10][11][12][13] He also represented the Indian company UFLEX, which sought $20 million in tax breaks from his father's administration, drawing criticism from ethics watchdogs over a potential conflict of interest.[14]

Kentucky Attorney General[edit]

Elections[edit]

2015[edit]

In November 2013, Beshear announced his candidacy in the 2015 election for Attorney General of Kentucky, to succeed Democrat Jack Conway, who could not run for reelection, due to term limits.[15][16]

Beshear defeated Republican Whitney Westerfield with 50.1% of the vote to Westerfield's 49.9%.[17][18] The margin was approximately 2,000 votes.[19]

Tenure[edit]

Beshear speaks at a teacher's rally at the Kentucky state capitol in 2018

Beshear sued Governor Matt Bevin several times over what he argued was Bevin's abuse of executive powers during Beshear's tenure as attorney general and while he was campaigning against Bevin for governor.[20] Beshear won some cases and lost others.[20] In April 2016, he sued Bevin over his mid-cycle budget cuts to the state university system.[21] The Kentucky Supreme Court issued a 5–2 ruling agreeing with Beshear that Bevin did not have the authority to make mid-cycle budget cuts without the Kentucky General Assembly's approval.[22] Also in 2016, the Kentucky Supreme Court unanimously sided with Bevin when Beshear sued him on the grounds that Bevin lacked the authority to overhaul the University of Louisville's board of trustees.[23] In 2017, the Kentucky Supreme Court threw out a lawsuit Beshear brought against Bevin, holding that Bevin had the power to temporarily reshape boards while the legislature is out of session; Bevin called Beshear's lawsuit a "shameful waste of taxpayer resources".[24] In April 2018, Beshear successfully sued Bevin for signing Senate Bill 151, a controversial plan to reform teacher pensions, with the Kentucky Supreme Court ruling the bill unconstitutional.[25][26][27] Bevin said Beshear "never sues on behalf of the people of Kentucky. He does it on behalf of his own political career".[28]

Through October 2019, Beshear filed nine lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies for their alleged involvement in fueling Kentucky's opioid epidemic.[29][30]

Beshear forwent a run for a second term as attorney general to run for governor against Bevin. He resigned from the attorney general's office on December 10, 2019, to be sworn in as governor. He was succeeded as attorney general by Daniel Cameron on December 17.[31]

Governor of Kentucky[edit]

Elections[edit]

2019[edit]

On July 9, 2018, Beshear declared his candidacy for the Democratic nomination for governor of Kentucky in the 2019 election.[32] His running mate was Jacqueline Coleman, a nonprofit president, assistant principal, and former state house candidate.[33] Beshear said he would make public education a priority.[26] In May 2019, he won the Democratic nomination with 37.9% of the vote in a three-way contest.[34][35][36]

Beshear faced incumbent Governor Matt Bevin, the nation's least popular governor, in the November 5 general election.[37][38][39] He defeated Bevin with 49.20% of the vote to Bevin's 48.83%.[40] It was the closest Kentucky gubernatorial election ever by percentage, and the closest race of the 2019 gubernatorial election cycle.[41][citation needed]

Days later, Bevin had not yet conceded the race, claiming large-scale voting "irregularities" but not offering evidence. Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes's office nevertheless declared Beshear the winner.[40][42] On November 14, Bevin conceded the election after a recanvass was performed at his request that resulted in just a single change, an additional vote for a write-in candidate.[43]

Beshear defeated Bevin largely by winning the state's two most populous counties, Jefferson and Fayette (respectively home to Louisville and Lexington), by an overwhelming margin, taking over 65% of the vote in each. He also narrowly carried the historically heavily Republican suburban counties of Campbell and Kenton in Northern Kentucky, as well as several historically Democratic rural counties in Eastern Kentucky that had swung heavily Republican in recent elections.

2023 gubernatorial race[edit]

On October 1, 2021, Beshear declared his candidacy for reelection as governor in the 2023 election.[44]

Tenure[edit]

Beshear meets with U.S. Army Cadet Command leadership at Fort Knox in August 2021
Beshear with President Joe Biden in 2022

Beshear was inaugurated as governor on December 10, 2019.[45] In his inaugural address, he called on Republicans, who had a supermajority in both houses of the Kentucky General Assembly, to reach across the aisle and solve Kentucky's issues in a bipartisan way.[46]

Upon taking office, Beshear replaced all 11 members of the Kentucky Board of Education before the end of their two-year terms. The firing of the board members fulfilled a campaign pledge, and was an unprecedented use of the governor's power to reorganize state boards while the legislature was not in session. Beshear's critics suggested that the appointments undermined the Kentucky Education Reform Act of 1990, which sought to insulate the board from political influence; the Board had increasingly been the focus of political battles in the years preceding 2019.[47]

