Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear’s re-election strategy is drawing increased criticism from political opponents and media outlets. Both of the state’s major newspapers (Courier-Journal editoral, column; Herald-Leader) have written editorials slamming Beshear for skipping a KET debate on education. He has also declined an invitation to appear at an AARP forum. Recently, the governor changed his mind and skipped an event in west Louisville, where he won by a significant margin in 2007. He has also declined invitations to appear alone on WFPL and WHAS radio.
Beshear has a commanding lead in the polls over Republican David Williams and independent Gatewood Galbraith, and his strategy is common among frontrunners. But University of Louisville political science Professor Dewey Clayton says by not appearing, Beshear is denying voters important information.
“That’s one of the reasons why we have debates,” he says. “The public discourse allows citizens, in essence, to get the required information they need to make intelligent decisions, and not just negative campaign ads.”
Clayton adds that the strategy could be hurting the governor. Voters may not turn out on Election Day or may not support the governor if he wins re-election. It will also be difficult for him to claim a mandate if wins with low turnout or an unclear platform.
“The economy is in bad shape around the country. It’s in bad shape here in Kentucky. People are looking for the governor to lead,” says Clayton. “So when the governor will not attend forums, people automatically begin thinking, ‘Well this person has something to hide, or maybe I need to reassess what it is this person is wanting to put forward here.’”
Beshear has run two negative ads against Williams. A request for comment from the campaign was not returned. The governor will appear on another KET forum at the end of the month.