You can read the Courier Journal's candidate's profile on Steve Beshear
. Here it is:
It was a case that shocked the state and prompted demands for change.
In 1984, a lawsuit revealed a 9-year-old disabled boy known publicly as "Eugene D." had been discovered in a Louisville foster home, abused and severely malnourished, weighing 17 pounds.
Gov. Martha Layne Collins quickly appointed a commission to investigate and put Lt. Gov. Steve Beshear in charge. It produced a report that brought significant reforms to the state's child-welfare system, said David Richart, a youth advocate who served on the commission and credits Beshear as the force that drove the committee to produce a strong report.
"We met in the basement of the lieutenant governor's mansion and literally hammered out the final report," Richart said.
Today, Beshear, 63, is the Democratic candidate for governor. Although he hasn't held an elective office since his term as lieutenant governor ended in 1987, the former state representative and attorney general was aggressive, engaged and hard-working, say some familiar with his career.
"I've known him long enough to respect his work ethic and his abilities," said former state Rep. Steve Nunn, a Glasgow Republican who has endorsed Beshear.
Lt. Gov. Steve Pence, a Republican from Louisville, also speaks highly of Beshear, who gave Pence his first job as a lawyer in the attorney general's office.
"Morale was very high; everybody liked their jobs. It was a great experience for me," said Pence, who is not seeking another term after some highly publicized disagreements with Gov. Ernie Fletcher.
Since 1988, Beshear has worked in private law practice, much of that time in the Lexington office of Stites & Harbison and most recently as managing partner, until he resigned in December to run for the Democratic nomination for governor.
His work there has come under fire from Fletcher, who accuses Beshear of an ethics breach in the early 1990s in connection with Stites' work to recover assets after the meltdown of Lexington's Kentucky Central Life Insurance Co.
Fletcher cites an instance in 1993 when Stites appeared to have a conflict because it also represented a Louisville bank involved in a complicated loan transaction linked to the Kentucky Central liquidation. At the time, the matter prompted a review and the temporary removal of the Stites firm from the Kentucky Central case.
But a further review by two judges in the case ultimately found no wrongdoing, and the Stites law firm remained on the job. Beshear dismisses Fletcher's allegations as unfounded.
"We ended up recovering over $300 million from the assets, and every policy holder and every creditor came out whole, which is almost unheard of in a bankruptcy situation," Beshear said.
A native of Dawson Springs, Beshear attended the University of Kentucky and graduated from UK's law school in 1968. After working at a Manhattan law firm, he returned to Kentucky to settle in Lexington with his wife, Jane, whom he'd met at UK.
In the House
Beshear made his first run for office in 1973 and was elected to the legislature at age 29.
He served three terms in the House of Representatives from 1974 to 1979, taking on such issues as legislative independence and abortion rights. He also sponsored legislation to improve child welfare.
"I never thought there was a political gain there," Richart said of legislation Beshear sponsored in 1978 to increase oversight of children in foster care. "It was just the right thing to do."
Richart, who works as a child advocate and consultant, stressed that he is not involved in any campaign and is registered as an independent.
Republican Walter Baker, a former state senator and Kentucky Supreme Court justice from Glasgow, served with Beshear in the legislature and recalls they were among legislators from both parties trying to wrest more independence from the governor.
In those days, "The governor ruled and we served," Baker said.
Though Beshear and Baker suffered for their efforts — both were kicked off key budget committees — they and other lawmakers eventually prevailed, Baker said.
"I think we established some semblance of legislative independence," Baker said.
Beshear also joined a minority of legislators opposed to efforts to restrict abortion and to ban the busing of children to integrate schools. Beshear said he still supports abortion rights.
"We are very concerned about Beshear as governor because his history has not been good," said Mike Janocik, assistant director of the anti-abortion group Kentucky Right to Life. "There are a lot of things a governor can do to encourage a culture of life."
In 1979, Beshear ran for attorney general, beating his main opponent in the race, Louisville lawyer Jack Smith, in the Democratic primary
"He beat me pretty handily," said Smith, adding he was disappointed to lose but came to admire Beshear's work as attorney general.
"He's smart. He's prepared," Smith said. "I think he'll make a pretty good governor."
As attorney general, Beshear made some unpopular decisions, including issuing an advisory opinion in 1981 saying that Kentucky's public schools should follow a U.S. Supreme Court ruling and remove copies of the Ten Commandments from classroom walls.
The previous year, the U.S. Supreme Court had struck down a 1978 state law requiring the commandments to be posted in every classroom.
His opinion touched off a furor, generating letters from angry Kentuckians and prompting a billboard in downtown Louisville asserting "Keep the 10 Commandments, Remove Steve Beshear."
He also employed previously little-used investigative powers of the attorney general, launching corruption investigations of a half-dozen employees in the administration of then-Gov. John Y. Brown Jr. and obtaining several fraud convictions, including that of the state labor commissioner.
And Beshear also began aggressively intervening to represent consumers in rate cases, including premiums charged for health insurance. Though attorneys general typically got involved in utility rate cases, Beshear was the first to challenge health insurance increases for state employees, said Danny Briscoe, a Louisville political consultant who was state insurance commissioner at the time.
