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Kentucky governor launches racist ad after trailing in polls and fundraising

Matt Bevin, America’s least popular governor, turns to racism after finding himself lagging behind his Democratic opponent.

By Dan Desai Martin - September 17, 2019
Gov. Matt Bevin (R-KY)

Just weeks away from Election Day, Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin turned to a tried and true Republican tactic: an overtly racist anti-immigrant television ad mirroring the language of white supremacists.

In an ad released on Monday, filled with Hispanic men covered in tattoos, Bevin alleged his Democratic opponent, Andy Beshear, “would allow illegal immigrants to swarm our state.”

“This is nothing more than to try to scare voters that somehow people who don’t look like them are going to take their jobs and hurt their families,” Mark Riddle, a Democratic strategist, told the Associated Press on Tuesday.

The Southern Poverty Law Center noted that anti-immigrant hate groups sometimes refer to immigrants as “swarms.” An expert in racist and derogatory language aimed at immigrants told Public Radio International in 2016 that words like “hoard” or “swarm” are clearly derogatory.

Bevin released the ad just weeks after two statewide polls showed him trailing Beshear by nine points. Multiple other polls have shown Bevin to be America’s least popular governor, including a July poll showing 56% of Kentuckians disapprove of his job performance, while less than a third of state residents (32%) approve.

Bevin is so unpopular that a Republican state senator endorsed Beshear in July, claiming Bevin has been a miserable failure.

Kentucky is one of the few states with statewide elections in 2019, meaning Bevin has until Nov. 5 to turn things around or face getting voted out of office. Bevin faces an uphill battle, given that he not only trails in the polls, but he is struggling to raise cash as well.

On Sept. 13, the Louisville Courier Journal reported that Beshear raised $2.8 million, while Bevin lagged behind, raising only $2 million. Possibly because he senses trouble, Bevin loaned his campaign an additional half-million dollars.

Bevin has faced criticism for repeatedly insulting teachers across the state, and even mocking children who stayed home from school during dangerously cold temperatures.

He’s now moved on from insulting teachers to demeaning immigrants, a tactic a Republican strategist told the AP is “about Bevin cleaving to Trump,” who is well known for his anti-immigrant racism.

The pivot to attacking immigrants did not help Republican Ed Gillespie in 2017, who lost his race for Virginia governor. Nor did it help Donald Trump in 2018, who repeatedly smeared immigrants while campaigning for House Republicans, only to see his party lose an astounding 40 seats in the midterm election.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

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