Gov. Steve Beshear (D) tells the Courier-Journal that the unpopularity of President Barack Obama in Kentucky was not a factor when he decided not to attend Mr. Obama's speech to soldiers at Fort Campbell on Friday.
Yet, Beshear told the CJ's Joe Gerth that he expects his Republican opponent in the governor's race to try to tie him to President Obama, as Rand Paul connected Jack Conway to Obama in the 2010 U.S. Senate race:
“Certainly last year, that's what they tried to do in Kentucky,” he said. “It's not going to work this year."
Beshear's decision to stick to his Oaks Day obligations and not be a part of the rare joint appearance of a President and Vice-President of his own party in Kentucky was questioned by several legislators and African-American leaders:
Rep. Jim Wayne, D-Louisville, said, “I think what we're talking about here is the governor is running for re-election and this president is not well-respected in this state. We have a lot of narrow-minded, racist people in this state who do not like the fact that we have a black man in the White House.”
In a statement, Beshear spokeswoman Kerri Richardson on Thursday chalked up the governor's decision to timing:
Unfortunately, the President’s visit was not confirmed until late last night – too late to make arrangements in the Governor’s schedule, considering his Oaks Day obligations. However, the Governor congratulates the President and the Navy SEALs for their incredible actions this week, and the soldiers and families of Fort Campbell will surely appreciate the President’s visit and gratitude. The Governor has visited Fort Campbell several times in the past, and looks forward to visiting Fort Campbell in the future as our soldiers continue to return home.
Richardson said Beshear has been in several meetings with President Obama, including visits with the National Governors’ Association, as well as a meeting in which Beshear and other governors argued in favor of the coal industry.