LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Taking aim at a potential primary rival, Kentucky House Democratic leader Rocky Adkins on Thursday urged Andy Beshear and any other 2019 candidates to temporarily halt their own fundraising so the party can concentrate resources on this year's legislative campaigns.
Adkins said his request applied to all Democratic hopefuls for statewide offices in 2019, but he singled out Beshear - the state's attorney general - and his father, former Gov. Steve Beshear. Adkins, a longtime lawmaker considering a run for governor in 2019, said next year's candidates should put their own money-raising efforts on hold until after the upcoming November elections.
Democrats need a cohesive effort to win back control of the Kentucky House - their top priority this year, Adkins said.
"Andy Beshear, Steve Beshear, we need your efforts to help us raise the funds that we need," Adkins told reporters before the Kentucky Farm Bureau's annual country ham breakfast, which attracts many of the state's top political leaders. "Stop raising the money for an election that's going to take place in 2019. Let's raise the money we need for 2018 and let's take back the Kentucky House of Representatives."
Andy Beshear's campaign said he's already doing his part. In the past two weeks, Beshear has supported Democratic candidates in Nelson, Warren, Muhlenberg, Marion, Scott, Jefferson, Simpson, Franklin and Bullitt counties, said campaign spokesman Brad Bowman.
"These events have included nearly 1,400 people who are excited about both the 2018 elections and the Beshear/Coleman vision of prioritizing public education, fighting our drug epidemic, creating good-paying jobs and restoring decency and transparency to state government," Bowman said in a statement.
Beshear's running mate is Jacqueline Coleman, a former teacher and basketball coach who is an assistant principal at a high school in rural Nelson County.
In his run for governor, Andy Beshear should be able to tap into extensive fundraising networks in Kentucky and nationally, due to his father's two terms as governor and advocacy for President Barack Obama's health care law and his own tenure as attorney general.
Democratic Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, seen as a potential candidate for governor or attorney general next year, also said Democrats should concentrate on this year's legislative races. Asked about Adkins' comments, Grimes told reporters: "I've lived it."
"I don't think, at this time, it's appropriate that we start jumping to races that are in 2019," she said.
Grimes, who attended the ham breakfast, is in her second term as secretary of state. She lost to Republican incumbent Mitch McConnell in a bruising 2014 U.S. Senate campaign.
Andy Beshear did not attend the breakfast. Instead, he was working on court briefs to support his legal challenge to Republican-backed changes to the state's public pension systems, Bowman said. The case is before the Kentucky Supreme Court.
Next year's elections in Kentucky will feature contests for statewide constitutional offices including governor, attorney general, auditor, secretary of state, treasurer and agriculture commissioner.
Adkins told reporters Thursday that Democrats, for the first time in years, have momentum on their side heading into this year's midterm elections. Kentucky Democrats were on the defensive during Obama's presidency, and they lost the state House to Republicans in 2016 when Donald Trump carried Kentucky by a landslide on his way to the White House.
Republicans now hold both legislative chambers and the governorship in Kentucky, but Adkins thinks things have changed.
"For the first time in a long time, I feel like I have a little wind at my back instead of a hurricane in my face," he said.
Democrats are hoping to capitalize on opposition from public workers to the pension changes passed by Republican lawmakers. Earlier this year, thousands of teachers across the state marched at the state Capitol to protest the changes to the retirement system.