On December 12, 2019, Beshear signed an executive order restoring voting rights to 180,315 Kentuckians, who he said were disproportionately African-American, who had been convicted of nonviolent felonies.[48][49][50][51]

In April 2020, Beshear ordered Kentucky state troopers to record the license plate numbers of churchgoers who violated the state's COVID-19 stay-at-home order to attend in-person Easter Sunday church services.[52][53] The order led to contentious debate.[54]

In June 2020, Beshear promised to provide free health care to all African-American residents of Kentucky who need it, in an attempt to resolve health care inequities that came to light during the COVID-19 pandemic.[55][56][57]

On November 18, 2020, as the state's COVID-19 cases continued to increase, Beshear ordered Kentucky's public and private schools to halt in-person learning on November 23, with in-person classes to resume in January 2021. This marked the first time Beshear ordered, rather than recommended, schools to cease in-person instruction.[58][59][60] Danville Christian Academy, joined by Attorney General Daniel Cameron, filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky, claiming that Beshear's order violated the First Amendment by prohibiting religious organizations to educate children in accordance with their faith.[61] A group of Republican U.S. senators supported the challenge.[59] The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit and the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Beshear's order.[59][62]

In March 2021, Beshear vetoed all or part of 27 bills that the Kentucky legislature had passed. The legislature overrode his vetoes.[63]

Beshear's tenure in office has been marked by several natural disasters. In December 2021, Beshear led the emergency response to a tornado outbreak in western Kentucky, which devastated the town of Mayfield and killed more than 70 people, making it the deadliest in the state's history.[64] In July 2022, torrential rain caused severe flooding across Kentucky's Appalachia region and led to the deaths of over 25 people; Beshear worked with the federal government to coordinate search and rescue missions as President Biden declared a federal disaster to direct relief money to the state.[65][66]

Political positions[edit]

Beshear is a Democrat. With an overwhelmingly Republican Kentucky legislature, Stephen Voss, a political scientist at the University of Kentucky, observed: "The Republicans have a supermajority. If they can remain unified, they don't have to play ball with this governor at all."[67]

Abortion[edit]

Beshear supports legal access to abortion, and supported women's right to choose, per Roe v. Wade.[68] He has said that "women should be able make their own reproductive healthcare decisions", including abortion. One month after he took office as governor, his administration gave Planned Parenthood permission to provide abortions at its Louisville clinic, making it the second facility in Kentucky to offer abortions.[69] In April 2020, Beshear vetoed a bill, widely described as anti-abortion, that would have allowed Attorney General Daniel Cameron to suspend abortions during the COVID-19 pandemic and exercise more power regulating clinics that offer abortions.[70][71] He was endorsed by NARAL Pro-Choice America, an abortion rights group, and applauded by Planned Parenthood.[70][72]

In 2021, Beshear allowed a born-alive bill to become law without his signature, requiring doctors to provide medical care for any infant born alive, including those born alive thanks to a failed abortion procedure. Abortion advocates criticize such laws as "shaming and ostracizing patients", and as unnecessary and politically motivated because current laws and medical ethics already require all infants to receive appropriate medical care.[73]

COVID-19[edit]

On March 25, 2020, Beshear declared a state of emergency over the COVID-19 pandemic.[74] He encouraged business owners to require customers to wear face coverings while indoors.[75][76] He also banned "mass gatherings" including protests but not normal gatherings at shopping malls and libraries; constitutional law professor Floyd Abrams and lawyer John Langford opined that Beshear's order was inappropriate as it violated public protests' special protected status under the First Amendment.[77]

In August 2020, Beshear signed an executive order releasing inmates from prisons and jails in an effort to slow the virus's spread. The Kentucky Department of information and Technology Services Research and Statistics found that over 48% of the 1,704 inmates released committed a crime within a year of their release and that a third of those were felonies.[78]

Beshear was criticized for not calling the Kentucky General Assembly into a special session (a power only the governor has) in order to work with state representatives to better address the needs of their constituents during the pandemic.[79] In November 2020, the Kentucky Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of Beshear's emergency executive orders.[80] In late November 2020, Beshear imposed new restrictions to further slow the spread of COVID-19, including closing all indoor service for restaurants and bars, restricting in-person learning at schools, limiting occupancy at gyms, and limiting social gatherings.[81] House Speaker David Osborne and Senate President Robert Stivers criticized Beshear for failing to consult the legislature before making his decisions.[82]