Briscoe, who said he is not involved with Beshear's campaign, said the effort saved the state and rate-payers millions of dollars.
The most controversial issue Beshear took on as attorney general was his office's investigation into the 1979 state police shooting of Clyde Daniel Graham, an Elizabethtown man suspected of killing a state trooper. Graham was shot and killed after Kentucky and Illinois state police tracked him to an Illinois motel.
Two previous investigations — one by Illinois officials and the other led by then-Kentucky State Police Commissioner Kenneth Brandenburgh, a college fraternity brother of Beshear — had exonerated state police and found the Kentucky trooper shot Graham in self-defense.
But Beshear's investigation turned up startling new findings that Graham had been shot in the back and that police had omitted or covered up many details about the case.
The investigation cost Brandenburgh his job and pitted Beshear against state police, who were angry about being pressured to cooperate with the investigation and Beshear's decision to dig deeper into the case.
In the end, no one was prosecuted over the findings. The trooper who shot Graham, Sgt. Eugene Coffey, died of a heart attack before the report was released.
Beshear said he has no regrets about his handling of the investigation.
"We did our job," he said. "The facts took us where they took us."
Lt. governor's project
In 1983, Beshear left the attorney general's office to become lieutenant governor. He launched a project he called "Kentucky Tomorrow" in which he assembled business, academic and civic leaders from around the state to develop a long-range plan for Kentucky.
It was derided by some as a way for Beshear to advance himself in a job with few official duties and little visibility, and lay the groundwork for his unsuccessful bid for governor in 1987.
Beshear finished last in the Democratic gubernatorial primary that also involved John Y. Brown Jr. and the winner, Wallace Wilkinson, who went on to become governor.
But Richart, who served on Kentucky Tomorrow, said it produced worthwhile recommendations, some of which have been adopted over the years.
Beshear said he's pleased some things the report envisioned — such as creating a long-term, state planning and research group and trying to insulate the state economic development director from political influence — have come to pass.
"I'm not saying that all of those things happened because of the Kentucky Tomorrow project," he said. "If I had won the governor's race in 1987, a lot more would have come from it."
Beaten by McConnell
Beshear made another attempt at public office when he challenged U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell in 1996. McConnell won with 55 percent of the vote and Beshear returned to private life.
But Beshear said he's never given up his interest in politics or another run for governor.
"I've been interested in politics ever since I can remember," said Beshear, whose late father served as mayor of Dawson Springs, and his uncle in the state legislature.
"As to when I decided I wanted to be governor, I can't really pinpoint a time," he said. "But when you're interested in politics, that's certainly an office you would aspire to."
Reporter Deborah Yetter can be reached at (502) 582-4228.
Address: P.O. Box 4227, Frankfort.
Occupation: Former executive manager, Stites & Harbison, PLLC.
Political posts: State representative; attorney general; lieutenant governor.
Education: Bachelor's degree, University of Kentucky; law degree, UK.
Personal: Married to the former Jane Klingner of Bowling Green. They have two sons, Andrew G. Beshear, 29, a Louisville lawyer, and Jeff Beshear, 33, a veterinarian in Charlottesville, Va. Beshear and his wife live on a farm in Clark County.
Contact: (502) 607-8500; firstname.lastname@example.org;
www.stevebeshear.com. Beshear'S stands on:
Supports new Ohio River bridges in downtown and eastern Louisville and rebuilding Spaghetti Junction, and says state, federal and local officials must be innovative in paying for them. Opposes raising the gasoline tax or establishing toll system to pay for road projects and says the state should stop tapping the Road Fund to pay for general fund programs.
Favors allowing Kentuckians to vote on whether to expand gambling. Favors using state revenue from casino-style gambling to improve education and health care and to create jobs; some money would go to local governments and gambling-addiction services.
Favors expanding preschool programs and supports funding all-day kindergarten. Supports a review of high school graduation requirements to be certain students are prepared for further education.
Favors establishing tuition loan program to encourage more students to go to college, with one year of tuition forgiven for each year that the student spends working in Kentucky after graduation. Supports allowing colleges and universities to decide whether to offer domestic-partner benefits. Backs fully funding state colleges and universities.
Backs continued use of Kentucky coal, but says global warming is a threat and promises to pursue technologies to reduce carbon emissions. Says he will elevate the importance of the environment in state government. Supports reducing energy consumption and increasing use of alternative energy sources. Favors continued use of mountaintop removal mining if regulations are enforced.
Top priorities are controlling rising costs and providing everyone access to quality affordable health coverage. Proposes expanding the Medicaid safety net to cover more low-income citizens and will encourage more dentists to accept Medicaid patients. Plans to work to get Kentuckians to be more active and reduce obesity and smoking. Backs seeing that every Kentuckian has health care.
Budget and taxes
Opposes raising the cigarette tax or other taxes to produce more revenue. Proposes study of state government to lower costs by eliminating waste and inefficiency. Funding priorities will include education, health care, economic development programs and infrastructure, as well as developing a solution for funding the state pension system. Promises to study the tax and fee burden on small businesses.
Labels: Democratism, Kentucky politics, Public Service