FRANKFORT — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andy Beshear has regularly boasted on the Kentucky campaign trail how, as the state attorney general, he has defeated Republican incumbent Matt Bevin in court.
“Every time we’ve stood up to them, every time we’ve won and we’ll beat them again,” Beshear told a group of teachers in February.
Beshear has bested Bevin in two high-profile cases that Democrats use to energize supporters. He blocked the governor’s $18 million cut to Kentucky universities in 2016 and the administration’s coveted pension reform bill in 2018.
But Bevin got a slam dunk this month when the Kentucky Supreme Court unanimously upheld a 2017 executive order that shuffled various state education boards.
And a review of the rivals’ legal labyrinth since they both took office in 2015 shows a more complicated scorecard than Beshear presents to voters.
Of the five legal battles in which Beshear challenged Bevin’s authority that have concluded before the Kentucky Supreme Court, the decisions have either, through dismissal or rulings, been in the Republican incumbent’s favor three times and kept his changes intact.
“The record shows that Gov. Bevin’s administration has actually beaten Attorney General Beshear more than he has,” Blake Brickman, the governor’s chief of staff, told the Courier Journal in a Tuesday interview.
“I think it goes to the attorney general’s credibility of why he’s making a statement that is just flat not true,” Brickman said.
Beshear campaign manager Eric Hyers disputes that characterization, saying in a statement that his candidate’s goal was to protect Kentuckians from Bevin’s decisions.
“This is much bigger than any one person — Andy Beshear is fighting every day to put the best interests of Kentucky families first and uphold Kentucky’s constitution,” he said. “It’s shameful we have a governor like Matt Bevin who thinks it’s a personal win any time he can get away with hurting working families and the courts don’t step in to stop him.”
The Beshear campaign contends that besides the pension and university cuts cases, which Bevin officials agree they lost, it was able to extract wins in three other suits.
But the Democratic nominee’s team does so by either pointing to lower court rulings that the state Supreme Court didn’t take up or by blaming the state legislature for changing the law in the governor’s favor.