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Beshear inaugurated in Frankfort after ousting Republican Matt Bevin in November vote
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com
FRANKFORT, Kentucky (CFP) — Kentucky’s new Democratic governor, Andy Beshear, took office Tuesday with a plea for unity after the tumultuous tenure of his predecessor, calling on Kentuckians to “come together for the common good.”
“I am now the governor of all of the people of Kentucky,” Beshear said in his inaugural address on the steps of the Capitol in Frankfort, amid an early winter chill. “I will be a governor just as much for those who voted against me as those who voted for me because I view this election as an opportunity — an opportunity to heal wounds, an opportunity to work together instead of angling for political gain.”
Beshear said “we have have to begin looking at each other as teammates, as fellow Kentuckians, not as Republicans and Democrats, not as liberals and conservatives, not as rural or urban.”
Watch Governor Beshear’s inaugural address at bottom of this story.
“Today gives us a change to get this right — to be a lighthouse in the storm, to be a beacon in the night,” he said.
As is tradition in Kentucky, Beshear had already taken his oath of office at midnight, when the term of his predecessor, Republican Matt Bevin, officially ended, before repeating the oath in the afternoon ceremony.
The new governor said one of his top priorities would be to give an across-the-board $2,000 raise to state teachers, who clashed with Bevin amid protests over pay and pensions over the past two years. In one of his first acts as governor, Beshear replaced the entire State Board of Education to uproot Bevin’s appointees.
Beshear’s lieutenant governor, Jacqueline Coleman — also sworn in to office Tuesday — is a public school teacher and will also serve as education secretary in Beshear’s Cabinet. In his inaugural address, Bevshear noted that “Jacqueline has gone from being locked out to lieutenant governor.”
Beshear also said he would sign an executive order restoring voting rights to more than 100,000 felons who have served their time for non-violent offenses.
“They deserve to participation in our great democracy,” he said. “By taking this step, by restoring these voting rights, we declare that everyone in Kentucky counts — we all matter.”
Beshear, 42, served four years as attorney general before defeating Bevin by 5,100 votes in November’s election. He took the oath of office as his father, Steve Beshear, who served as governor from 2007-2015, looked on.
In addition to clashing with teachers and public employees over pension reform plans they opposed, Bevin also had run-ins with his fellow Republicans who control the state legislature and his own lieutenant governor, heading into re-election bid with the lowest approval ratings of any U.S. governor.
He wrapped himself in the mantle of President Donald Trump, who carried Kentucky by 30 points in 2016 and came to the Bluegrass to campaign on his behalf. But in the end, Bevin’s association with Trump did not save him, although Republicans swept the other five statewide offices on November’s ballot.
Video of Beshear’s inaugural address
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Democrat Andy Beshear’s 5,200-vote lead stands up after review
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor
FRANKFORT, Kentucky (CFP) — Republican Governor Matt Bevin has conceded defeat in the Kentucky governor’s race after a recanvass of the November 5 vote did not reverse Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear’s 5,200-vote lead.
“We’re going to have a change in the governorship based on the vote of the people,” Bevin said at a November 14 news conference after the results of the recanvass came in. “I wish Attorney General Beshear well as he transitions to his next role in this state. It’s a big responsibility.”
He also said “every single facet of our administration that is desired is ready, willing and able … to help in this transition process.”
Bevin had refused to concede on election night, citing unspecified “irregularities” in the election. He asked for a recanvass, in which elections officials in the state’s 120 counties rechecked the accuracy of vote totals that had been reported.
The recanvass showed almost no change in the results in initially reported, which showed Beshear beating Bevin by 5,189 votes out of more than 1.4 million cast.
Ballots were not recounted; the state uses a system where paper ballots are marked and scanned by machines.
Watch Governor Matt Bevin’s concession at end of this story.
Beshear reacted to Bevin’s decision not to further contest the election on Twitter: “It’s official – thank you Kentucky. @GovMattBevin and his team have already begun a smooth transition. It’s time to get to work!”
Bevin’s concession culminates four tumultuous years in Frankfort that featured a bitter feud with public school teachers opposed to the governor’s attempts to fix holes in the state’s pension system. He also quarreled with fellow Republicans in the legislature and tossed his own lieutenant governor, Jenean Hampton, from his re-election ticket; members of his staff then tried to fire Hampton’s staff out from under her.
