Bevin-Beshear competition extends to fundraising

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — The bitter competition between Kentucky Republican Gov. Matt Bevin and Democratic challenger Andy Beshear spread to the size of their campaign bank accounts Friday.

Both sides offered glimpses into their fundraising performances as the governor’s race heads toward the pivotal final weeks before their Nov. 5 election showdown. Their detailed financial reports had not yet been released Friday by the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance, but the figures released by the campaigns indicate they are well-positioned to wage a fierce campaign through Election Day.

Beshear’s campaign said its fundraising surpassed $6.7 million since the attorney general entered the race. That includes nearly $1.3 million raised by the state Democratic Party.

The GOP incumbent’s campaign said Bevin has collected more than $6.3 million — an amount that doesn’t include money from the state Republican Party. But the governor has put at least $2 million of his own money into his reelection campaign.

The fundraising is needed to bankroll ads and other voter outreach efforts.

Beshear started his TV advertising for the general election about a month ahead of Bevin, but both campaigns have said they’ll be on the air without interruption from now until Election Day.

Outside groups have been weighing in with their own commercials. So far, groups backing Bevin have outspent pro-Beshear forces on TV and radio ads. A group affiliated with the Democratic Governors Association recently signaled plans to pump nearly $4 million into advertising until Election Day. The Republican Governors Association has already put significant support behind Bevin’s reelection campaign.

Each campaign is touting its fundraising performance — often seen as a barometer of support.

Beshear campaign manager Eric Hyers said the Democratic nominee’s fundraising matches the grassroots energy they’re seeing for Beshear’s proposals to expand access to affordable health care, improve public education and protect pensions.

“It is clear that this campaign will have the resources it needs to persuade undecided voters and ensure that Beshear supporters turn out to vote on Nov. 5,” Hyers said in a statement.

Bevin’s campaign said the governor is in a strong financial position heading into the campaign’s stretch run.

“Governor Bevin is grateful for the incredible support he’s received in the campaign,” Bevin campaign manager Davis Paine said in a statement. “Kentuckians support the Bevin-Alvarado ticket because they want Kentucky to keep moving forward.”

Bevin, a wealthy businessman, has played up the state’s job growth and low unemployment during his tenure as reasons he deserves a second term.

Meanwhile, Bevin continued to face questions regarding his use of a state-owned plane. The Courier Journal, citing flight-tracking records from FlightAware, reported this week that the plane — frequently used to transport the governor — landed in nine different states since June.

During an appearance in Bowling Green, Bevin said he has used the plane for personal reasons but has either paid for the trips himself or had outside organizations pick up the tab, the Bowling Green Daily News reported .

“The information is out there,” Bevin said in the Bowling Green newspaper’s story. “The people can see all of the flights that have been taken and can see where the money came from.

“The real question is: Why does it matter what the purpose (of the trip) is? Did taxpayers pay for it? If they did, then they should know the purpose. If they didn’t pay for it, it’s none of their business.”

Democrats on Friday pounced on the comments.

Beshear’s running mate, Jacqueline Coleman, said in a statement that Bevin’s administration “went through emails, sign-in sheets and tried to get police surveillance footage to investigate teachers.” She added that the governor now “is telling Kentuckians it’s ‘none of their business’ why he’s taking the state airplane around the country. What a disgrace.”

Coleman’s comments stemmed from a Bevin administration investigation into teachers’ rallies at Kentucky’s Capitol that found more than 1,000 educators violated state law by participating in protests that shut down some schools. No penalties were assessed, but Bevin’s labor secretary warned “the grace extended in this instance” won’t be applied if future work stoppages occur.