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Trends Influencing the 2019 General Election

The panel discusses the 2019 elections. Guests: Julia Bright Crigler, Republican political consultant and founder of Bright Strategies; Jonathan Miller, former Democratic state treasurer and former chair of the Kentucky Democratic Party; Tres Watson, former Republican Party of Kentucky spokesman and founder of Capitol Reins PR; and Sadiqa Reynolds, president & CEO of the Louisville Urban League.
Season 26 Episode 20 Length 56:33 Premiere: 06/10/19


Kentucky Tonight

KET’s Kentucky Tonight, hosted by Renee Shaw, brings together an expert panel for in-depth analysis on major issues facing the Commonwealth.

This weekly program features comprehensive discussions with lawmakers, stakeholders and policy leaders that are moderated by award-winning journalist Renee Shaw. Often aired live, viewers are encouraged to participate by submitting questions real-time via email, Twitter or KET’s online form.
For nearly three decades, Kentucky Tonight has been a source for complete and balanced coverage of the most urgent and important public affairs developments in the state of Kentucky.

Viewers with questions and comments may send e-mail to or use the contact form. All messages should include first and last name and town or county. The phone number for viewer calls during the program is 1-800-494-7605.

After broadcast, Kentucky Tonight programs are available on and via podcast (iTunes or Android). Files are normally accessible within 24 hours after the television broadcast.

Kentucky Tonight was awarded a 1997 regional Emmy by the Ohio Valley Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. The series was also honored with a 1995 regional Emmy nomination.

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Renee Shaw is Moderator and Director of Public Affairs for Kentucky Educational Television, currently serving as host of KET’s Kentucky Tonight, Connections, election coverage, Legislative Update and KET Forums.

Since joining KET in 1997, Shaw has produced numerous KET public affairs series and specials, including KET’s nationally recognized legislative coverage. Under her leadership, KET has expanded its portfolio of public affairs content to include Kentucky Supreme Court coverage, town hall-style forums, and multi-platform program initiatives around issues such as opioid addiction and youth mental health.  

As an award-winning journalist, Shaw has earned top awards from the Ohio Valley Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, earning two regional Emmy awards, and an award from the Kentucky Associated Press for political coverage of the state legislature. She was inducted into the Kentucky Civil Rights Hall of Fame in 2017. She has been honored by the AKA Beta Gamma Omega Chapter with a Coretta Scott King Spirit of Ivy Award; earned the state media award from the Kentucky Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution in 2019; named a Charles W. Anderson Laureate by the Kentucky Personnel Cabinet in 2019 honoring her significant contributions in addressing socio-economic issues; earned the Anthony Lewis Media Award from the Kentucky Department of Public Advocacy for her work on criminal justice reform in 2014; and, in 2015, received the Green Dot Award for her coverage of domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking.  

In 2018, KET earned a national media award from Mental Health America for its multi-dimensional content on the opioid epidemic shepherded by Shaw. That same year, she co-produced and moderated a six-part series on youth mental health that was awarded first place in educational content by NETA, the National Educational Telecommunications Association. In 2019, Shaw was recognized by The Kentucky Gazette as one of the 50 most notable women in Kentucky politics and government. In addition, Renee was awarded the Charles W. Anderson Laureate Award by the Kentucky Personnel Cabinet which recognizes individuals who have made significant contributions in addressing socio-economic issues.

Host Renee Shaw smiling in a green dress with a KET set behind her.

Debating Issues That Will Influence the 2019 General Election

Will the 2019 Kentucky governor’s race be a campaign that explores pension and tax reform, public education, abortion and other policy issues? Or will it be more focused on the personalities of the candidates? And what might the results of this year’s statewide contests tell us about what could happen in the 2020 Congressional and presidential elections?

Four political pundits gathered on KET’s Kentucky Tonight to offer their insights on this year’s general election contests. The guests were Julia Bright Crigler, Republican political consultant and founder of Bright Strategies; Jonathan Miller, former state treasurer and former chair of the Kentucky Democratic Party; Sadiqa Reynolds, president and CEO of the Louisville Urban League; and Tres Watson, former Republican Party of Kentucky spokesman and founder of Capitol Reins PR.

