Beshear dismisses veep talk despite praise from Clintons on campaign trail

10/24/2014 12:48 PM

When Bill and Hillary Clinton spoke at separate campaign stops in Kentucky in recent weeks, Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes wasn’t the only state politician earning their praises.

The Clintons singled out Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear in their stump speeches, largely for his embrace of the Affordable Care Act. The Democratic governor created a state-based insurance exchange, kynect, and expanded Medicaid eligibility through executive orders, and the decisions have garnered national attention as more than 500,000 Kentuckians received health coverage through kynect.

Hillary Clinton, a former U.S. Secretary of State and potential Democratic presidential candidate in 2016, lauded Beshear for his implementation of the health care law and his “common sense, pragmatic leadership.”

“Gov. Beshear has done a great job for the people of Kentucky, whether it’s been fighting for middle class families or making Kentucky a national leader in expanding quality, affordable health care,” Clinton said last week at a Grimes rally in Louisville.

The former president, speaking Tuesday at a Grimes rally in Owensboro, said Beshear is one of the most popular governors in the country, particularly noteworthy because Beshear won twice in a state that hasn’t favored a Democratic presidential nominee since Clinton’s reelection in 1996.

“There’s only two governors in America with approval ratings of 70 percent or more,” Bill Clinton said. “Only two. You know where they are? Kentucky and my native state of Arkansas.”

Such effusive praise from a politically powerful couple, one a potential Democratic presidential candidate, may cause some to think Beshear is in line for a vice presidential nod. The Cincinnati Enquirer explored the topic in February, when Larry Sabato, editor in chief of the University of Virginia’s nonpartisan newsletter “Sabato’s Crystal Ball,” said he’d heard Beshear’s named mentioned as a possible Hillary Clinton running mate in 2016.

Beshear declined to comment for that report, and his spokeswoman, Kerri Richardson, told the newspaper the governor has made “clear that he’s not going to run for any other offices.”

Eight months later, Beshear hasn’t reconsidered his position. He told Pure Politics in an interview Thursday that there are other, more qualified candidates to run as Clinton’s vice presidential candidate.

“I am proud that the Clintons are coming in here, and I’m looking forward to seeing a Clinton on the ballot in 2016,” Beshear said. “I think we can carry Kentucky for her.”

Just don’t expect to see Beshear’s name on a slate with Clinton.

“I don’t see that in the making,” he said. “… The family, it will be very satisfied if I retire and go back to the farm.”

Kevin Wheatley

Kevin Wheatley is a reporter for Pure Politics. He joined cn|2 in September 2014 after five years at The State Journal in Frankfort, where he covered Kentucky government and politics. You can reach him at or 502-792-1135 and follow him on Twitter at @KWheatley_cn2.


Subscribe to email updates.

Subscribe and get the latest political intelligence delivered to your inbox.