FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Republican Gov. Matt Bevin pressed to move the impeachment inquiry in Washington to the forefront of his own tough reelection campaign in Kentucky on Friday, unabashedly lashing his political future to President Donald Trump.
In a news conference outside the Governor's Mansion, Bevin condemned the Trump inquiry as an "absolute travesty" and declared that the issue is "destroying this nation." He took pains to link his Democratic opponent, Attorney General Andy Beshear, to Trump's detractors, though Beshear has said little about the impeachment effort.
The governor defended Trump's conversation with the Ukrainian president at the heart of the probe. And he called on his Democratic challenger to take a stand on impeachment — calling it a "fundamental question" of great importance to Kentucky voters.
It's not the first time Kentucky Republicans have tried to inject impeachment politics into the state's governor's race, even though a governor wouldn't vote on impeachment and would be highly unlikely to make state policy decisions with any connection to it.
Beshear has refused to take the bait. His campaign manager, Eric Hyers, said Friday that as the state's top prosecutor, Beshear "relies on evidence and facts," echoing an earlier statement by the candidate.
If Congress moves forward, Beshear believes the proceedings should be "nonpartisan and focus on facts and evidence," Hyers said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Beshear's campaign highlighted an exchange during the Bevin-Beshear debate Thursday about a teacher who moonlights as an Uber driver. Bevin said he knows people who drive for Uber as a second job and make good money. "It's called freedom and opportunity," the governor said.
In a Beshear campaign video released Friday, the teacher said her income as an educator doesn't pay her bills and that she has to supplement it by driving for Uber and Lyft on weekends and sometimes through the week. Beshear has proposed a $2,000 across-the-board pay raise for Kentucky's public school teachers.
"Matt Bevin made it even more clear yesterday that he doesn't care about teachers, public education and our families who are falling further behind on his watch," Beshear said.
Bevin has criticized Beshear for not offering specifics on how he'd pay for the salary boost for teachers. The governor defends his education record, saying teachers' pensions have been fully funded and 100% of lottery funds have gone toward education during his term.
For Bevin, the focus on impeachment is part of his strategy to inject national issues into a statewide race.
Whoever wins the governor's race won't have a vote on impeachment in Congress, but Bevin said the issue has a "direct and immediate impact" on Kentucky and the nation.
In keeping with his effort to nationalize the race, Bevin lashed out at Hillary Clinton, the Democratic candidate Trump defeated in 2016, criticized "fake news reports" and referred to special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation on Russian interference in the 2016 election as a "farce."
Bevin routinely highlights his admiration for Trump in political ads, tweets and speeches. The president headlined a private fundraiser for Bevin during a visit to Louisville in August. Trump won by a landslide in Kentucky in 2016 and remains a political force in the bluegrass state.
In another effort to bring a hot-button national issue into the Kentucky campaign, Bevin's campaign released a TV ad recently that promotes cracking down on illegal immigration and prohibiting the creation of "sanctuary cities." The governor, however, conceded to reporters that illegal immigration isn't "a huge issue for us as a state, but it's a concern for this country."