Incumbent Republican Gov. Matt Bevin will face the current state Attorney General Andy Beshear in the fall election. Bevin drew 52 percent of the vote in the Republican primary, fending off three challengers, including freshman state Rep. Robert Goforth of Laurel County, who drew 39 percent of the GOP vote.

Trey Watson describes the primary as a “family squabble.” He says most of the people who voted for Goforth in the primary will “hold their nose” and vote for Bevin in November.

On the Democratic side, Beshear drew 38 percent of the vote, while state Rep. Rocky Adkins of Sandy Hook got 32 percent, and former state auditor Adam Edelen got 28 percent.

Jonathan Miller says Democrats will benefit from unity within their party, noting that Adkins and Edelen have pledged to support and campaign for Beshear. Miller says Adkins’ endorsement is critical for Beshear, since he dominated in his native eastern Kentucky and among conservative Democrats.

A Bevin-versus-Beshear contest offers the clearest choice for voters, according to Watson. He says Beshear represents a step backwards to the policies of the Democrat’s father, former Gov. Steve Beshear, who served from 2007 to 2015. Plus, he argues that some conservative Democrats who voted for Adkins will likely vote for Bevin rather than the more liberal Beshear in the fall.

Miller says the Democratic nominee faces an uphill battle running in a red state. But he contends that Republicans fear Beshear as a candidate, otherwise they wouldn’t have launched negative ads against him already. Miller also says Beshear easily weathered attacks Adam Edelen leveled against him during the primary, so Beshear can withstand similar allegations coming from Republicans.

Issues That Drive Turnout
One issue that clearly separates the candidates is abortion. Bevin describes himself strongly pro-life, while Beshear calls himself pro-choice. As Attorney General, Beshear has declined to defend abortion measures enacted by the Republican-controlled legislature that he says are unconstitutional.

The Kentucky General Assembly passed four pro-life measures this spring. Conservative lawmakers in other states have recently passed similar or more stringent measures to restrict to abortions, placing the issue at the center of national attention this year.

Miller says Kentucky is a largely a pro-life state and that Republicans have done an excellent job of using abortion to drive turnout among conservative voters. But with the new crackdown on abortion access occurring in Kentucky and other states, he predicts Democrats will also use the issue to get people to the polls.

“I think you’re going to see energized liberals [and] energized women who haven’t voted before,” Miller says. “There’s not a whole lot of them, but I think that the Bevin-Beshear race is going to be close enough where an energized left could make a one- or two-point difference in the election.”

Watson says abortion is important to many people, but he says the issue is also a convenient way for politicians and political consultants to connect with certain voting blocs.

“It’s easier for Republicans to target conservative voters, whether they’re Republican or Democrat, using abortion as an identifying characteristic,” says Watson. “That doesn’t mean we’re only going to give you pro-life messaging. You’re getting a whole set of messaging that skews social conservative.”

Yet there are other issues that don’t incite the same level as passion among many voters. For example, people list education as a top priority, but Watson says it simply doesn’t “light that fire in voters” when it comes to election turnout. He contends voters want quick gratification, and education issues don’t provide that. Julia Bright Crigler says part of the problem is messaging.

“It’s not an easy issue to pack into a 30-second sound bite,” says Crigler. “But in the context of elections, a lot of people care about sound bites because that might be the only message they hear.”

Sadiqa Reynolds argues that the issue is too important to relegate to sound bites.

“We are not doing well on the education side so we need leaders who are willing to talk about it even when the people are maybe checked out,” says Reynolds. “We cannot compete with the rest of the country if we continue doing what we’ve been doing, so the conversation really does have to be forced.”

The Economy and Health Care
Gov. Bevin is expected to tout record corporate investments, job creation, and low unemployment that have occurred during his time in office and under Republican control of the state legislature.

“A rising tide lifts all ships… Everyone is doing better over the last three years in terms of jobs, the economy, and wages,” says Crigler. “The bottom line is Republicans have lifted more people out of poverty in the last three years than any other administration.”

