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Matt Bevin holds on to win Kentucky GOP governor’s primary

Failed U.S. Senate candidate defeats State Agriculture Commissioner James Comer by just 83 votes

♦By Rich Shumate, editor

kentucky mugLOUISVILLE (CFP) — Just a year after being crushed by U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in a GOP Senate primary, Louisville businessman and Tea Party favorite Matt Bevin has held on to a razor-thin 83-vote lead to win Kentucky’s GOP gubernatorial primary.

Kentucky gubernatorial candidate Matt Bevin

Kentucky gubernatorial candidate Matt Bevin

State Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, who narrowly trailed Bevin in the May 19 vote, had asked for a recanvas. But after the recanvas didn’t change the outcome, Comer conceded on May 29, opting not to ask for a recount.

Bevin will now face the Democratic nominee for governor, Attorney General Jack Conway, in November.

Bevin and Comer both took 33 percent of the vote to 27 percent for  former Louisville Councilman Hal Heiner and 7 percent former Supreme Court Justice Will Scott.

Kentucky abolished its primary runoff in 2008, which means Bevin comes out of the primary with just a third of the vote.

Near the end of the race, Comer’s campaign was rocked by abuse allegations from a former college girlfriend, which he denied. Heiner apologized after the blogger who publicized the allegations acknowledged that he had spoken about them with the husband of Heiner’s running mate for lieutenant governor.

The election result was a political comeback for Bevin, 48, who jumped into the governor’s race just hours before the filing deadline.

Bevin, 48, challenged McConnell in 2014 the backing of outside Republican groups critical of the senator’s leadership, including the Senate Conservatives Fund and FreedomWorks. But in the end, McConnell won easily with more than 60 percent of the vote and went on to win a sixth term in November.

Despite the bitterness of that race, McConnell stayed out of Bevin’s primary fight.

Although Kentucky has become a reliably Republican state at the federal level, the party has only won the governorship once in the last 44 years. The current governor, Democrat Steve Beshear, is term limited.

Kentucky and Mississippi are the only two states that have off-year elections for state constitutional offices in 2015.

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