After Adam Edelen went on the attack in Kentucky's increasingly feisty Democratic primary, rival Andy Beshear pushed back on Wednesday, saying any infighting benefits Republicans.
First came ads in recent days by Edelen and a pro-Edelen group slamming Beshear for a scandal that enveloped his former top deputy and trying to link the presumed front-runner to the maker of OxyContin. Beshear's campaign responded Wednesday with its own ads calling the attacks shameful and false, saying they resemble something out of the GOP playbook.
"When I got in this race, I expected negative, untrue and false ads from Matt Bevin and the Republicans," Beshear says in one of the ads. "But it's disappointing to see them from fellow Democrats. The only person they're helping is Matt Bevin."
Bevin, the state's Republican governor, is seeking a second term this year.
A third prominent Democrat in the race — state House Minority Floor Leader Rocky Adkins — has stayed out of the fray with less than two weeks before the May 21 primary election. Another Democratic running for governor is frequent candidate Geoff Young.
In his first attack ad, Edelen said: "If you're like me, you don't like negative political ads. But sometimes you have to hear the facts. Andy Beshear just isn't being straight with you."
The commercial launched Monday and focuses on Beshear's term as attorney general and his 2015 campaign for the job.
It brings up Tim Longmeyer, Beshear's former top deputy in the AG's office. Longmeyer was sent to prison for a kickback scheme that netted Longmeyer more than $200,000. He previously worked in the administration of former Gov. Steve Beshear, who is Andy Beshear's father.
Federal authorities have said that neither Beshear had any knowledge of Longmeyer's crimes.
The commercial also says Beshear benefited in the past from a hefty campaign donation from Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of the powerful painkiller OxyContin. The attack touches on a politically potent issue in Kentucky, which has been devastated by opioid addiction problems.
The ad follows the same attacks unleashed last week by a group with ties to Edelen. The political action committee is mostly bankrolled by people closely associated with Edelen and his running mate, developer and businessman Gill Holland.
The Purdue Pharma donation didn't go directly to Beshear's campaign during his successful run for attorney general in 2015. Instead, it went to the Democratic Attorneys General Association, and money was transferred to a PAC supporting Beshear.
In response, one of Beshear's ads says that as attorney general, Beshear sued nine drug companies for their role in the opioid epidemic. It says his campaign won't take their campaign cash.
Beshear campaign manager Eric Hyers said the ads were meant to "set the record straight."
"Two people want this Democratic primary to be pulled into the gutter: Matt Bevin and Adam Edelen," he said in a statement.
Edelen took a softer approach in another ad launched Tuesday featuring his father, Meade County farmer Larry Edelen. In it, Edelen says: "You know who Andy Beshear's dad is. I want you to meet mine."
The candidate says his dad taught him the value of hard work.
"Dad busted his back for us growing up," Edelen says. "And it's folks like him that I'll fight for as governor."