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Bevin Stays Mum On Trump, Predicts No Backlash Over Transgender Suit

Josh James

Governor Matt Bevin touched on a variety of hot topics during an appearance at a Commerce Lexington luncheon Friday.

In his remarks the chief executive touted the accomplishments of his first five months in office, joking that they felt more "like about 12 years." Reiterating promises to steward the state's tax dollars wisely, the governor applauded the General Assembly's renewed commitment to patching the more than $35 billion gap in pension funding and knocked critics who took issue with his liberal use of the veto pen.

"I thought that was my job to read [the bills] and veto them if they're bad, but apparently you're supposed to just sign everything," he quipped.

Bevin told the crowd he's not anticipating any boycotts or business backlash because of his decision to join a multi-state lawsuit filed against the federal government over new guidance regarding transgender students.

Fallout from recent legislation passed in North Carolina and Mississippi relating to LGBT rights and transgender bathroom rules has been swift – with major corporate players like PayPal, Google, and the NBA issuing public denouncements and threatening to reduce their presence in those states.

Asked if he fears similar reactions in Kentucky because of the state’s challenge to the transgender directives, Bevin was unequivocal.

"I'm not. There's been zero and there won't be any in this state, I'll tell you that much," he answered. "I think the American people are about fed up with having the federal government tell us, right down to the micro whatever-the-heck, exactly what is and what isn't going to happen in our local communities."

So far, the commonwealth has stopped short of taking action on the issue. In 2015, Kentucky lawmakers tried and failed to pass a bill mandating that students use the bathroom that matches their birth sex.  

Speaking at a convention last year, Bevin had downplayed the relative importance of the bathroom question, suggesting legislators should focus more energy on pensions and other pressing problems. Signing onto the Texas-led suit, he argues, is about the rule of law and countering federal overreach.

Talking with WUKY, Bevin stayed tight-lipped on his party’s presumptive nominee for president, but he told the crowd of business leaders that experience in the private sector is a plus for any candidate running for office.

While GOP heavyweights, including House Speaker Paul Ryan and Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell, are beginning to offer qualified endorsements of Donald Trump, Bevin is holding off. The governor has said he won’t enter the fray until the party official selects its standard-bearer in July.

On stage, Bevin stressed the value of real world business skills, especially for those tasked with handling the public's money. Quizzed afterward on Mr. Trump qualifications for the top office, Bevin said, "I'm not going to pass judgment on anyone who's running for office as an individual... Every single person brings things to the equation, good, bad, and otherwise. I was no different, nor is anyone else. There is no perfect candidate."

For now, the governor said his focus is on Kentucky and the makeup of the legislature. His party hopes to retake the Democratic-controlled House in the fall.

Bevin is one of 25 delegates his party will send to the national convention in Cleveland.

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.
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