November 17, 2023 9:00am

Abortion issues played a significant role in Gov. Andy Beshear's re-election, Power Poll members say

Poll members prefer his education platform over ideas being pushed by Republican legislators. And they have some ideas for what offices Beshear should run for next.

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Lexington, KY Correspondent
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Power Poll Lexington members think the contrasting stands on abortion between Gov. Andy Beshear and his Republican challenger, Attorney Gen. Daniel Cameron, played a significant role in Beshear’s re-election this month.

Poll members also greatly favor Beshear’s public education ideas over those put forth by the Republican-dominated General Assembly. Poll members also have some ideas about what Beshear should do politically after he finishes his second four-year term as governor.

Beshear was re-elected by a decisive five-point margin (67,000 votes), defying a solid trend of most Kentuckians voting for Republicans. Beshear was the only Democrat elected to statewide office this month.

Political observers have cited several guesses for Beshear’s popularity, even among many Republicans. Those include his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic; floods in Eastern Kentucky and tornadoes in Western Kentucky; his track record of attracting new business and investment to Kentucky; and his openness to exceptions in the strict abortion ban enacted by the General Assembly after the U.S. Supreme Court reversed 50 years of precedent and struck down Roe v. Wade.

Beshear’s campaign included ads targeting Cameron for not being open to abortion exceptions in cases of rape or incest, and noting that Cameron’s running mate, Sen. Robby Mills of Henderson, voted against an amendment that would have added those exceptions to the law.

The most powerful ad featured Hadley Duvall, a young woman from Owensboro, who told her story of being raped by her stepfather at age 12. She called out Cameron by name. The Republican candidate then changed course, saying he would sign a law with those exceptions if the General Assembly passed it. That was seen as a flip-flop that pleased neither side in the debate.

How much did the abortion issue factor into Beshear’s win? It was significant, most poll members thought. Thirty-seven percent (83 members) thought it was a big factor, while 52 percent (117 members) said it factored in somewhat. Eight percent of members (18 people) thought it didn’t matter much, and 2 percent (four members) didn’t think it had any effect. Two people had no opinion.

Despite the size of his victory, Beshear still must contend with a super-majority Republican General Assembly determined not to give him any political help.

Immediately after the election, Beshear staked out one of their areas of disagreement as among the chief priorities of his second term: public education. Beshear has called for an 11 percent raise for public school employees across the state and the availability of pre-kindergarten programs in all the state’s public schools.

Republican lawmakers have been more interested in promoting “school choice” — finding a way around the state constitution’s prohibition against spending public money on private schools.

Which approach do Power Poll members prefer? One enhancing public schools, rather than private schools. Eighty-three percent (187 members) support Beshear’s approach. Thirteen percent (29 members) prefer the General Assembly’s approach. Four percent (8 members) had no opinion.

During the campaign, Beshear pledged to serve out his full four-year second term as governor. But his strong showing in a state dominated by Republicans has attracted a lot of speculation about his political future. What would Power Poll members like to see Beshear do next?

The largest group — 49 percent, or 109 members — want him to challenge U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, an iconoclastic libertarian from Bowling Green, for re-election in 2028. Twenty-six percent (58 members) would like to see Beshear run for president or vice president. Four percent (10 members) thought he should seek a federal cabinet post. And seven percent (16 members) want him to retire from politics. Fourteen percent (31 members) had no opinion.

“Andy Beshear is the first legitimate presidential candidate from Kentucky in my 73 years on this planet, considering the contemporaneous political climate and his appeal to a wide variety of voters,” said attorney Bruce Simpson. “He is authentic, well spoken, intelligent, affable and blessed with good political instincts.”

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About Power Poll: Power Poll asks questions of the most powerful, influential people in U.S. cities. It is not a scientific survey. But because the people responding to the surveys comprise the leadership structure of their cities, the results afford a fascinating glimpse into the thoughts, opinions, and beliefs of those in a position to make change. Power Poll is distinctly nonpartisan.

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