But Bevin’s most significant battle was against Beshear, who used the attorney generalship to haul the governor into court at least eight times, including a lawsuit that torpedoed a GOP-backed pension reform plan. The race between the two men became acrimonious, with Beshear accusing Bevin of being a bully and Bevin dismissing Beshear as a leftist ideologue.
Bevin wrapped himself in the mantle of President Donald Trump, who came to rally the Republican faithful in Lexington on the night before the election. But even Trump’s coattails — in a state he carried by 30 points in 2016 — couldn’t save a governor who topped the list of the nation’s most unpopular governors through much of his term.
Beshear, 41, who takes office December 10, will be following in the footsteps of his father, Steve Beshear, who served as governor from 2007 until 2015.
His lieutenant governor running mate, Jacqueline Coleman, an public school assistant principal and basketball coach, will take office at the same time. She has announced that she is expecting a child in February.
Beshear and Coleman will be the lone Democrats among statewide elected officials in Kentucky; Republicans swept the remaining five posts, including Attorney General-elect Daniel Cameron, a protegé and former aide to the state’s senior Republican, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who will be the first Republican to hold that office in 71 years.
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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.
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Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin appears to have closed gap on Democratic challenger, poll finds
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor
Heading into the final week of campaigning in governor’s races in Kentucky and Mississippi, polling shows Democrats within striking distance of winning in states that President Donald Trump won by a mile just three years ago.
In Kentucky, a Mason-Dixon poll released October 16 showed Republican Governor Matt Bevin and Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear both at 46 percent, with a margin of error of plus-or-minus 4 percentage points.
While neither candidate has a lead in the race, the results of the poll were actually good news for Bevin, who trailed Beshear by 8 points in a poll by the same organization back in January.
In Mississippi, where Republican Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves and Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood are competing for an open governor’s seat, Reeves led Hood 46 percent to 43 percent in an October 23 Mason-Dixon poll, within the poll’s margin of error of plus-or-minus 4 percent.
Because the result is within the margin of error, the poll cannot definitely say either candidate is ahead, although the result does point to a close race.
Very little public polling has been done in either of these races, which also makes it difficult to confirm Mason-Dixon’s findings.
The poll in Kentucky found that Bevin has closed the gap with Beshear due to a 10-point increase in his support among Republicans, who appear to be returning to the governor’s camp as the election nears.
Bevin is also drawing support from 22 percent of Democrats in the poll, while Beshear is only getting 15 percent crossover support from Republicans.
The poll also showed that Bevin — who has consistently ranked among the nation’s least popular governors — has improved his job performance rating since January, although it still remains about 3 points underwater.
The poll also found Bevin leading Beshear in Eastern Kentucky, a region he lost to a little-known challenger in the Republican primary, which will be key to winning re-election.
The governor has also tied himself firmly to Trump, who carried Kentucky by 30 points in 2016. The poll showed Trump’s approval rating in Kentucky at 57 percent, with almost two-thirds of state voters opposing his impeachment.
Like Bevin, Reeves is also benefiting from Trump’s popularity in Mississippi, where the poll found his job approval rating at 54 percent and 56 percent opposing impeachment. The president carried the Magnolia State by 28 points in 2016.
Trump will come to Tupleo to campaign for Reeves on the Sunday before the November 5 election and will be at Rupp Arena in Lexington on the Monday before the election to campaign for Bevin.
The governor’s race in Mississippi is a collision between two men who, between them, have won eight statewide races.
For Reeves, 45, the governorship will be a culmination of a climb through state politics that began when he won election as state treasurer in 2003 at the tender age of 29. He has served two terms as treasurer and two as lieutenant governor.
Hood, 57, the only Democrat holding statewide office in Mississippi, has been attorney general since 2004. He has parted ways with national Democrats by taking more conservative positions on criminal justice and legal abortion, which he opposes.
He has also made expanding Medicaid in Mississippi — opposed by Reeves and long blocked by Republicans in Jackson — a centerpiece of his campaign.
Mississippi has not elected a Democrat as governor since 1999.
