LONDON, Ky. (AP) — Attempting to turn the Kentucky governor's race into a referendum on impeachment, Vice President Mike Pence urged voters Friday to register their disgust with the "endless investigations" of President Donald Trump by reelecting his close ally, Republican Gov. Matt Bevin.
While Bevin basked in the support from yet another Trump surrogate, his Democratic challenger, Attorney General Andy Beshear, touted his support from a prominent police organization. Beshear, doing his best to make the contest about state issues, vowed to protect the pensions of public employees and said Bevin couldn't be trusted to do so.
At a rally during a campaign swing in a key GOP stronghold in southeastern Kentucky, Pence praised Bevin as a "proven conservative," pointing to the governor's stances against abortion and for gun rights. The vice president trumpeted Kentucky's economic performance during Bevin's tenure.
Pence, who bonded with Bevin during his time as governor of neighboring Indiana, tied Kentucky's election next Tuesday to the drama unfolding in Washington with the impeachment inquiry of Trump by House Democrats.
"If you want to send a message to Washington, D.C., that enough is enough, and that Kentucky is tired of the endless investigations and their partisan impeachment, if you want to send a message to the do-nothing Democrats that Kentucky supports President Donald Trump, vote Republican in next Tuesday's election," Pence said.
Pence said the Kentucky election can "set the stage" for 2020, when Trump will run for another term in the White House. Trump, who is planning his own trip to Lexington on the night before Tuesday's election, won Kentucky by a landslide in 2016 and remains a commanding figure in the state.
"Once we reelect Gov. Matt Bevin for four more years, we can make it clear we're going to reelect President Donald Trump for four more years," the vice president said.
The loudest cheers from the crowd of several hundred people came whenever Trump's name was mentioned, which happened often.
Bevin, who has made his alliance with Trump a central theme of his campaign, lashed out at the Democratic impeachment probe.
"We saw the animosity, the vitriol, the insanity of what was coming out of Washington even just yesterday with the mockery that is being made of the political process," he said.
In an appeal to the state's conservative Democrats, Bevin declared: "Your party at the national level is leaving you behind" as he urged Kentuckians to vote their values, not their party.
"You can come on over," Bevin said. "Come on in, the water's fine. It's pretty good over here."
Beshear spent the day campaigning in northern Kentucky, another traditional GOP stronghold that has emerged as a battleground this year. Beshear, the state's attorney general, touted his endorsement from the state Fraternal Order of Police, which represents thousands of law enforcement officers.
Drew Fox, government affairs chair for the state FOP, said a main factor in the endorsement was Beshear's promise to protect pensions.
Beshear said Bevin couldn't be trusted to protect public pensions.
"I've made a promise as governor that I am never going to cut the pensions of our public servants," Beshear said. "And I'm going to make sure that we have those pensions available for every new officer that comes into this field, because we have to be able to recruit the types of amazing law enforcement officers we have behind me, to also police our communities moving into the future."
Beshear continued to promote his plan to legalize casino gambling to raise revenue that would go entirely to shore up public pensions systems. Beshear estimates the venture would generate up to $550 million in yearly state revenue — money that he says now flows to other states where Kentuckians go to gamble.
"My commitment is we're going to have new dedicated revenue that goes into that pension fund, to make sure these folks behind don't have to show up at the Capitol every two years to fight for what has already been promised them," Beshear said at a press conference.
Bevin has denounced Beshear's expanded gambling plan as a "pipe dream," saying it would never win approval from the GOP-led legislature.