Beshear won despite President Donald Trump going all in for Bevin
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor
LOUISVILLE (CFP) — Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear has defeated Kentucky’s Republican Governor Matt Bevin, who could not overcome his personal unpopularity to hang on to his job despite vocal support from President Donald Trump and a Republican wave further down the ballot.
Beshear took 49.2 percent in the November 5 vote to 48.9 percent for Bevin, who saw his approval ratings tank after a tumultuous four years in Frankfort during which he sparred with his fellow Republicans in the legislature, fought with his own lieutenant governor, and heaped criticism on public school teachers.
However, Bevin, trailing by 4,700 votes, refused to concede, telling his supporters that “we know for a fact that there have been more than a few irregularities” in the election.
The governor did not give specifics, saying only that the nature of the irregularities “will be determined according to law that’s well established.”
Beshear, speaking to jubilant supporters at a victory celebration in Louisville, said “my expectation is that [Bevin] will honor the election that was held tonight, that he will help us make this transition.”
The hotly contested governor’s race sparked a voter turnout more than 400,000 higher than in the last governor’s race in 2015, with Beshear crushing Bevin by 2-to-1 margins in the urban centers of Louisville and Lexington.
Republicans got better news in the race to succeed Beshear as attorney general, as Daniel Cameron, a protegé and former aide to the state’s senior Republican, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, won the post, marking the first time in 76 years that it has gone to a Republican.
Despite losing the governorship, GOP candidates swept the rest of the statewide offices on the ballot Tuesday. Beshear will also have to work with large Republican majorities in the legislature to push through his agenda.
Beshear, 41, will now follow in the footsteps of his father, Steve, who served as governor from 2010 to 2016.
In his victory speech, Beshear said the result showed “that our values and how we treat each other is still more important than our party, that what unites us as Kentuckians is still stronger than any national divisions.”
“Tonight, I think we showed this country that in Kentucky, we can disagree with each other while still respecting one another,” Beshear said.
The gubernatorial contest became a bitter grudge match between Bevin and Beshear, who had sued the governor repeatedly over the past four years as attorney general.
Beshear had portrayed Bevin as a bully, particularly for his critical comments about public school teachers who have been protesting Republican-backed pension reform plans. To emphasize the point, he selected a public school teacher, Jacqueline Coleman, as his running mate for lieutenant governor, and he saluted teachers in his election night speech.
“Your courage to stand up and fight against all the bullying and name calling helped galvanize our entire state,” Beshear said. “This is your victory. From now on, the doors of your State Capitol will always be open.”
Bevin had painted Beshear as a far-left liberal and wrapped himself firmly in the mantle of Trump, who carried the Bluegrass State by 30 points in 2016.
Trump was featured prominently in Bevin’s ads, and he dropped into Lexington on the night before the election to hold a rally with the governor in which he urged supporters to come out for Bevin because “if you lose, it sends a really bad message … You can’t let that happen to me.”
The president offered no immediate reaction on Twitter to the results in the governor’s race, although he did tweet congratulations to Cameron for his victory in the attorney general’s contest.
Bevin, like Trump, did well in rural parts of the state. However, Beshear rolled up a margin of more than 130,000 votes in Louisville and Lexington and also won two of the three counties in suburban Cincinnati along with Frankfort and Bowling Green.
In the attorney general’s race, Cameron ran well ahead of Bevin to defeat Democrat Greg Stumbo in by a margin of 57 percent to 43 percent. Stumbo served as attorney general from 2004 to 2008.
Cameron, making his first bid for political office, is also the first African American to win a statewide race in Kentucky in his own right. (Current Lieutenant Governor Jenean Hampton was elected on a ticket with Bevin in 2015; he bounced her from his re-election ticket earlier this year.)
A Republican had not been elected attorney general since 1943, a string of 15 consecutive defeats which Cameron finally ended.
Republican incumbents swept other statewide races for auditor, treasurer and agriculture commissioner.