- Associated Press - Thursday, May 2, 2019

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - A group with ties to Adam Edelen has unleashed the first TV attack ad in Kentucky’s Democratic primary for governor, saying Andy Beshear benefited from deep-pocketed corporate donors including the manufacturer of the powerful painkiller OxyContin.

Beshear’s campaign fired back Thursday, noting Beshear has sued opioid makers and distributors as the state’s attorney general. His campaign depicted the ad as a sign of desperation among Edelen supporters less than three weeks before Kentucky’s primary election.

The ad comes from a political action committee mostly bankrolled by people closely associated with Edelen and his running mate - developer and businessman Gill Holland.

Beshear and Edelen are among four Democrats running for governor along with state House Minority Floor Leader Rocky Adkins and frequent candidate Geoff Young. Beshear, the son of former Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear, has long been seen as the front-runner.

Republican Gov. Matt Bevin is seeking a second term. His GOP challengers in the state’s May 21 primary are state Rep. Robert Goforth, William Woods and Ike Lawrence. Kentucky is among three states electing governors in 2019. The others are Louisiana and Mississippi

The new ad says that Beshear benefited in the past from a $100,000 donation from OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma. The attack touches on a politically potent issue in Kentucky, which has been hard hit by opioid addiction problems.

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 political action committee supporting Beshear. The pharmaceutical company made a larger donation to the Republican Attorneys General Association in 2015.

The ad also brings up Tim Longmeyer, Beshear’s former top deputy in the attorney general’s office. Longmeyer was sent to prison for orchestrating a kickback scheme that netted Longmeyer more than $200,000. Longmeyer previously worked in Steve Beshear’s administration. Federal authorities have said neither Beshear had any knowledge of Longmeyer’s crimes.

Andy Beshear’s campaign manager said such attacks are “why people are cynical about politics” and accused the pro-Edelen group of using a tactic from “Matt Bevin’s playbook.”

“A shadowy, dark-money group with close ties to Adam Edelen is attacking Andy Beshear for two things he knows Andy had nothing to do with,” Eric Hyers said in the Beshear campaign statement. “We knew Adam Edelen and his allies were getting frustrated and desperate, but now they’re just doing Matt Bevin’s dirty work.”

Edelen’s campaign later responded that Andy Beshear doesn’t “have a leg to stand on” when it comes to discussing why people are so cynical about politics.

“We’re not going to take civics lessons from someone with that kind of record,” said Edelen campaign manager Will Carle.

Crit Luallen, a former Kentucky lieutenant governor and state auditor who supports Beshear, said the ad had “taken this primary into the gutter” with its “misleading” attacks.

“This ad should be pulled down immediately,” she said in a statement issued by Beshear’s campaign.

As attorney general, Beshear has sued nine drug companies for their role in the opioid epidemic. Beshear’s predecessor, former Attorney General Jack Conway, settled a lawsuit against Purdue Pharma for $24 million at the end of 2015, just a few days before he left office.

A recent campaign finance report showed that the pro-Edelen PAC is backed mostly with money from people with close ties to Edelen and Holland. Holland’s wife is a member of the Brown family that built spirits industry giant Brown-Forman Corp.

The PAC also shares an office suite with one of Edelen’s campaign offices, and Edelen’s campaign and the PAC use the same public relations firm, according to a report by InsiderLouisville.

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