But Miller argues that economic growth is driven more at the national level. He says the current boom isn’t just the result of President Donald Trump’s policies. He contends it’s a long-term trend that started under former President Barack Obama. Miller also says the bigger economic question for Kentuckians is, who benefits from the recent growth and who is left behind?

“Folks in rural areas and particularly folks in impoverished areas don’t think the priorities are right in Frankfort,” says Miller. “I think that Andy Beshear can make a compelling case that we need a new person in the governor’s mansion.”

Watson says Bevin and Republican legislators can also take credit for tackling the public pension crisis and enacting the first phase of state tax reform, both of which he says Democrats failed to do when they controlled Frankfort. He says the GOP tax strategy is sustainable and will make Kentucky competitive with neighboring states.

“We’re doing it in a slow, thoughtful manner where the state has enough money to operate,” says Watson. “At the end of process, [we’ll] have more money than we have now.”

On the Democratic side, Miller says Andy Beshear should make health care the focus of his campaign platform. Miller says Beshear can highlight his legal battles as Kentucky Attorney General against opioid makers. He can also state his opposition to Bevin’s efforts to scale-back the Medicaid expansion that was enacted by former Gov. Steve Beshear.

Bevin’s Medicaid waiver, along with its proposed work requirements, is also an issue for Reynolds. She says poor people who have lost their jobs shouldn’t be penalized with the prospect of losing their Medicaid coverage.

“There were some major policy problems for a whole lot of people in Kentucky,” Reynolds says. “This is about health care in Kentucky and poor people across this state who need to have their health care.”

Kentucky, Louisiana and Mississippi are the only states with gubernatorial races this year. (Incumbent Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards is seeking re-election in Louisiana, while Republican Gov. Phil Bryant in Mississippi is term-limited and cannot seek another term.)

Some poll-watchers say these races can indicate the national mood heading into the 2020 presidential election. Watson predicts that both parties will look to the Kentucky race for indicators since he says Gov. Bevin and President Trump have similar personalities and styles of governing. He says Republicans and Democrats will try to fashion a political narrative out of whatever happens in Kentucky this November.

Miller describes being governor as a job that directly impacts people’s daily lives. That’s why he says personality will matter as much as the issues in the gubernatorial race. He says for a Democrat to win the Kentucky governor’s office these days, Republicans have to field an unpopular candidate and be divided within their party ranks, both of which he says are happening this year.

That fracture is evident in the recent battle between Bevin and legislative Republicans over a bill to give pension relief to regional universities and quasi-governmental agencies. Earlier this year lawmakers passed a measure that would insulate those entities from higher pension costs for one year in exchange for providing them a way to exit the beleaguered Kentucky Retirement System. But Bevin vetoed the legislation and has been unable to muster enough GOP support for a replacement bill that would need to be passed in a special legislative session.

Then there’s the rift between Bevin and Lt. Gov. Jenean Hampton. Bevin dropped Hampton, who has deep Tea Party ties, from his ticket for re-election in favor of state Sen. Ralph Alvarado (R-Winchester). Hampton has also implicated Bevin’s office in the firing of two of her top aides in recent months.

Watson and Crigler say they doubt those factors will cause Tea Partiers or Republicans in general to drop their support for Bevin and vote for Beshear. But Miller says those issues may cause some Republicans to simply stay home on Election Day, while more passionate Democrats flood the polls.

Other High-Profile Contests
Another race that could draw as much attention and campaign donations is the contest between Democrat Greg Stumbo and Republican Daniel Cameron for state Attorney General. Stumbo is a Frankfort veteran who served as a state representative and House Speaker as well as Attorney General. Cameron is political newcomer who served as legal counsel for U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell.

Miller, who works in the same law firm as Cameron, calls the Republican sharp, bright, and charismatic. He says Stumbo is an icon of state politics who has a smart political mind. He says neither candidate should be underestimated.

Reynolds says an endorsement by McConnell is not a sure thing for a candidate. She also says that the role of Attorney General can be a crucial check on a governor’s exercise of executive power. She says voters should remember that when it comes time to cast their ballots.

Watson and Crigler say Republicans are thrilled to have Stumbo as an opponent, saying they will make Kentuckians aware of “all the skeletons” in the Democrat’s closet.

