In a discussion on the future of Kentucky politics at the Kentucky Chamber Business Summit and Annual Meeting, former State Auditor Adam Edelen said he will not run for governor on the Democratic side in 2019 while Kentucky’s most well-known conservative commentator says the Democrats will have a hard time finding someone to put up against Gov. Matt Bevin in the next gubernatorial election.
Kentucky Chamber Director of Communications Jacqueline Pitts closed the first day of the Chamber’s Business Summit with a session focusing on state politics featuring CNN political consultant, Republican Scott Jennings and former state Auditor, Democratic Adam Edelen.
When asked about Governor Bevin’s performance, Jennings said he does not know a Republican that is upset with the Governor. He said he has done everything he has promised to do, passed pro-business policy and through this created a national profile. Edelen was not as complimentary, but did note that Bevin has had much success in passing policy, but only for a narrow economic class. He noted that Kentucky has implemented policies, who in the short term may be good for business, but are not good for Kentucky in the long term. Edelen said that Kentucky needs to develop a different economic strategy that he says will drive economic prosperity. Closing, he noted that Bevin and President Trump are “basically the same guy” and said that their brand of leadership is not built for the long haul. Edelen said that Democrats must advise a strategy to be something besides anti-Bevin or anti-Trump.
Pitts asked Edelen at this political crossroads, how should Democrats message their agenda? Edelen said that Democrats must be focused on job creation and looking toward the future. He said Kentucky is not on the grid for new economic prosperity because large companies such as Google, etc. will not come to a state without renewable energy and that Democrats need to develop an economy of the future. He argued that Democrats must have a new path.
Jennings responded that companies such as Braidy Industries have publicly said that they would not have located in Kentucky if not for the passage of right to work. He thinks the Republican message in Kentucky will continue to reap results and the new majority is now faced with fixing the state’s pension crisis-the worst in the nation. He said that if Republicans continue to fix problems that have plagued the state for years, there may no longer be any Democrats left in Kentucky.
Edelen responded that one of the reasons Braidy Industries came to Kentucky is really because the state offered to won 20% of the private company and this is a dangerous trend.
When asked if Bevin will run and be elected for a second term, Jennings replied absolutely the Governor will run and win re-election. He said the current Republican momentum in Kentucky cannot be stopped and as long as the Republicans in the House continue to deliver on their promises, voters will continue to send them to Frankfort.
Pitts stated there is much speculation with Edelen’s New Kentucky Project and asked if he plans to run for Governor. Edelen stated that he is enjoying the private sector and making an impact with projects such as his solar project but said “who knows what the future holds” on a possible run.
Edelen said that Republicans in D.C. are starting to show incompetency when discussing federal health care. He said rural hospitals could be devastated if the ACA is repealed and that effect could devastate businesses and communities. Edelen said this is not about party, but if you believe in a modern Kentucky, or one that models Mississippi. Edelen stated that every major reform in his lifetime has been led by the business community, such as education reform led by Gov. Patton. Noting that the reason that Kentucky does not have a “bathroom bill” is because of the business community telling lawmakers it would be a mistake.
When asked about the current Democratic landscape, Edelen said that he does not see Democrats taking back the state House for quite some time but complimented Speaker Hoover on his leadership. He said the Governor’s race in 2019 will be competitive and will be interested if Bevin can achieve tax reform. Edelen said that Republicans are not happy nationally and that many state Democrats will run for governor they are very motivated currently.
Jennings replied that Edelen is “absolutely” running and that there may be a competitive race but Republicans will contain control because there are not many Democrats in the state that could win such a tough race. Noting that Democrats have no leader in their party, are out of ideas, and this is not going to change in 2018. Jennings said Republicans are having success in the state because they are taking creative ideas from other states that are working and that is refreshing to voters.
Discussing a potential special session on pensions and taxes, Jennings said inaction on the pension crisis is not an option, but will need to look at revenue. He said his advice is to not raise taxes and that there is no will in the state to do so. To do so would be a hindrance to business and asking people to pay more in taxes to pay for public employees’ pensions is a hard sell. He suggested a series of policy decisions need to be made before looking at raising revenue.
Edelen responded that he worked for Gov. Patton when he held town hall meetings regarding education and that Gov. Bevin needs to replicate that model if he wants to successfully reform the tax system. Edelen questioned whether President Stivers and Speaker Hoover will support Bevin’s plan to potentially raise taxes and risk their majority.
In closing, Jennings said that Gov. Bevin has not put the legislature in this position, but the pension issues has grown after 90 years of Democratic control. Edelen replied that Republicans have been in control in the Senate.
Stay tuned to The Bottom Line to see video coverage of the panel next week.