A Kentucky school teacher who moonlights as an Uber driver to make ends meet is being featured in a political ad sharply critical of Gov. Matt Bevin and supportive of his opponent in the gubernatorial race, Democrat Andy Beshear.
With the TV ad's release Monday, teacher Laura Hartke becomes the face behind Beshear's efforts to highlight Bevin's feud with teachers over revamping public pension systems and his wanting charter schools to compete with public schools. As a math intervention teacher, Hartke works with children who are falling behind.
The commercial, which will air across Kentucky, starts with a replay of some of Bevin's criticisms of teachers. Hartke then says: "It's been a hard couple of years hearing the governor insult us."
The ad shows Bevin saying he regretted nothing he's ever said about an educator. It's a continuation of the Beshear campaign's strategy to use the Republican incumbent's own words against him in commercials.
Bevin has said he's done more than his predecessors to support public education. During his tenure, he says teachers' pensions have been fully funded, 100% of lottery funds are going toward education and per-pupil public education funding has risen.
"Andy Beshear continues to hide behind misleading TV ads instead of facing the facts," Bevin's campaign manager Davis Paine said in a statement. "Matt Bevin has fully funded the pension system and is committed to continuing to improve public education in Kentucky."
Bevin has also played up his own family's teaching tradition, noting that some of his relatives have worked as educators. He specifically points to his grandmother who spent decades as a high school teacher and relied on her pension checks while living into her 90s.
Beshear's ad recounts his legal battle against a law that made changes to the state's struggling public pension systems. The pension law signed by Bevin was struck down by Kentucky's Supreme Court on procedural grounds. Beshear filed the lawsuit that led to the ruling.
Hartke says in the ad that Beshear "fought for us and he kept his word and he won."
"Matt Bevin divides us and Andy unites us, and that's the difference," the Fayette County teacher adds.
Public education groups said the pension changes would have discouraged people from entering teaching. Thousands of teachers and other public workers swarmed Kentucky's Capitol last year to oppose the pension plan, closing schools in more than 30 districts statewide. The protests were part of a wave of teacher activism that began last year in West Virginia and spread to other states, including Oklahoma and Arizona.
The teachers' protests in Kentucky resumed this year over several education bills, including a proposal to change who manages the teachers' pension fund and a proposal that would have indirectly supported private schools with tax credits for scholarship funds.
Beshear has referred to Hartke at campaign appearances and brought her up at his debate with Bevin in Paducah last week. At the debate, Beshear noted that Hartke works a second job as an Uber driver at nights and on weekends because she needs to supplement her income as an educator to make ends meet.
Bevin responded that he knows people who drive for Uber as a second job and make good money. "It's called freedom and opportunity," the governor said.
Beshear's campaign pounced on Bevin's remarks, releasing a video last Friday featuring Hartke. Beshear said the remarks showed Bevin's insensitivity to teachers.
Beshear has proposed a $2,000 across-the-board pay raise for Kentucky's public school teachers.