In Kentucky, the governor’s race is an extension of a bitter feud between Bevin and Beshear that began in 2016, when Beshear assumed the attorney generalship and the governor took over as chief executive from Beshear’s father, former Governor Steve Beshear.
Beshear has sued the governor at least eight times, including a successful effort to scuttle a GOP pension reform plan passed in 2018.
Bevin’s approval ratings have sagged as he has sparred with his lieutenant governor and 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.
Beshear highlighted that issue by picking a public school teacher, Jacqueline Coleman, as his running mate for lieutenant governor and featuring aggrieved educators in his campaign ads.
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Democrat is running for top job after three years of legal tussling with Republican Governor Matt Bevin
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPoiltics.com editor
BOWLING GREEN, Kentucky (CFP) — Democratic Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear has launched his campaign to unseat Republican Governor Matt Bevin in 2019. taking a dig at the incumbent with a pledge to “set a standard for transparency and decency” in Frankfort.
“Instead of leadership, we see name calling and bullying. Instead of working together, our government says it’s my way or the highway,” Beshear said at a July 10 rally at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, the final stop on a two-day campaign kickoff tour. “Kentucky deserves better.”
Beshear is the first candidate to announce a run for governor in 2019, getting a jump on other Democratic candidates who are considering the race, including Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, State House Minority Leader Rocky Adkins and former State Auditor Adam Edelen.
Beshear and Bevin have been at war — in public and in court — since 2016, when Beshear assumed the attorney generalship and the governor took over as chief executive from Beshear’s father, former Governor Steve Beshear, who served as governor from 2007 to 2015.
Beshear has sued the governor at least eight times, including a challenge to a pension reform bill that prompted thousands of public school teachers to converge on the State Capitol in protest earlier this year. A lower court judge blocked the plan on constitutional grounds, a decision which the Bevin administration is now appealing.
The potency of the teachers’ protests as a political issue is reflected in Beshear’s choice for a running mate for lieutenant governor — Jacqueline Coleman, 36, a civics teacher and high school basketball coach from Harrodsburg, who was active in the protest movement.
Bevin drew the ire of teachers for remarks he made in April after protests shut down a number of school districts: “I guarantee you somewhere in Kentucky today, a child was sexually assaulted that was left at home because there was nobody there to watch them. I guarantee you somewhere today, a child was physically harmed or ingested poison because they were left alone because a single parent didn’t have any money to take care of them.”
The governor later apologized for the comments, which drew the ire of even his fellow Republicans in the legislature. But Coleman made it clear that Bevin’s comments will live on in the governor’s race.
“Make no mistake — public education is under an all-out assault,” she said. “We have been insulted, disrespected, devalued and even called names by our current governor.”
In April, after the battle over pensions, WKU’s Big Red Poll found that Bevin’s job approval stood at just 32 percent, with 56 percent disapproving. A majority of poll respondents also said they sided with teachers in their dispute with Bevin, while just 16 percent expressed support for the governor.
In an early sign of how personal the governor’s race is likely to get, Bevin greeted news of Beshear’s candidacy with his own pointed tweet: “For those Kentuckians who did not get enough corruption, self-dealing, embezzlement and bribery during the 8 corrupt years of Governor Steve Beshear, his son, Andy, is now offering a chance for 4 more years of the same …” He added the hashtag #BeshearFamilyTradition.
Bevin’s comment stems from the conviction of Beshear’s former chief deputy for accepting bribes from lobbyists when he worked in the administration of Beshear. Neither Beshear has been implicated in the case.
Asked about Bevin’s tweet, Beshear said, “I’m running for governor to restore transparency and decency … I think our current governor’s comments show how much that decency is needed.”
Beshear, 40, is in his first term as attorney general. He and Grimes are the only Democrats holding statewide office in Kentucky and may face each other in the governor’s primary.
Grimes made an unsuccessful challenge to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in 2014 — after McConnell first crushed Bevin in a GOP primary.
The governor has not announced if he will seek re-election in 2019. No Republican has ever won a second term as governor.
Kentucky is one of four states that elect their governors in off years, along with Mississippi, Virginia, and New Jersey. However, state legislators are up this fall, and nearly three dozen public school educators have filed to run for legislative seats across the commonwealth.