Bevin barely clears a majority in GOP gubernatorial primary
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com
LOUISVILLE (CFP) — Attorney General Andy Beshear narrowly won the Democratic primary for Kentucky governor, setting up a November showdown with Republican Governor Matt Bevin, who turned in a mediocre primary result against weak competition.
Beshear turned back a challenge in the May 21 primary from State Rep. Rocky Adkins, who led for most of election night after running up huge margins of victory in Eastern Kentucky, where he lives. His lead faded once more returns from Louisville, Lexington and Western Kentucky rolled in.
Former State Auditor Adam Edelen, who led the race in fundraising and touted himself as a fresh face in Kentucky politics, finished third, unable to beat Beshear in the state’s urban centers and winning just two counties.
Beshear took 38 percent to 32 percent for Adkins and 27 percent for Edelen.
The results from the May 21 primary contained potentially ill portents for Bevin as he fights to hang on to his job.
Despite a significant money advantage and the powers of the governorship at his disposal, he took just 52 percent in the GOP primary against three little-known opponents and received 13,000 fewer votes in his primary than did Beshear, who faced much stouter competition — leading to some gloating by Beshear in his victory speech.
“Tonight we not only won this primary, we did something we’re going to do in November — we got more raw votes than Matt Bevin,” Beshear told supporters in Louisville.
State Rep. Robert Goforth, who has crisscrossed the commonwealth trying to convince his fellow Republicans that Bevin is a sure loser in November, took 39 percent of the vote and beat the governor in 27 of Kentucky’s 120 counties.
In the end, more than 120,000 Republicans voted for someone other than Bevin, who wrapped himself in the mantle of President Donald Trump in his television ads.
Speaking to reporters outside the Governor’s Mansion in Frankfort after the results came in, Bevin said he was not surprised by the result, noting that Goforth had run a substantive campaign.
The governor also said “I think it’s a little concerning for [Beshear] that he couldn’t even hit 40 percent.”
Bevin’s approval ratings have sagged as he sparred with his fellow Republicans in the legislature and criticized public school teachers, who have descended on Frankfort during the past two legislative sessions to protest proposed changes in state pensions.
His November battle with Beshear will be nothing new. The two have clashed repeatedly in court over the last four years, including the attorney general’s successful lawsuit to scuttle a GOP pension reform plan passed in 2018.
In his victory speech, Beshear — whose father, Steve, was Bevin’s predecessor as governor — went directly after Bevin, saying the general election is not about left versus right but “right versus wrong” and hitting the governor for contention in state politics during his term.
“We were raised better than this. We were raised better than the bullying we see in Frankfort,” he said. “Matt Bevin is going to try to make this election about anything other than his record because it is one of total failure.”
But Bevin told reporters at his news conference that the fall election will come down to a “binary” choice between conservative and liberal candidates.
“What you’re going to have … is a very clear contrast on issues that matter significantly to people in Kentucky,” Bevin said, noting in particular Beshear’s support for legal abortion, which he opposes “You have somebody in Andy Beshear who proudly supported Hillary Clinton. That doesn’t play well in Kentucky.”
The governor said he expects Trump to travel to Kentucky to campaign for him during the general election contest.
In other primary races, Miss America 2000 Heather French Henry, the only Kentucky woman to ever win the title, easily won the Democratic nomination for secretary of state to replaced the term-limited Alison Lundergan Grimes.
Henry polled more than 260,000 votes statewide, more than any other candidate on the primary ballot in either party.
In the Republican race for attorney general, Daniel Cameron, an attorney and former University of Louisville football player who served as legal counsel to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, defeated State Senator Wil Schroder, a former prosecutor from suburban Cincinnati.
He will now face Democrat Greg Stumbo, who held the attorney general’s job from 2004 to 2008.
Hanging on to the attorney generalship, which Beshear used with great effect to stymie Bevin, is an important aim for Democrats, who have held the office continuously since 1948.