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 Called for Obamacare to be defunded and repealed.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)


Tate Reeves (R)

Bio: Tate Reeves was elected lieutenant governor of Mississippi in 2011. His political career started in 2003 with his election to state treasurer. Previously he worked in banking and finance in Jackson. He is a native of Rankin County and graduated from Millsaps College in 1996.

Previous Work on Poverty and Opportunity:

  • Has voiced support for criminal justice reform criminal justice reform
  • Advocates for measures to better educate the workforce in order to attract better jobs
  • Has prioritized educational reforms improve to improve workplace competitiveness

On the Issues

Jobs: Prioritizes workforce training and has proposed a $75 million grant to upgrade college training programs and a $20 million grant program to help working families with childcare and transportation.

Healthcare/Insurance: Opposes Medicaid expansion and instead is a proponent of “block granting” the program. Wants to start rural medical residency programs and fund rural physician scholarships.

Education: Has emphasized improving school performance as a core priority. Supported the 2014 passage of the School Recognition Program, which raised salaries of teachers in schools that receive a letter grade of A or B from the state.

Criminal Justice: Supported Mississippi’s bipartisan criminal justice reform legislation that passed in 2014, 2018 and 2019.

Minimum Wage: Opposes setting a minimum wage that is higher than the federal level.

Safety Net: A proponent of cutting government spending and oversaw $300 million in cuts of state programs.

Children/Families: Supported FY2019 state budget that allocated $6.5 million for a nationally-recognized early childhood education program and increased spending by $42 million on Child Protective Services and the Department of Human Services to improve the foster care system and enabled better coordination between Child Protective Services and the Department of Human Services.

Taxes/Tax Credits: Supported the Taxpayer Pay Raise Act which lowers individual and corporate taxes, and Senate Bill 2808 which cut the unemployment tax rate paid by businesses in Mississippi and established a workforce training fund. Opposes a gas tax.

News Articles: 


Jim Hood (D)

Bio: Jim Hood has served as the attorney general of Mississippi since 2004. Prior to that, he served as a district attorney for seven counties in North Mississippi, a law clerk at the Mississippi Supreme Court, and a special assistant attorney general under Attorney General Mike Moore. He is a native of Chickasaw County, Mississippi.

Previous Work on Poverty and Opportunity:

  • Filed lawsuits against insurance companies on behalf of homeowners as part of the Hurricane Katrina recovery process
  • Filed a lawsuit against pharmaceutical companies for requiring the state to pay for medication that would not be reimbursed through Medicaid.

On the Issues

Jobs: Wants to improve viable alternatives to a four-year degree. Wants to expand apprenticeship programs, help high school seniors earn industry-recognized certifications, and expand a Gateway Program statewide to teach high school students essential job skills.

Healthcare/Insurance: Wants to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Act, and use those federal funds to help reform Mississippi’s mental health system, prevent hospital closures, and improve rural healthcare access.

Education: Wants to implement free community college tuition statewide to prevent brain drain. Wants to expand Mississippi’s small state-funded preschool program by $45 million over four years, increase teachers’ salaries by $3,000 over two years, expand subsidies for aspiring teachers, and make it easier to qualify academically to become a teacher.

Criminal Justice: Has supported reforming the administration of the state’s death penalty.

Children/Families: Wants to expand state-funded preschool.

Taxes/Tax Credits: Wants to reduce the grocery tax on food purchases from 7% to 3.5%.

News Articles: