By Kristina Francis
With the 2020 election cycle in full swing following the Iowa caucuses, voters are beginning to focus on issues they care about and which candidate aligns with their viewpoint.
The Kentucky gubernatorial race between former Gov. Matt Bevin and current Gov. Andy Beshear in November 2019 gave voters and candidates a glimpse into issues that will be significant in 2020 — education, pensions, abortion rights and health care.
Voter registration statistics from January 2020 from the Commonwealth of Kentucky State Board of Elections show that there is a total of 3,462,152 registered voters in Kentucky.
Kentucky is historically a predominantly red state, but there are more Democrats registered than Republicans. As of January 2020, there are 1,678,538 Democrats registered in the state, compared to 1,477,985 Republicans. This difference in numbers and opinions on issues could
result in changes to elected Kentucky officials in 2020.
Education was a focal point of Beshear’s campaign, and what pundits say aided his victory. It’s still an issue on the minds of Kentucky voters, meaning it could impact 2020 state elections.
Isabel Maremont-Lake, a 30-year-old teacher at Doss High School in Louisville, said education is an issue at the state level, which is why it played a major role in the gubernatorial race.
Barrett Hoagland, an 18-year-old voter from Louisville, is concerned with education in relation to the 2020 election cycle. Hoagland said she’s concerned about education because she spent her last year of high school watching her teachers risk their job security in order to protest the reworking of their pension plans, among other issues.
The Kentucky Retirement System (KRS) plan provides retirement benefits for Kentucky workers in non-hazardous jobs. According to an article published by the Louisville Courier-Journal, the KRS plan “reports $13.6 billion in unfunded liabilities and is considered to be the worst-funded public pension plan in America.”
Gwendolyn McClendon, a 58-year-old voter in Louisville, says Kentucky residents should not have to work after they retire due to their pension not being able to support them. Pensions are a main concern for her due to how different groups of people are touched by the issue.
“The wealthy, they’re not being touched, or they’re being touched where it doesn’t even affect them. And the people who worked hard all their life — it’s affecting them,” McClendon said.
Abortion is a national issue that voters are concerned with, whether they’re pro-choice or pro-life. Until January 2020, there was only one abortion clinic in Kentucky, located in Louisville. According to an article from the Courier-Journal, there are now two clinics in Louisville.
A Planned Parenthood facility in downtown Louisville was granted permission to resume providing abortions in January. When Bevin was in office, he denied the location a license to provide abortions twice, the Courier-Journal reported.
Not all voters see eye-to-eye about the changes Beshear is making with abortion clinics, which could be an issue that current candidates focus on and voters make their deciding factor.
Joshua Crawford, executive director of the Pegasus Institute, a non-partisan Kentucky think tank, said abortion is an issue with which Kentuckians are concerned.
“[Pew Research Center] tracks this, and I think it’s something like 52% of Kentucky voters believe that abortion should be illegal in most or all circumstances,” Crawford said. Crawford was close, with Pew reporting 57% of Kentucky voters say abortion should be illegal.
Crawford told Top Politics that during Kentucky’s gubernatorial election voters said they view abortion as a federal issue. “Those voters who said abortion is a federal issue and so it didn’t matter as much in the state election — I think you’ll see those folks vote that way in the federal elections,” Crawford said.
Hoagland said she is supporting Rep. John Yarmuth, a Democrat who’s represented Kentucky’s 3rd Congressional District since 2007, based on similar views on abortion because it’s an issue that resonates with her as a woman.
“As John Yarmuth has previously voted against banning federal health coverage which included abortion, his platform is one I can see myself aligning with,” Hoagland said.
Health care is an issue with which Kentuckians, and most voters in the United States, are concerned, meaning it will play a predominant role in elections all the way up to the presidential race.
Crawford said health care is already showing to be a main issue in national elections, as “polls from the Iowa Democratic caucus had health care as the number one issue for Democrat caucus-goers.”
“I think you’ll see among Kentucky voters a similar sort of rejection of that kind of full federal takeover of health care, but I do think health care will be an issue Democrats try to use because they’ve used it successfully in some other races,” Crawford said.
Maremont-Lake said healthcare is a main concern for her. Although she said she has good health insurance, not everyone does. Some also have family members to care for, just as she does with her son who permanently has an ear infection.
“I have good health insurance and it still costs a lot of money every time I have to go to the doctor,” Maremont-Lake said.