By Steve Bittenbender
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (Reuters) - Former Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear on Wednesday accused his successor Matt Bevin of threatening lawmakers and said such actions may be the target of a federal investigation.
Beshear's remarks, made at a press conference in the state capital of Frankfort, are the latest in a burgeoning political war between the two politicians. Beshear, a Democrat, accused Bevin, a Republican, of threatening cancellation of road projects in Democratic lawmakers' districts unless they switched parties.
"He demanded that Democratic legislators switch parties and threatened to cancel road projects in their districts if they didn’t comply," Beshear said of Bevin, according to a transcript of his speech. "When they refused, he said he would destroy them.
"I understand that the FBI may be looking into that kind of conduct," he added, according to the transcript.
Beshear's spokesman, Dan Hassert, confirmed the former governor's comments.
David Habich, a spokesman for the FBI’s Louisville office, said he could not disclose whether Bevin is being investigated.
Bevin is currently in Europe on an economic development trip. Jessica Ditto, Bevin’s communications director, said in a statement that Beshear was trying to protect himself by throwing out baseless accusations.
Last week, Bevin called for a probe into how Beshear's administration awarded state contracts and solicited campaign contributions. Bevin's accusations came shortly before a former Beshear official pleaded guilty to federal bribery charges.
On Wednesday, Beshear said Bevin was the one using intimidation, accusing the governor of threatening the jobs of state employees if they did not accuse the previous administration of wrongdoing.
Kentucky’s House of Representatives has been in Democratic control since 1921, but the party only has a 53-47 edge. Two members did switch after Bevin won election in November.
The hostilities began before Bevin took office in December after the term-limited Beshear appointed his wife to an unpaid seat on the state horse park commission during his final days in office. Meanwhile, the former governor has launched a campaign against Bevin's healthcare initiatives.
In addition, Beshear's son serves as the state's attorney general and has sued Bevin over cuts he ordered in higher education funding.
Beshear on Wednesday said he hopes his successor stops with the accusations and moves forward with leading the state.
“But if he wants a food fight, you know which he's had so far, then I’m going answer any unfounded allegations that he keeps throwing out there,” Beshear said.
(Reporting by Steve Bittenbender, Editing by Ben Klayman)