‘Relentless’ Beshear talks first term takeaways, next four years

Published 6:01 pm Tuesday, December 19, 2023

For the first time in his life, Gov. Andy Beshear doesn’t know what’s next, but he’s not worried about it.

Tuesday, Beshear sat down for an interview about his first term, as well as his  future in politics.

Even before he won re-election, political pundits were floating the idea of a Beshear presidential or congressional run in 2028.

But Beshear said that he plans to serve out every day of his second four-year term, and after that, he has no plans.

“Being governor’s enough,” he said.

“It’s such a great job. You’re not one of 50, you’re one of one. And what you can accomplish for a place I’m from and I love so much and I see all the advances we’re making and how people are now looking at us and Kentucky, I’m just focused on doing my best every single day.”

The Republican supermajority

Republicans enjoy supermajorities in both chambers of Kentucky’s legislature. This means that as a caucus, they have control over what legislation makes it to Beshear’s desk, and can override anything he vetoes.

In light of this, Beshear said he’s focused more on helping his priorities progress and making the legislature’s ideas workable than trying to stop legislation.

For example, he said that the executive branch was responsible for making Robert Stiver’s idea for career and technical college grants work.

“We had to take them, create the program, get the money out, connect them to the private employers,” he said. “Again, a great idea that we were happy to execute, but a lot of what we do is either we’ll have an idea or they’ll have an idea, and then the way is how do we set it up in a way we can get the most success?”

Beshear said that he hopes the temperature of political conflict drops in Frankfort during his second term.

He said that although he thinks Kentucky has been better than politicians on the national stage, it could still improve. He added that his conversations with legislators have been good since the election.

“There’s so much that we can focus on as Kentuckians from jobs, infrastructure, public safety, education, that we should be able to push out that noise,” Beshear said. “My hope is that we can do it the right way, and then we can get a lot of things done because there’s not a win or a loss for me anymore.”

During his campaign, Kentucky Republicans criticized Beshear for taking credit for economic gains achieved through the legislature’s policies.

Beshear said that it was all political, and that everyone can take partial credit for the $20.5 billion in new investment.

“When somebody’s trying to claim credit they say, oh, ‘It’s the tax policy.’ It’s a lot more than that. You have to have the sites, you have to have the infrastructure, the local relationships are critical,” he said.

“At this point. I’m not worried about credit at all. I’m worried about what we leave for our kids and for our grandkids.”

First term economic development

In 2021, Ford Motor Company announced plans to partner with SK Innovation to build twin electric vehicle battery plants in Glendale.

The BlueOval SK Battery Park was a $5.8 billion investment that will create 5,000 jobs. It’s the

Tuesday, Beshear said that his proudest moment as governor so far is that “incredible” announcement.

“We had to fight hard to secure what was a game-changing, state-changing investment, the largest in our history,” he said. “But knowing as we were announcing it there with Ford that it would change everything moving forward for us, from national perception to opportunities for our kids, it was a really special moment.”

Beshear also highlighted Kentucky’s growing economic relationship with South Korea as one of the less-mentioned pieces of his proposed budget he is most excited about.

His proposed budget includes a million dollars in the next two years to create a South Korea office to attract new projects and expansions.

“When you look at EVs, when you look at chips and their importance in the future, I think this is an area where we can be really competitive,” Beshear said. “But given how far away it is, having an office there, we can bring Kentucky to so many of these companies.”

Beshear rarely talks about environmental issues, on or off the campaign trail. Tuesday, he said that while he believes in climate change, he also thinks that any approach to addressing the issue needs to work.

Right now, he said the Biden administration is trying to do too many things at once, and that Kentucky has to look at longer timelines.

“We can electrify our vehicles, we could change the way we power the country, but to do them both at the same time when the factories require more power than ever before, and we’re asking for more load, just isn’t realistic.”

First term lessons

In the past four years, Kentucky has experienced a global pandemic, tornadoes and floods. Beshear said one of his biggest takeaways is how to successfully manage a crisis.

“I think one of the most important lessons about when you face a major natural disaster is you need to overreact,” he said. “People will naturally recommend doing about 60% of what in the end the situation calls for. You just don’t know it in the beginning.”

He’s also learned about the importance of relationships.

His connection with the senior executives at Ford that led to BlueOval SK is one example that applies across Kentucky’s economic development announcements, Beshear said.

Another is the trust he built with heads of hospital systems during the pandemic, when he asked them to sacrifice their bottom line to take safety measures that would have been “crazy” in normal times.

Now, partially because of that trust, Beshear said his administration was able to announce the first hospital in West Louisville in 150 years with zero opposition, as well as the construction of two hospitals outside of Lexington, a pedatric autism center in Prestonsburg and a Bullitt County hospital.

Through it all, Beshear said his team would call him “relentless”—he’s always pushing forward.

“We only have so much time in these jobs,” he said. “I love this state. This is our chance to do everything we can, treating every day like we gotta gain the most inches and feet and yards that we possibly can.”