Group pulls TV ad attacking Beshear in Democratic race

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  • FILE - In this Wednesday, April 24, 2019, file photo, Democratic candidate for Kentucky governor Attorney General Andy Beshear responds during a debate at Transylvania University in Lexington, Ky. A well-funded group backing Adam Edelen shook up Kentucky's Democratic gubernatorial primary on Thursday, May 16, running a short-lived TV ad denouncing rival Beshear's private legal work for the Boy Scouts of America in a sexual abuse case years ago. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley, File)

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    FILE - In this Wednesday, April 24, 2019, file photo, former state Auditor Adam Edelen, a Democratic candidate for Kentucky governor, responds during a debate at Transylvania University in Lexington, Ky. A well-funded group backing Edelen shook up Kentucky's Democratic gubernatorial primary on Thursday, May 16, running a short-lived TV ad denouncing rival Andy Beshear's private legal work for the Boy Scouts of America in a sexual abuse case years ago. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley, File)

  • FILE - In this Wednesday, April 24, 2019, file photo, Democratic candidate for Kentucky governor Attorney General Andy Beshear responds during a debate at Transylvania University in Lexington, Ky. A well-funded group backing Adam Edelen shook up Kentucky's Democratic gubernatorial primary on Thursday, May 16, running a short-lived TV ad denouncing rival Beshear's private legal work for the Boy Scouts of America in a sexual abuse case years ago. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley, File)

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    FILE - In this Wednesday, April 24, 2019, file photo, former state Auditor Adam Edelen, a Democratic candidate for Kentucky governor, responds during a debate at Transylvania University in Lexington, Ky. A well-funded group backing Edelen shook up Kentucky's Democratic gubernatorial primary on Thursday, May 16, running a short-lived TV ad denouncing rival Andy Beshear's private legal work for the Boy Scouts of America in a sexual abuse case years ago. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley, File)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) A well-funded group backing Adam Edelen shook up Kentucky's Democratic gubernatorial primary on Thursday, running a short-lived TV ad denouncing rival Andy Beshear's private legal work for the Boy Scouts of America in a sexual abuse case years ago.

Edelen's campaign repudiated the ad, taking the unusual step of denouncing an ad bashing an opponent days before Tuesday's primary. The ad "crosses the line" and should be taken off the air, his campaign said. The super PAC running the ad soon announced it would oblige.

The ad sparked a fiery exchange between Beshear and Edelen during a debate Thursday night. Beshear slammed it as "one of the most disgusting ads" in Kentucky history and tried to link Edelen to it, noting the super PAC is bankrolled mostly by the mother-in-law of Edelen's running mate.

"Elections are an integrity test," Beshear said, adding "one candidate has failed" a reference to Edelen.

Edelen shot back by trying to connect Beshear to campaign cash from the manufacturer of the powerful painkiller OxyContin.

Edelen's campaign and the super PAC made that accusation in previous attacks that Beshear's campaign has called shameful and false. The donation didn't go directly to Beshear's campaign during his successful run for attorney general in 2015.

The new ad causing the stir Thursday said Beshear defended "some of the worst of the worst" in his private practice as an attorney.

It brought up Beshear's representation of the Boy Scouts from two lawsuits filed by men who said they were molested by their scoutmaster when they were youngsters in the 1970s. The men claimed Scouting officials knew at the time of the scoutmaster's predatory behavior but failed to stop it, the Lexington Herald-Leader previously reported.

Beshear won a dismissal in the case. The ad said Beshear won on a technicality that the accusers waited too long to come forward.

The Beshear campaign called the ad's accusations "categorically false" and said it was a sign of desperation among Edelen supporters.

Beshear has long been considered the front-runner in the Democratic race despite an enormous amount of money being spent on Edelen's behalf. Another prominent Democrat in the race is longtime state lawmaker Rocky Adkins. Also running is frequent candidate Geoff Young.

On the Republican side, Gov. Matt Bevin has three challengers in his quest for a second term.

The new attack ad was responsible for the most heated exchange during any debates in recent weeks among the Democratic candidates. The debate broadcast Thursday evening on WLKY-TV also gave the candidates a chance to start making their closing pitches to voters.

Edelen pledged to bring a new vision to the governor's office, saying "you can't solve old problems without new energy."

Beshear said his time as attorney general has given him purpose, and said he would bring the same fight he showed in the top prosecutor's job to the governor's office.

Adkins said he would bring "proven leadership" to the state's top job, adding he would be ready to govern the state immediately.

Young said Democrats want someone who can beat Bevin, and said only he and Adkins are able to defeat the incumbent.

The super PAC attacking Beshear is bankrolled mostly by the mother-in-law of Edelen's running mate, Gill Holland. Holland's wife is a member of the Brown family that built spirits industry giant Brown-Forman Corp.

The PAC's most recent campaign-finance report showed it had raised nearly $1.2 million and spent more than $1 million in supporting Edelen, a former state auditor. Super PACs can raise and spend unlimited sums so long as they don't coordinate directly with the candidates they support.

The super PAC said Thursday it would pull the ad but stood by its content.

Beshear campaign manager Eric Hyers said the ad was part of "baseless, desperate smears" coming from Edelen and the group.

Beshear touts his efforts as attorney general to protect Kentucky children from sexual predators. Beshear's campaign said he supports extending the statute of limitations to allow alleged sexual abuse victims to bring civil claims seeking damages and noted he has intensified the crackdown on child sexual predators.

The same pro-Edelen PAC launched an earlier attack ad claiming Beshear benefited in the past from a hefty campaign donation from Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of OxyContin.

The Purdue Pharma donation didn't go directly to Beshear's campaign during his successful run for attorney general. Instead, it went to the Democratic Attorneys General Association, and money was transferred to a PAC supporting Beshear. The company also donated to a Republican attorneys general group.

Beshear notes that as attorney general he has sued nine drug companies for their role in the opioid epidemic.

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Associated Press Writer Dylan Lovan contributed to this report.

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