Beshear's targeted closures were criticized after it was discovered that state and local authorities were unable to establish contact tracing as it relates to certain types of businesses listed in his restrictions.[83] On June 11, 2021—one day after the Kentucky Supreme Court heard oral argument on the emergency powers issue—Beshear lifted most of Kentucky's COVID-19 restrictions.[84][85][86][87][88] In August 2021, amid an upsurge in cases driven by the Delta variant, Beshear mandated that face masks be worn in public schools.[89]

On August 19, 2021, U.S. District Judge William Bertelsman issued a temporary restraining order blocking the school mask mandate.[90] Two days later, the Kentucky Supreme Court ruled against Beshear's challenge of several newly enacted Kentucky laws that, among other things, limit the governor's authority to issue executive orders in times of emergency to 30 days, unless extended by state legislators. The state supreme court dissolved an injunction against the law issued by a Kentucky trial court at Beshear's request. The Supreme Court's opinion, by Justice Lawrence VanMeter, addressed separation of powers between the governor and the General Assembly. The Kentucky Supreme Court found that the challenged laws were valid exercises of the General Assembly's legislative powers, although two justices wrote in a concurring opinion that the 30-day "kill switch" enacted by the legislature should be scrutinized on remand to the lower courts.[91][92] On August 23, 2021, Beshear rescinded his executive order requiring masks in Kentucky schools.[93]

Crime[edit]

Beshear signed an executive order completely restoring the voting rights, and right to hold public office, of 180,315 Kentuckians who had been convicted of nonviolent felonies.[50][94][95][49] He has restored rights to more felons than any other governor in American history.[49]

In 2020, Beshear signed an executive order releasing 1,704 inmates from prisons and jails in an effort to slow COVID-19's spread.[78]

In 2020, Kentucky's violent crime rate was its highest since 2008, aggravated assaults were the highest since 2000, and homicides were the highest since 1995.[96] In March 2021, Beshear signed a law that allows judges to decide whether to transfer minors 14 and older to adult court if they are charged with a crime involving a firearm. Previously, judges were required to send juveniles to adult court to be prosecuted for a felony if a firearm was involved.[97] Supporters of the new law said the old law led to over-prosecution of Black minors, inasmuch as 53% of juveniles charged as adults in Kentucky are Black while just 8% of Kentucky's population is Black.[97]

Also in March 2021, after the Kentucky legislature passed a bill to make it a crime to cause $500 or more damage to a rental property, Beshear vetoed the bill.[98] The Kentucky House (74-18) and Senate (28-8) overrode his veto.[98]

Drugs[edit]

Beshear said that a significant driver of incarceration in Kentucky is the drug epidemic, and opined that Kentucky "must reduce the overall size of our incarcerated population.... We don’t have more criminals. We just put more people in our prisons and jails."[99]

Beshear is of the view that possession of marijuana should never result in incarceration.[100] He would also like to see medical marijuana legalized.[101][102] In November 2022, Beshear signed an executive order to allow medical marijuana possession and to regulate delta-8.[103] This order gives Kentuckians a legal defense for possession of marijuana products purchased at an out-of-state dispensary.

Economic policy[edit]

Beshear announces construction of a new paper mill in Henderson

In 2019, Beshear pledged to bring more advanced manufacturing jobs and health care jobs to Kentucky, to offset job losses due to the decline of coal.[104]

Beshear opposes the Kentucky right-to-work law.[105][46]

After the Kentucky legislature voted to allow Kentucky distilleries and breweries to qualify for a sales tax break on new equipment, Beshear vetoed the provision. In April 2020, the Kentucky legislature overrode the veto.[106]

In June 2021, Beshear signed an executive order to allow name, image, and likeness compensation to be received by college athletes. It made Kentucky the first state to do so via executive order; six other states had done so through their legislatures.[107][108]

Education[edit]

In 2019, Beshear pledged to include a $2,000 pay raise for all Kentucky teachers in his budgets (at what he estimated would be a cost of $84 million). Republican House Majority Floor Leader John Carney rejected the proposal.[109][68][110] Beshear has proposed such a pay raise in his budgets, but the Kentucky legislature has not included such raises in the budgets it passed.[46][111]

Beshear is opposed to all charter schools in Kentucky, saying "schools run by corporations are not public schools." He says that funding them would violate the state constitution.

