LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Kentucky's Republican governor and Democratic attorney general have disagreed so often that a judge has had to settle their disputes at least eight times in just 2 1/2 years.
Now, voters could finally get a chance to settle the feud next year.
Andy Beshear announced Monday he will seek the Democratic nomination for governor in 2019. He is the first candidate to formally enter the race, as Republican Gov. Matt Bevin has not said whether he will seek re-election.
Public education figures to be a key issue in the campaign. Bevin and the Republican-controlled legislature enacted a new law that made changes to the state's pension system for teachers and other state workers. The changes prompted thousands of teachers to protest at the Capitol, closing dozens of school districts.
Now, at least 34 current and former teachers — two-thirds of them Democrats — are running for seats in the state legislature this year. Beshear is trying to tap into that momentum with his choice of running mate: Jacqueline Coleman, a former teacher and basketball coach who is an assistant principal at a rural high school.
"I will continue to fight for our teachers. They will be respected, the state will keep its promises to them and they will have a seat at the table," Beshear said.
Teachers, organized by the Kentucky Teachers Association, have fought hard against Gov. Bevin. During their protests at the Capitol, Bevin told reporters they forced single parents to leave children home alone, guaranteeing at least one of them was sexually assaulted.
Bevin later apologized for his comments, but teachers were infuriated. In May, the House Republican leader who co-authored the pension bill was defeated in the GOP primary by a high school math teacher who had never before run for public office.
"Make no mistake: Public education is under an all-out assault. We have been insulted, disrespected, devalued and even called names by our current governor," Coleman said. "In the next few election cycles, we have the opportunity to change the face of politics in Frankfort."
Beshear promised Monday to impose term limits on state lawmakers, called for a referendum on medical marijuana and pledged to expand gambling in Kentucky and use the extra money to fund the state's struggling public pension systems.
He also pledged to institute a "stronger ethics code" and pledged to continue releasing his tax returns publicly. Bevin has refused to do so, breaking with precedent from recent governors.
But Bevin and his Republican allies have portrayed Beshear as corrupt. Monday, Bevin tweeted a link to a story about Tim Longmeyer, a former high-ranking state official who worked for Beshear and his father and is now serving a federal prison sentence for taking bribes and kickbacks.
"For those Kentuckians who did not get enough corruption, self-dealing, embezzlement and bribery during the 8 corrupt years of Governor Steve Beshear, his son, Andy, is now offering a chance for 4 more years of the same," Bevin posted to his personal Twitter account.
Federal authorities have said neither Beshear had any knowledge of Longmeyer's crimes. Beshear appointed a special prosecutor who secured state charges against Longmeyer. And he has pledged to return all campaign donations from Longmeyer and his family, but he hasn't yet. He says he is waiting for the state Registry of Election Finance to complete an audit of his 2015 campaign.
"Unfortunately people sometimes go astray. What's important is how you respond. We responded with accountability and transparency," Beshear said.
Democrats could have a spirited primary for governor in 2019. Rocky Adkins, the state House Democratic leader, has said he is strongly considering a run. So is Alison Lundergan Grimes, the secretary of state who unsuccessfully challenged Republican U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell in 2014.
Other potential candidates include Democratic state Rep. Attica Scott and Colmon Elridge, a former aide to Gov. Steve Beshear who considered a run for state treasurer in 2015.
"I can assure you he will not be the only candidate on the Democratic ballot next spring," Adkins said in a Facebook post.