In the Secretary of State’s race, Democrat Heather French Henry faces Republican Michael Adams. Henry is a former commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs, while Adams is an election attorney who previously worked for McConnell as well as former Gov. Ernie Fletcher.

Reynolds calls Henry a “Teflon candidate” who can draw support from both parties. Watson says he fears this is the one race where loyal Republicans may decide to cast a vote for the Democrat on the ballot. But he also notes that Adams is regarded as one of the best election lawyers in the country, while Henry may be tarred by scandals surrounding her husband, Steve Henry, who served as lieutenant governor from 1995 to 2003.

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Season 26 Episodes

Public Education Issues for the 2020 General Assembly

S26 E43 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 12/16/19

Gubernatorial Transition

S26 E42 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 12/09/19

City and County Issues

S26 E41 Length 56:36 Premiere Date 11/25/19

Hemp's Impact

S26 E40 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 11/18/19

Election 2019 Recap

S26 E39 Length 56:35 Premiere Date 11/11/19

Election 2019 Preview

S26 E38 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 11/04/19

Candidates for Governor

S26 E37 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 10/28/19

Lieutenant Governor Candidates

S26 E36 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 10/21/19

Attorney General Candidates

S26 E35 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 10/14/19

Secretary of State

S26 E34 Length 56:35 Premiere Date 10/07/19

Commissioner of Ag; Auditor of Public Accounts; State Treas

S26 E33 Length 1:26:40 Premiere Date 09/30/19

K-12 Public Education

S26 E32 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 09/09/19

Public Assistance and Government Welfare Programs

S26 E31 Length 56:35 Premiere Date 08/26/19

Energy in Kentucky

S26 E30 Length 56:40 Premiere Date 08/12/19

Public Pension Reform

S26 E29 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 07/29/19

Quasi-Governmental Pensions

S26 E28 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 07/22/19


S26 E27 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 07/15/19

Public Education

S26 E24 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 07/16/19

Immigration and Border Security

S26 E23 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 07/08/19

Prospects for Criminal Justice Reform

S26 E22 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 07/01/19

Issues in the 116th Congress

S26 E21 Length 56:37 Premiere Date 06/24/19

Trends Influencing the 2019 General Election

S26 E20 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 06/10/19

Previewing the 2019 Primary Election

S26 E19 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 05/20/19

Democratic Primary Candidates for Governor and Lt. Governor

S26 E18 Length 1:56:41 Premiere Date 05/13/19

Republican Attorney General Candidates, Primary Race 2019

S26 E17 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 04/15/19

Candidates for Secretary of State 2019 Primary

S26 E16 Length 1:26:35 Premiere Date 04/08/19

State Auditor; State Treasurer, Primary Election 2019

S26 E15 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 04/01/19

Commissioner of Agriculture, Primary Election

S26 E14 Length 56:35 Premiere Date 03/25/19

2019 General Assembly

S26 E13 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 03/18/19

Legislation in the 2019 General Assembly

S26 E12 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 03/18/19

Ongoing Debate on Sports Betting

S26 E12 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 02/25/19

Bail Reform

S26 E11 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 02/18/19

Medical Marijuana

S26 E10 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 02/04/19

Recapping the Start of the 2019 General Assembly

S26 E8 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 01/14/19

2019 General Assembly

S26 E7 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 01/07/19

Special Session on Pensions/Education Issues

S26 E6 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 12/17/18

Medicaid in Kentucky

S26 E5 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 12/10/18

Immigration Issues

S26 E4 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 12/03/18

Mass Shootings, Gun Safety, and Concealed Carry Laws

S26 E3 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 11/19/18

Recap of Election 2018

S26 E2 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 11/13/18

Election 2018 Preview

S26 E1 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 11/05/18

See All Episodes

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Renee Shaw hosts a 2024 legislative session preview. Scheduled guests: State Representative Chad Aull (D-Lexington); State Representative Stephanie Dietz (R-Edgewood); State Senator Cassie Chambers Armstrong (D-Louisville); and State Senator Amanda Mays Bledsoe (R- Lexington). A 2023 KET production.

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2023 Election - S30 E31

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