Environment[edit]

Beshear acknowledges that climate change is real and caused by humans. In 2019, he said he wanted to create more clean energy jobs to employ those who lose their jobs in the coal industry and to expand clean coal technology in Kentucky.[112]

Gambling[edit]

Beshear supports legalizing casino gambling, sports betting, fantasy sports betting, and online poker betting in Kentucky.[113][114]

Beshear proclaimed March 2020 Responsible Gambling Awareness Month in Kentucky.[115]

Gay rights[edit]

Beshear supports legal same-sex marriage. He also supports nondiscrimination laws that include gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people.[116] He was the first sitting governor of Kentucky to attend an LGBTQ-rights rally, and posed for a picture with drag queens.[117][118] He supported a ban on the pseudoscientific, medically rejected practice of conversion therapy for LGBTQ youth,[119] which attempts to change a person's sexual orientation or gender identity to heterosexual or cisgender.[120][121]

Guns[edit]

Beshear said he would not support an assault weapons ban. But he said he would support a red flag law authorizing courts to allow police to temporarily confiscate firearms from people a judge deemed a danger to themselves or others.[113]

Health care[edit]

Beshear supports Kentucky's Medicaid expansion, which provides affordable health care to over 500,000 Kentuckians, including anyone with a preexisting condition. He criticized Bevin for trying to roll back the state's Medicaid expansion (which ultimately failed). As attorney general and governor, Beshear expressed support for the Affordable Care Act and criticized efforts to strike the law down in the courts.[112] On October 5, 2020, he announced the relaunch and expansion of kynect, the state health insurance marketplace that was started in 2013 during Steve Beshear's term as governor and dismantled by Bevin in 2017.[122]

Immigration[edit]

In December 2019, Beshear told President Donald Trump's administration that he planned to have Kentucky continue to accept refugees under the U.S. immigration program.[123] Trump had told state governments that they had the power to opt out of the U.S. refugee resettlement program.[123]

Infrastructure[edit]

Beshear supports a $2.5 billion project to build a companion bridge to supplement the Brent Spence Bridge that carries Interstates 71 and 75 over the Ohio River between Covington, Kentucky, and Cincinnati, Ohio.[124] He hoped to fund the bridge by conventional means, not tolling, but was unsure whether the state in fact had the funds to do that.[125] In 2021, Kentucky Senator Chris McDaniel, Northern Kentucky's top Republican state lawmaker and chair of the Senate finance and budget committee, said he opposed Beshear's proposal to use the state's rainy day fund or a general fund surplus to help pay for the project.[126]

In August 2019, Beshear promised to construct the Interstate 69 Ohio River Bridge between Henderson, Kentucky, and Evansville, Indiana, by 2023, saying, "we will build that I-69 bridge in my first term as governor."[127] The project would cost $914 million (plus financing and interest costs).[127] He said he believed the project would provide economic benefits to Western Kentucky.[128]

Pensions[edit]

Beshear wants to fund the state's pension system, which has accumulated $24 billion in debt since 2000, the most of any state in the country.[citation needed] He opposed pension cuts made by Bevin, and said he wants to guarantee all workers pensions when they retire.[112] As of June 30, 2020, the Kentucky State Pension Fund was at 58.8% of its obligations for the coming decades.[129]

Personal life[edit]

Beshear and his wife Britainy are members of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and serve as deacons.[130][131] They have two children.[8]

Electoral history[edit]

2015 Kentucky Attorney General Democratic Primary
Beshear ran uncontested.

Democratic primary Results[132]
Candidate Votes %
Andy Beshear Unopposed

2015 Kentucky Attorney General Election

Kentucky Attorney General election, 2015
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Andy Beshear 479,929 50.1%
Republican Whitney Westerfield 477,735 49.9%
Total votes 957,664 100.0%
Democratic hold

2019 Kentucky Gubernatorial Democratic Primary

Democratic Primary Results
Candidate Votes %
Andy Beshear 149,438 37.9%
Rocky Adkins 125,970 31.9%
Adam Edelen 110,159 27.9%
Geoff Young 8,923 2.3%
Total votes 394,490 100.0%

2019 Kentucky Gubernatorial Election

Kentucky gubernatorial election, 2019
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Andy Beshear 709,577 49.20%
Republican Matt Bevin (incumbent) 704,388 48.83%
Libertarian John Hicks 28,425 1.97%
Total votes 1,442,390 100.0%
Democratic gain from Republican

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Sources[edit]

  • Drescher, Jack; Zucker, Kenneth, eds. (2006). Ex-Gay Research: Analyzing the Spitzer Study and Its Relation to Science, Religion, Politics, and Culture. New York: Harrington Park Press. ISBN 978-1-56023-557-6.

External links[edit]

Party political offices
Preceded by Democratic nominee for Attorney General of Kentucky
2015
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Democratic nominee for Governor of Kentucky
2019
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Legal offices
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Jack Conway
Attorney General of Kentucky
2016–2019
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