In second debate, Democratic rivals vying for governor focus attacks on Bevin

The top three Kentucky Democratic gubernatorial contenders avoided attacking one another in their second televised debate in as many weeks, but they didn’t spare Republican incumbent Matt Bevin from sharp jabs on Tuesday.

House Minority Leader Rocky Adkins, Attorney General Andy Beshear, and former State Auditor Adam Edelen rarely answered a question without bringing up Bevin, who was criticized heavily last week when he blamed the shooting of a 7-year-old girl on teacher’s protesting his pension reform efforts.

“The reason Matt Bevin’s administration has been an absolute disaster is he bullies,” said Beshear, who is the presumed front-runner. “He attacks everyone who disagrees with him. … Folks, we were raised better than this.”

Bevin campaign manager Davis Paine did not immediately respond to an email Tuesday evening seeking comment.

But Sarah Van Wallaghen, executive director of the state GOP, came to her party’s defense, saying it was telling that the three candidates didn’t mention Kentucky’s growing economy.

“Adam Edelen, Andy Beshear and Rocky Adkins all want to double down on support for the failed policies of Democrats like Nancy Pelosi, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama,” she said in a statement.

“Kentuckians deserve to keep moving forward with the momentum Republican leadership has brought to our state — including historic economic growth like the lowest jobless rate in nearly 20 years, record-breaking private-sector investment and more.”

Like the first gubernatorial TV debate, which was held at Transylvania University in Lexington, the one-hour discussion, held in WDRB’s Louisville studio and moderated by reporters Lawrence Smith and Lindsay Allen, covered a range of topics during the program that showed just a few differences between the three.

At almost every opportunity, however, the Democratic candidates mentioned Bevin, who is the most unpopular governor in the country, according to a recent survey by Morning Consult.

Beshear, when asked if he supports any limitations on a woman’s right to end her pregnancy, said he is fighting for women’s reproductive rights in court. But he eventually turned the question around on the governor

“The only person who is really excited we are having this conversation is Matt Bevin,” he said. “This is all he’s going to talk about in the general election because he has a failed record.”

Edelen said his ticket is the only one in which both Democratic candidates fully support a woman’s right to make her own health care decision.

“The question in this election is will Kentucky be the first state in the union to pass a de facto ban on access to reproductive freedom,” Edelen said. “That’s the direction Matt Bevin and this group of extremist are driving this question in Frankfort.”

Adkins is an anti-abortion legislator who did not criticize Bevin’s policies on the subject, and dodged the question on if he would sign a measure banning access to abortion.

“I’ve gone ahead to say in my stance on pro-life that I’ve supported pre-K funding, streamlining the ability for adoption and foster care, and I’ve also said that we need to put warm food on the table and a roof over these babies’ heads,” Adkins said.

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