A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Kentucky Today: How the three democratic gubernatorial candidates stand on key issues

By Tom Latek
Kentucky Today

The gubernatorial primary is Tuesday and here is a guide on how the major Democratic candidates stand on some important issues.

The responses are based on information gained from a variety of sources, including responses to a questionnaire, public statements, the candidate’s website and past news reports.

The major candidates are defined as those who have raised at least $100,000 for their campaign, based on figures reported to the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance.

Democratic gubernatorial candidates: Adam Edelen, Rocky Adkins, Andy Beshear

The major Democratic slates in alphabetical order include Rocky Adkins/Stephanie Horne, Andy Beshear/Jacqueline Coleman and Adam Edelen/Gill Holland.

Republican stands on the same issues will appear on Saturday afternoon.


Adkins: Has described himself as pro-life during debates. In 2019 he voted for three of the four bills enacted that would restrict abortion. The only one he opposed was one that would ban abortions due to the unborn child’s sex, race, color, national origin or disability.

Beshear: I support the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v Wade. Women should be able to make their own reproductive healthcare decisions without interference from the government. I’ve repeatedly stood up to the legislature when they’ve tried to unconstitutionally undermine women’s rights and I’ll continue to stand with Kentucky’s women as governor.

Edelen: Both Edelen and Holland believe Kentucky’s government should respect women enough to stay out of doctor’s office. Kentucky women will never be fully equal members of society if they aren’t allowed to make their own health care decisions.


Adkins: Has voted in favor of every bill before the General Assembly in the last two years dealing with adoption and foster care reform.

Beshear: Although he called for a review of the state’s foster care system while running for attorney general, his stance on further reforms to the foster care system is unclear.

Edelen: Kentucky leads the nation in the percentage of children not living with either parent. We need to provide extended families, especially grandparents, the resources they need to keep children with their siblings and families intact. Up to 80 percent of children in foster care struggle with mental health issues and we must ensure that they have access to the care they need.


Adkins: Has said he believes all types of revenue sources need to be examined but does not believe a gambling bill would pass the General Assembly.

Beshear: Kentucky can’t afford to fall behind our neighboring states who are moving forward with the rest of the country on expanded gaming. We lose out on hundreds of millions of dollars a year. As governor, I will work to legalize sports betting, casinos, fantasy sports and prepare for online poker, and use the revenue from these activities as a dedicated funding stream for our public pension system.

Edelen: Favors expanding gaming in Kentucky but believes we cannot pin our hopes, pensions or financial future to a plan which may not succeed in the legislature, or on the whims of Kentucky bettors.


Adkins: He and his running mate are both cancer survivors and support legalizing medical marijuana with strong safety standards.

Beshear: I support placing medical marijuana legalization on the ballot as a constitutional amendment and would vote in its favor. I would vote for it because I’ve seen the impact opioids have had on every Kentucky community. So many Kentucky families have seen a loved one fall into addiction, and their lives have been devastated. If medical marijuana is an alternative and gives people the chance to get pain relief without being subjected to opioids, I think it’s something we’ve got to explore.

Edelen: Supports legalized medical marijuana and believes the legislature should act immediately to give Kentuckians the relief they need for pain that has, for too long, been treated with addictive and deadly opioids. He would not tax medical marijuana, believing it is immoral to balance our budget by taxing the medicine of cancer patients or those in palliative care.


Adkins: What happened to educators and public employees during Matt Bevin’s administration is inexcusable, he said. No educator, school bus driver, fire fighter, police officer or other public employee should have to beg for the dignity of the pension they were promised. Adkins says he is committed to protecting the promises made to public employees and educators, now and in the future.

Beshear: We’ve made a promise to our teachers, police officers, firefighters and other public employees that they’ll be able to retire with dignity, and under my watch, Kentucky will keep that promise. When this governor tried to slash pensions, I went to the Supreme Court and personally argued for the promised pensions of more than 200,000 teachers, police officers, firefighters, EMS, social workers and nearly all city and county employees in Kentucky. Our public servants go to work every day to keep our communities safe, educate tomorrow’s leaders—our children—or put themselves in harm’s way. The least we can do is protect the promised pension benefits they have paid into during their years of service.

Edelen: Our state pensions should be run for the benefit of those they support and those who pay into the system. As State Auditor, Adam audited the Teachers’ Retirement System and found it had been well run and politically independent for 75 years. Further, the Teachers’ Retirement System avoided investments in hedge fund investments and the use of placement agents.

On the other hand, the Kentucky Retirement System has for too long been plagued by frequent use of placement agents and hedge funds. Also, the KRS has been governed by a board of appointed political hacks. As such, no one who donates a dime to Adam’s campaign will be eligible to serve on a pension board.

The problem our pensions face is that, for 20 years, employees paid into the system and state government didn’t. Instead, state government missed payments to these pension funds in order to balance the budget. We need to reform the system and start putting more money into the system, including finding new revenue sources such as expanded gaming and comprehensive tax reform.


Adkins: In Kentucky we have $13 billion of tax loopholes and exemptions, $2 billion more than our entire general fund budget. Let’s look at those. He has said if just ten percent of those loopholes were closed, that would free up $1.3 billion for public pensions and education. He says Kentucky needs tax reform, not modernization.

Beshear: Stand on tax reform unclear.

Edelen: Kentucky’s tax system continues to give more away in exemptions and deductions than it collects. This is a recipe for inefficiency and waste that benefits lobbyists and their clients rather than hardworking Kentuckians and local businesses.

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