2019 Gubernatorial Elections

Three states are holding gubernatorial elections this year – Louisiana, Mississippi and Kentucky. Spotlight is working to highlight these races and the range of issues related to poverty and opportunity at play. Use the drop-down options below to see an overview of the races and relevant news coverage (including original pieces from Spotlight). Later in the year, we will provide more detailed looks at how the candidates stack up on poverty-related topics like job creation, the minimum wage and the social safety net.


Matt Bevin (R: Incumbent)

Matt Bevin was elected Governor of Kentucky in 2015. Bevin is the former Chairman of the Board for the American Red Cross in Louisville and has owned several businesses in the manufacturing, software, investment and medical industries. He previously served as an officer in the U.S. Army.

Previous Work Around Poverty and Opportunity:

  • Signed Kentucky HEALTH, which allows participants to customize their health care plan
  • Signed a bill to permit the establishment of charter schools in Kentucky
  • Established the “Justice to Journeyman” program, which provides apprenticeship opportunities for those who were incarcerated
  • Created the Kentucky Dual Credit Scholarship Program, which allows high school seniors to take two dual-credit courses

On the Issues:

Jobs: Developed a report that examined workforce barriers to entry and advocated for public-private partnerships.

Health Care/Insurance: Implemented healthcare reforms including mandatory copays and work requirements for Medicaid participants. Called for Obamacare to be defunded and repealed.

Education: Supports school choice and performance-based funding for state universities.

Criminal Justice: Reversed a decision by the former governor to restore voting rights to formerly incarcerated persons.

Minimum Wage: Lowered the minimum wage for government workers from $10.10 to $7.25. Stated a preference to eliminate minimum wage requirements and instead have wage rates be established by the demands of the labor market.

Safety Net: Advocated for pension reforms. As Governor, proposed to gradually move away from the public pension system to 401(k) plans for workers.

Children/Families: Supports reforming the adoption and foster care system.

Taxes/Tax Credits: Supports businesses and individuals receiving a tax credit for donating to a scholarship-granting organization. Stated support for taxing consumption rather than income.

News Articles:

“Q&A with Gov. Matt Bevin (Council of State Governments: 10/25/2017)

“Bevin Signs Pension Reform Bill Into Law Tuesday. Here’s What it Does for Teachers” (Courier Journal: 4/11/2018)

“Will Kentucky Reelect Governor Matt Bevin?” (National Review: 6/6/2019)

Andy Beshear (D)

Andy Beshear serves as Kentucky’s Attorney General. Before holding public office, Beshear received a law degree from the University of Virginia School of Law and was a practicing attorney. He is the son of former Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear.

Previous Work Around Poverty and

  • Collaborated with Kentucky Association of Sexual Assault Programs to create a #VoiceofJustice video contest, which raised awareness for campus sexual assault
  • Sued nine opioid manufacturers and distributors for contributing to the opioid crisis
  • Created the Kentucky Opioid Disposal Program, which allows people to safely dispose their unused prescription opioids
  • Filed a lawsuit over Governor Bevin’s proposal to cut funding from state universities by 2%

On the Issues:

Jobs: Wants to conduct an audit of state employees to evaluate if workers are being paid fairly and use state purchasing power to close the wage gap. Favors workforce investment for agritech, automation, data analytics and health care.

Health Care/Insurance: Favors banning lifetime limits on care, outlawing discrimination based on gender or pre-existing conditions and covering mental health care and substance abuse treatment. Wants to protect Medicaid, make prescription drugs more affordable and increase resources for senior care systems.

Education: Has prioritized preventing campus sexual assault and stated that public education is one of his top priorities. His running mate, Lt. Governor Jacqueline Coleman, was a teacher and an advocate of public education.

Criminal Justice: Supports placing medical marijuana legalization on the ballot. Stated he would sign an executive order to restore felon voting rights and allow them to run for public office.

Minimum Wage: Wants to stop giving state tax incentives to companies that aren’t paying a living wage and also favors an increase in the state minimum wage.

Safety Net: Supports creating dedicated revenue streams, such as gaming and medical marijuana, to fund pension reform.

Children/Families: Supported teachers striking for increased school funding.

Taxes/Tax Credits: Wants to close loopholes in the tax system and decrease the tax burden on working families.

News Articles:

“What to Know About Andy Beshear in the 2019 Kentucky Governor’s Race” (Courier Journal: 5/13/2019)

“Andy Beshear Wins Democratic Primary for Kentucky Governor” (The New York Times: 5/21/2019)

“Andy Beshear Has Beaten Matt Bevin in the Courtroom. But Can He Win in a Campaign?” (Lexington Herald Ledger: 5/16/2019)


Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards is running for reelection. The state’s jungle primary, in which candidates of all parties appear on the ballot together, will be held on October 12. If no candidate receives a majority of the vote, a runoff election will occur on November 16 between the two top candidates. Addressing budget shortfalls proved a major area of focus for the Louisiana Governor and legislature over the last several years, but the state government may now be looking to pivot to new priorities.  


In the News

Louisiana’s the perfect place for a Poor People’s Campaign” (NOLA: 1/30/2019)

Louisiana is healthier with Medicaid expansion” (NOLA: 08/23/2018)

If Cut, Kennedy Says He’ll Try to Save Louisiana Food Stamps” (US News & World Report: 6/14/2018)

Tens of Thousands of Louisiana Residents could face eviction from nursing and group homes” (CNN: 5/9/2018)

Louisiana ranks No. 1 for wage inequality” (Louisiana Weekly: 4/16/2018)

Study: Louisiana Medicaid Expansion Program has $3.5B Impact” (U.S. News & World Report: 4/14/2018)


Term limits mean that incumbent Republican Governor Phil Bryant cannot run for reelection. Primaries were held on August 6. Attorney General Jim Hood won the Democratic primary, and the Republican primary is headed to a runoff after no candidate won a simple majority of the vote.

Democrats have planned to make Medicaid expansion a priority in the upcoming election, although there are some rumors that Governor Bryant may try to act on the issue before he leaves office.


In the News

"Mississippi gubernatorial GOP primary race heads into runoff" (CBS News: 8/7/19)

"Teen pregnancy rate declines but remains high in the Delta; report says social and economic factors key to further reduction" (Mississippi Today: 7/31/19)

"Mississippi governor debate: Live stream and coverage of Republican debate" (Clarion Ledger: 7/23/19)

"Mississippi Medicaid expansion: What do governor candidates say?" (Clarion Ledger: 7/16/19)

"Who's giving them money? A look at political donations in Mississippi gubernatorial race" (Clarion Ledger: 5/14/19)

In Rural Mississippi, Still Waiting on Recovery” (Reuters: 2/4/2019)