The man who will give the Democrats’ response to President Donald Trump’s address to a joint session of Congress Tuesday is a champion of Obamacare and former governor of a state that Trump triumphed heavily in last November.
Former Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear will take center stage despite not being in public office and lacking much name recognition. Many may not be too familiar with Beshear, who has developed a reputation as a strong orator in the Bluegrass State and for his defense of some mainstream Democratic platforms.
Affordable Care Act Champion
Despite governing a conservative state, Beshear, 72, chose to embrace Obamacare and expand Medicaid. He was successful in insuring around 300,000 Kentuckians who were previously without insurance and reducing the percentage without insurance from 14 percent in 2015 to 6 percent in 2015. There appears little doubt that, at a time when Republicans are fighting to repeal Obamacare, healthcare will form a significant part of Beshear’s response.
“Governor Beshear’s work in Kentucky is proof positive that the Affordable Care Act works, reducing costs and expanding access for hundreds of thousands of Kentuckians,” Democratic leader Sen. Chuck Schumer said last week.
Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear speaks at the Fancy Farm picnic Aug. 2, 2014 in Fancy Farm, Kentucky Photo: Getty Images
He Once Ran Against Mitch McConnell
The most prominent voice from Kentucky has a very different perspective on the virtues of Obamacare in the state.
“The absolute Obamacare disaster that Gov. Beshear presided over continues to harm Kentucky today — even after he’s left office,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday.
Beshear and McConnell have some history. In 1996, Beshear was the Democratic challenger to McConnell’s Senate seat and claimed in one of his most prominent lines of attack that McConnell had voted to cut Medicare and Medicaid in order to give tax cuts to “his wealthy business buddies.” Beshear wound up losing the election by close to 13 points.
Despite losing the Senate race, Beshear has enjoyed a lengthy career in politics, beginning when he gained a place in the Kentucky House of Representatives in 1974. He also went on to serve as the state’s attorney general and lieutenant governor before being elected governor in 2007. In the race to become governor, Beshear comfortably got the better of Republican Gov. Ernie Fletcher, whose sole term was overshadowed by a hiring scandal. He then won re-election in 2011, claiming 56 percent of the vote in a three-way race.
His State Has Seen A Significant Shift To The Right
Mirroring several states across the country, Kentucky politics has seen a significant shift to the right. Republican Matt Bevin replaced Beshear as governor, while both Kentucky senators are Republican as are five of the six members of the House of Representatives. In the 2016 presidential election, Trump recorded a commanding win, garnering 62.5 percent of the vote.
He Was A Supporter OF Hillary Clinton
Beshear came out in support for Hillary Clinton over rival Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary, stating that she shared his principals.
“Having worked aggressively and in a collaborative fashion as Kentucky’s governor to improve life for our people, I know that she is committed to the same key issues – partnering with others to create jobs and expand access to affordable health care,” he said.
In another universe, Beshear might be serving in the White House administration right now, having reportedly been considered for the role of agriculture secretary if Clinton came out on top in November.
He's Made Strong Comments Against Trump
Speaking after he was announced as the Democrat to provide the response to Trump, Beshear strongly criticized the president’s approach to leadership.
“American families desperately need our president to put his full attention on creating opportunity and good-paying jobs and preserving their right to affordable healthcare and a quality education," he said in a statement. “Real leaders don't spread derision and division — they build partnerships and offer solutions instead of ideology and blame.”
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