WASHINGTON — Kentucky Democrats are heading to the polls Tuesday to crown a victor in a hard-fought gubernatorial primary with serious implications for November.
Public polling pegs Attorney General Andy Beshear the frontrunner over state Auditor Adam Edelen and state Rep. Rocky Adkins for the nomination. But Edelen and his allies have spent furiously in the hopes of defeating Beshear, the son of the state's last Democratic governor.
Edelen's campaign has spent $2.1 million during the primary, dwarfing Beshear's $1.3 million and Adkins' $900,000, spending data from Advertising Analytics shows. And the pro-Edelen Kentuckians for a Better Future has dropped another $1 million into the race.
The ad wars have gotten chippy, with Beshear and Edelen at the center of the fight.
The pro-Edelen Kentuckians for a Better Future has spent more than a half-million dollars on an ad attacking Beshear for donors that supported his attorney general bid, attempting to link him to the opioid epidemic through those donations, and needling Beshear over a former aide's conviction for bribery.
The group also aired a spot that highlighted Beshear's work defending the Boy Scouts from abuse claims, but that was pulled off the air after just two days after Edelen's spokesman told the Lexington Herald-Leader it should be taken down.
Edelen has amplified some of those attacks in one of his closing argument spots, and focused its resources on a spot where the candidate introduces viewers to his folksy farmer father to contrast his family with Beshear's famous father.
Beshear's ads have partly tried to look past the primary with attacks on Republican Gov. Matt Bevin's record on health care. But he's taken to the airwaves to push back against the attacks, calling them "shameful and false" and criticizing the negative campaigning.
Atkins has largely stayed out of the brawl, particularly on the airwaves, and has leaned on his legislative experience.
Both Beshear and Edelen received big endorsements in the race's final days — the former from the pro-abortion rights group NARAL Pro-Choice America and the latter from The Courier-Journal, one of the state's premiere papers.
The general election will be one of the most interesting of the 2019 cycle.
Despite the Republican lean in the state (President Trump won by almost 30 percentage points in 2016), two of the last four governors were Democrats who were reelected to serve a second term.
Even though he's outperformed polls before, polling shows Bevin is one of the more unpopular governors in America.