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Republican Matt Bevin wins Kentucky governor’s race

Bevin’s victory over Attorney General Jack Conway is another takeaway for the GOP in the South

♦By Rich Shumate, editor

kentucky mugLOUISVILLE (CFP) — Just a year after losing a bruising primary battle against U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Louisville businessman and Tea Party favorite Matt Bevin has won the Kentucky governorship, taking away one of the Democrats’ three remaining governor’s seats in the South.

Kentucky Governor-elect Matt Bevin

Kentucky Governor-elect Matt Bevin

Unofficial results from the Secretary of State’s office showed Bevin with 53 percent to 44 percent for Democratic  Attorney General Jack Conway in the November 3 vote.

The win marks a remarkable feat for Bevin, 48, who jumped into the race right before the filing deadline, won the Republican primary by less than 100 votes and trailed Conway in the polls throughout the general election.

“What an extraordinary night this is,” Bevin told cheering supporters in Louisville. “This is a chance for a fresh start, it truly is, and we desperately need it.”

Bevin also issued a call for unity, saying, “We are one Kentucky–black, white, rural, urban, at both ends of the socio-economic spectrum.”

A turning point in the race may have come in September, when Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis was jailed for refusing to issue marriage licenses for same-sex couples on religious grounds.

Bevin embraced Davis’s fight, meeting with her and calling on Democratic Governor Steve Beshear to issue an executive order relieving Davis of the responsibility for signing marriage licenses.

Republicans had a good night across the board in the Bluegrass State, taking five of the seven statewide constitutional offices, with the attorney general’s race too close to call. The only outright Democratic winner was Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, who also challenged McConnell unsuccessfully in 2014.

Bevin’s running mate for lieutenant governor, Jenean Hampton, a Tea Party activist and former Air Force captain, is the first African-American ever elected to statewide office in Kentucky.

Although the commonwealth has become reliably Republican at the federal level, Bevin is just the second Republican in the last 44 years to be elected governor. Beshear was term limited.

With the GOP’s takeaway in Kentucky, Democrats hold governorships in only two of the 14 Southern states, Virginia and West Virginia, with a race in Louisiana to be decided in a November 21 runoff between Democratic State Rep. John Bel Edwards and Republican U.S. Senator David Vitter.

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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