Democrats in D.C. and Frankfort could earn "second look" in upcoming cycles, Edelen says

07/29/2017 06:10 PM

New Kentucky Project co-founder Adam Edelen expects voters will give Democrats at both the federal and state levels “a second look” in the 2018 and 2019 elections, calling both cycles referendums on President Donald Trump and Gov. Matt Bevin.

But the former Democratic state auditor who hopes to attract new faces to politics through his group also had a warning for his party brethren.

“If that second look reveals the same old folks saying the same old stuff, the look won’t last longer than a glance,” he said.

“So I think it’s incumbent on Democrats and those in the Democratic movement to not rely on just merely being the anti-Trump or the anti-Bevin, to have an agenda to point to because we largely ran agenda-less campaigns in ’15 and ’16 and lost as a result.”

Edelen fielded a wide range of political questions, as well as health-care reform proposals on Capitol Hill and expected changes to the state’s pension programs and tax code in Frankfort, during an interview with Pure Politics this week.

Republicans’ efforts to repeal the federal health law known as Obamacare have left Edelen “frustrated,” saying losing expanded Medicaid coverage could imperil rural hospitals and cause those communities to lose out on economic development opportunities.

He dismissed criticisms that expanded Medicaid, in which Kentucky and other states that have expanded coverage will pay 10 percent of costs by 2020, is financially unsustainable.

“What we know is over the long term it is much cheaper to have people insured rather than to be uninsured,” Edelen said. “And when we evaluate where government ought to be investing, what I would say to Gov. Bevin directly and which I find outrageous is that he believes that the state doesn’t have money to make sure that uninsured populations or working poor can have health care, yet we are sufficiently funded that we can buy a 20 percent stake in a private business, something that’s not been done anywhere else in America.”

He’s referencing a $15 million investment from Commonwealth Seed Capital into Braidy Industries’ proposed aluminum mill in Greenup County, a project that’s expected to yield 550 jobs at a $1.3 billion plant. Bevin has said the state could earn $250 million if Braidy hits its targets.

Asked whether he planned to take on Bevin in 2019, Edelen said he’s keeping his eyes on upcoming policy fights with more than two years until voters in Kentucky cast gubernatorial ballots.

“What’s more important is the big fight that’s coming on tax policy,” he said. “What’s more important is the fight we’re in right now on health-care policy, and my thought is that if independents and Democrats and moderates and progressives who care deeply about these issues get in and do everything they can to make that fight now, I think it makes it easier to win come election time.”

Gubernatorial candidates will need to launch their campaigns during the 2018 elections, and Edelen says he hopes to see a “rocking, robust” primary on the Democratic side in 2019, something that wasn’t the case in 2015 when former Attorney General Jack Conway was the only major Democrat to seek the Governor’s Office.

Edelen sought a second term as state auditor and lost to Auditor Mike Harmon by nearly 4 percent despite a substantial spending advantage. However, he was rumored as a possible gubernatorial candidate in 2015, and he said whether he regrets his decision against mounting a gubernatorial campaign depends on the day the question’s asked.

“There’s certainly days that I regret it,” he said. “You know, my calculation at the time and I think it was wrong was that, ‘Boy this national environment is ugly. What we should focus on is party unity,’ and Kevin that was a mistake, and I’m not one of these politicians who won’t admit when he makes a mistake.

“I think whether it was my failure to run or the handful of other people who were really looking at it not getting into the race, I think we all had good intentions, but clearly the outcome was disastrous, and primaries make good candidates better and they expose bad candidates, and I think going forward we need to make it easier for people who want to run for office to do it and knock out any sense of entitlement that may exist with certain people in the Democratic Party.”

Watch the interview with Edelen here:


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