January 29, 2021 6:00am

Lexington, Louisville surveys show strong opposition to GOP actions against Beshear

Power Poll members in both cities also overwhelmingly favor more limits on firearms at the state Capitol

Photo of Tom Eblen
Lexington, KY Correspondent

A survey of Lexington and Louisville Power Poll members found overwhelming opposition to new laws passed by Republican legislators to limit Gov. Andy Beshear’s emergency powers, as well as GOP efforts to consider impeaching him for taking action to limit the spread of COVID-19 in Kentucky.

Poll members in both cities also overwhelmingly favor new restrictions on carrying firearms at the state Capitol following recent armed protests there and the violent insurrection by fanatical supporters of former President Donald Trump at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

Power Poll isn’t a scientific poll. But because it asks questions about issues in the news to a large group of public officials, top business executives and community leaders in metro Lexington and metro Louisville, it offers interesting insights into the opinions of some of Kentucky’s most influential leaders.

This month’s survey drew responses from 104 of 171 active members in metro Lexington, or 61 percent. (Only members who respond to at least one survey over several months remain active and continue to receive emails about monthly polls.) The Louisville poll drew responses from 59 of 131 active members, or 45 percent.

Beshear on Tuesday vetoed five bills passed by the General Assembly’s Republican super-majority, saying that limiting his executive powers would “significantly hamper the important steps” he has taken to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

But because Republicans hold super-majorities in both the state House and Senate, they are likely to override Beshear’s vetoes and enact the laws.

Unlike the governors of several surrounding states, Beshear has been aggressive in using his executive powers to close and regulate some businesses and schools to limit the spread of the virus.

More than 334,000 Kentuckians have contracted COVID-19, and more than 3,200 have died from it. In fact, Thursday marked the deadliest day in Kentucky for the virus, with 3,728 new infections and 58 deaths. However, Kentucky’s per-capita infection and death rates are lower than most surrounding states.  Beshear was recently chosen by the National Governors Association to lead a bipartisan task force on economic recovery from the pandemic.

Virtually all of Beshear’s actions have been upheld by state and federal courts as constitutional, but they have sparked a backlash from Republican officials and right-wing activists. At least four activists filed requests with lawmakers asking that Beshear be impeached, and GOP leaders created a committee to study the requests. Beshear has denounced the effort.

In the Lexington poll, 97 people (93 percent) opposed the impeachment move, while only five people (5 percent) supported it.  Two people (2 percent) weren't sure.

Louisville Power Poll members were asked the same question, and the results were similar. Ninety 90 percent (53 people) were opposed to any impeachment action, 8.5 percent (5 people) supported it. One person wasn’t sure.

“Governor Beshear has shown extraordinary leadership during these unprecedented times,” said Lexington developer Holly Wiedemann. “Without his enforcement of measures, guided by the CDC and scientific guidelines, far more lives would have been lost.

“This has been extraordinarily difficult, particularly for those of us who own our own small businesses,” Wiedemann added. “We have seen the success of nations with the most stringent lockdowns. There is a direct correlation.”

In the Lexington poll, 84 people (81 percent) opposed the GOP efforts to limit Beshear's emergency powers, while 13 people (13 percent) supported them. Seven people (7 percent) weren't sure.

Again, the Louisville responses to the same question were similar: 90 percent (53 people) were opposed, five people (8.5 percent) favored the Republican legislation and one person wasn’t sure.

“While the majority of Kentucky’s General Assembly focuses only on wedge issues that produce more heat than light, our cities and towns across the commonwealth suffer from an antiquated gas tax allocation formula,” said Midway Mayor Grayson Vandegrift, a member of the metro Lexington poll group. “Next time you’re having repairs done to your vehicle from the pothole you hit, you can thank legislators in Frankfort who would rather pander to their donor base than serve their constituents.”

Kentucky law now allows citizens to carry firearms into the state Capitol and on the Capitol grounds. Several have done just that, including a group of heavily armed self-described “militia” members who gathered on the Capitol grounds three days after the deadly insurrection in Washington.

The open-carry rules at the Capitol have long worried some lawmakers, and those fears have been heightened by the insurrection in Washington that killed five people, including a Capitol policeman.

“Unless you have experienced serving time in either chamber in our state Capitol building during a legislative session, you have no idea what a vulnerable position we have been placed,” said veteran state Rep. Susan Westrom, a Lexington Democrat. “It is a constant reminder of how insignificant we may be perceived while working as a public servant.”

Should lawmakers change the rules? Ninety-seven people (93 percent) in the Lexington poll thought so, while only five (5 percent) did not. Two people weren't sure.

In Louisville, answers to the same question were similar. Eighty-eight percent (52 people) didn’t think this practice should continue, while only five people (8.5 percent) thought it should. Two people (3.4 percent) weren’t sure.

“I am all for the right to bear arms, however I am opposed to them at the Capitol,” said Sharon Price, executive director of Lexington’s Community Action Council. “After what we just saw in Washington, D.C., I don’t think we should ever underestimate the power of domestic terrorists with weapons.”

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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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