WATCH VIDEO OF THE PANEL DISCUSSION HERE. During the Kentucky Chamber’s 14th Annual Business Summit, politics was a hot topic of discussion on a panel featuring CNN contributor Scott Jennings and Kentucky Sports Radio Radio’s (KSR) Matt Jones, moderated by Kentucky Chamber Director of Communications Jacqueline Pitts.
Kicking off the conversation, Pitts brought up the news of Amy McGrath announcing she will challenge Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in the 2020 Senate race and asked Jones if he would also throw his hat in the race, which he has mentioned previously but would not commit to during the discussion. Jones said within just the first few days of her campaign, McGrath raised $3.5M but has made notable mistakes such as changing positions on issues like supporting Justice Brett Kavanaugh, which will hurt her authenticity.
Pitts asked why Jones is considering running for Senate and what will contribute to making his decision. Jones said he loves his current job with KSR, but he also loves Kentucky and wants to give back and give those who are not being represented a voice.
Jennings agreed with Jones that authenticity is key and McGrath has shown that in only a few days she is not authentic and said that even if people do not like, or agree with, McConnell, he is authentic and does what he says he will. Predicting that President Trump will win by at least 30 points in Kentucky in 2020, Jennings said there is not a chance that a Democrat can win the Senate election.
Jones countered this thought by agreeing that the path for a Democrat to succeed was tough, but there is an opportunity for someone who is the right person to run. He commended McGrath on her service to our country, but insisted she needs to be authentic and stop listening to national political consultants.
Switching gears to the governor’s race, Pitts noted that Attorney General Andy Beshear, the Democratic nominee for governor, declined the Chamber’s invitation to appear at the Business Summit. Jones said he supported Beshear, but it was a mistake for not appearing before people who may disagree with him. He said not coming to groups like the Chamber, is a “massive” mistake and questioned who advised him. He said this could be the beginning of a losing path for him.
Jennings agreed Beshear is trying to “run out the clock” but cannot hide for the remainder of the campaign. Jennings said national politics are playing in the governor’s race, as Republicans have gained 74,000 registrants recently and the state has trended red in the last several years. Jennings did agree that the race could be a toss-up, but in a Republican state, he believes Bevin will still win. He did note the large number of Republicans in the primary that voted against Bevin and that should be a concern to the governor. Jones agreed stating that his own party, “really doesn’t like Matt Bevin” and he has a poorly run campaign.
Jones said the big question is if President Trump will come and help Governor Bevin during the campaign. If he does, Jones said, that would be a big problem for Beshear, as Trump is extremely popular in the state.
Discussing former Governor Steve Beshear, Jones noted that Andy Beshear hopes the goodwill from his father, especially in western Kentucky, can push Beshear to victory. Jennings stated having your father be a former governor is an advantage in fundraising, and there is still an affection for the Beshear family in western Kentucky. However, Bevin will say he was handed a huge mess from former Governor Beshear, especially in regards to pensions.
Jones discussed the vocal teacher groups and that much of their leadership are located in northern Kentucky, where Democrats have made progress over the last few years.
Pitts asked Jennings what the governor’s biggest weakness is and Jennings said it was the lack of enthusiasm from Republicans that should worry the governor, but noted how far left the national Democratic party has shifted and advised that Bevin should show the clear difference in the parties nationally.
Jones said that the governor’s biggest weakness is his personality and had it not been for being “rude” he would be at almost 50% approval rating and noted that the economy in the state has boomed, but even with that, his rhetoric has hurt him-especially his comments on teachers. Discussing Beshear, Jones said the Attorney General is “boring and kinda like vanilla ice cream” but said he would be a good governor.
Jennings noted he has known Andy Beshear for most of his life, but he is not as colorful as many politicians and is banking on making the campaign about Governor Bevin, but will not show up and actually tell you what he is wanting to do. Jones said if he were Bevin, he should want to do debates and forums, because he is a skilled debater.
Moving to the Attorney General’s (AG) race, Pitts asked Jennings if Republicans should be concerned if Greg Stumbo were to return to the AG’s office. Jennings mentioned the various scandals that have plagued Stumbo and warned all Kentuckians should be concerned if he were to return to office.
Jones said either candidate has a chance to win, but most people do not know the Republican candidate, Daniel Cameron, but said he does think there will be Democratic governor and a Republican AG.
Concluding the discussion, Pitts asked the panelists about the Kentucky Supreme Court and the race in the 1st district, where Judge Shea Nickels is running against Senator Whitney Westerfield. The race is heightened because many of the laws being passed by the General Assembly are being overturned by the Supreme Court. Jennings said the Kentucky Supreme Court is the “last frontier” for conservatives and is “vital” to educate voters on the importance.
Jones said that though politically different, he likes Westerfield, but no one really knows about the Supreme Court races. He said to get people to care, you have to make the race partisan and as an attorney, he does not think judges should be partisan. He said this race is a “test” race and is not optimistic Kentuckians will take interest.
Wrapping up, Jones said the Kentucky Governor and Senate race will both be interesting to watch, but if Democrats lose, it will be hard for the Democratic party to continue in Kentucky running against the most unpopular Senator and governor in the nation.
Jennings joked that for someone who is so unpopular, McConnell has won quite a few elections and people enjoy having such a large influence for Kentucky.