MURRAY — On the first day of a two-day swing through western Kentucky, the second Democratic Party candidate to announce a run for Kentucky governor in 2019 told Murray voters Monday that he is in this race to win it.
Rocky Adkins, longtime state representative from Sandy Hook in the far-eastern part of the commonwealth, told a crowd of about 75 people Monday afternoon that his record shows he not only has what it takes to win the Democratic nomination in May, but to take the seat away from Republican incumbent Matt Bevin in next November’s general election. Appearing with running mate Stephanie Horne of the Metro Louisville area, Adkins said the reason for this is that he identifies with the majority of Kentucky voters, being a lifelong resident of a rural area of the state.
He said that should matter, based on the current climate of Kentucky politics, where Republicans have dominated the past few election cycles, having made a huge surge in registered voters. October numbers, in fact, show that for the first time since at least World War II, Democrats failed to make up at least 50 percent of registered voters. Meanwhile, Republicans were at 41.7 percent, having outgained Democrats 25,000 to 3,300 in registered voters since the May primary alone.
“I am the only Democrat who’s going to be in this race that can win in November (’19),” Adkins said after his speech at Pagliai’s restaurant. He emphasized how he was one of the Democrats who survived the 2016 general election when the Kentucky state house, in stunning fashion, not only flipped to the GOP for the first time in 95 years, but did so with Republicans going from a slight deficit in held seats to a nearly 30-seat supermajority.
That was also the night Republican Donald Trump, using a largely rural base, defeated favored Democrat Hillary Clinton for president.
“I was on the ballot with Trump in 2016. In my district, in Elliott County, a heavily Democratic county, voted 73 percent for Trump that night. I got 85. And in Lewis County, a heavily Republican county, I split the vote with my opponent. I got 2,500 and my opponent got 2,500 and (Trump) got 6,000 votes. I will run well in rural Kentucky and I will run well there because (voters) know who I am. They know I’m a Kentuckian and they know that I line up well on issues that most Kentuckians care about.”
Adkins formally announced his intentions to seek the 2019 Democratic Party nod Wednesday in Morehead. He joins Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear – who has engaged in numerous battles with Bevin over his policies, even filing lawsuits to block them – as the only Democrats to file for the governor’s race so far.
Adkins also talked about an issue he said is hurting his home area and the Murray area: performance-based funding for universities connected to how they perform with what are known as STEM courses (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). He said that if elected, he would face this problem head-on, mentioning that Murray State University and Adkins’ alma mater, Morehead State University, both are receiving very low amounts out of a possible $31 million available in the pool.
The Murray State Board of Regents, in fact, passed a resolution denouncing how performance-based funding is handled earlier this year.
“I was one of the most vocal opponents against performance-based funding because I knew the impact it would have on comphrensive universities like Murray State and Morehead State,” Adkins said of his opposition of the initiative that was incorporated in March 2017. “You’re taking $31 million that is coming out of the base of higher education that was already taking a 6.5 percent cut on top of other cuts from the last four or five budget cycles. There is not a state in America that has passed performance-based funding without an increase in funding for higher education.
“As governor, I will try to repeal performance-base funding. It pits universities against universities, but it also seems to me that it is treating those worst that are getting hit the hardest. Not only do you have to increase degrees with STEM every year, but you’re also trying to hold enrollment at the level you were the year before (MSU had lost enrollment the past five years, dropping below 9,500 students this fall). It works against regions of Kentucky that need the help the most, places where the per-capita income is not as high, and you’re looking at these universities because they were put here for a reason.”