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Quick Facts

Governor

Kentucky

Democratic

Current

starts 12/11/2007

ends in 2015

Biography

Steven Lynn “Steve” Beshear (born September 21, 1944) is an American politician who is the 61st Governor of the Commonwealth of Kentucky. A Democrat, Beshear previously served in the Kentucky House of Representatives from 1974 to 1979, was the state’s Attorney General from 1980 to 1983, and was the 49th Lieutenant Governor from 1983 to 1987. Beshear is ineligible to run for a third term in 2015 due to term limits.

After graduating from the University of Kentucky College of Law in 1968, Beshear briefly practiced law in New York before returning to Kentucky and being elected to the state legislature, where he gained a reputation as a consumer advocate. He parlayed that reputation into a term as attorney general, serving under Governor John Y. Brown, Jr. As attorney general, Beshear issued an opinion that copies of the Ten Commandments would have to be removed from the walls of the state’s classrooms in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Stone v. Graham. He also clashed with first lady Phyllis George Brown when he opposed the practice of charging an admission fee for visitors to view the renovated governor’s mansion. In 1983, Beshear was elected lieutenant governor in the administration of Governor Martha Layne Collins. His most significant action in this capacity was the formation of the Kentucky Tomorrow Commission, a panel charged with making recommendations for the future of the state.

Beshear’s initial rise to political prominence was interrupted in 1987 when he finished third in a five-way Democratic gubernatorial primary. The Beshear campaign’s sparring with that of former Governor Brown, the second-place finisher in the primary, opened the door for political novice Wallace Wilkinson’s well-financed campaign to achieve a come-from-behind upset in the race. For the next 20 years, Beshear practiced law at a Lexington law firm. His only foray into politics during this period was an unsuccessful challenge to Senator Mitch McConnell in 1996. In 2007, however, Beshear was drawn back into politics by the vulnerability of incumbent Republican Governor Ernie Fletcher, whose administration was the subject of a protracted investigation by Attorney General Greg Stumbo because of violations of the state’s merit system. In the 2007 gubernatorial election, Beshear emerged from a six-way Democratic primary – largely on the strength of his pledge to bring expanded casino gambling to Kentucky – and defeated Fletcher in the general election. Beshear won re-election in 2011, defeating Republican David L. Williams and Independent Gatewood Galbraith.

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