In a Kentucky upset, aggrieved teachers made a difference

When they marched on the statehouse in Frankfort, Kentucky, in the midst of a spring snowstorm and a political firestorm last year, teachers warned the governor: ‘‘We’ll remember in November.’’

Nearly 20 months later, they appeared to have delivered on that promise, helping Democrat Andy Beshear upset Republican incumbent Matt Bevin to win the Kentucky governor’s race in a state that President Trump carried by 30 points in 2016.

Beshear’s victory comes amid a national teacher uprising in which educators have staged walkouts in more than a dozen states, including conservative states like Kentucky.

Now, many teachers have translated that energy to the realm of electoral politics, helping elect candidates who pledge to protect education funding while ousting lawmakers who opposed their causes. Teachers already have helped swing races in Wisconsin and in legislatures in several other states where lawmakers who opposed them were replaced by challengers who pledged to increase education spending.


Last year in Kentucky, teacher R. Travis Brenda upset Jonathan Shell, then state House majority floor leader, despite Shell having the endorsement of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

In this year’s race for governor, Bevin banked on support from Trump and on conservatives’ ire at the impeachment process. But Beshear eked out a victory of about 5,000 votes.