A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Large urban turnout leads Andy Beshear to victory in Tuesday’s governor’s race; Bevin not yet conceding

By Tom Latek and Mark Maynard
Kentucky Today

Kentucky voters turned out in bigger than expected numbers and Democratic challenger Andy Beshear may have shown incumbent Gov. Matt Bevin the door.

Beshear took the lead around 8 o’clock and kept it the rest of the way in likely keeping Bevin from becoming the first Republican governor in Kentucky history from winning a second term.

“I haven’t had an opportunity to speak with Gov. Bevin tonight, but my expectation is he will honor the election that was held tonight, that he will help us make this transition and, I tell you what, we will be ready for that first day in office and I look forward to it,” Beshear told his supporters after being introduced as the governor-elect.

Gov. Matt Bevin, left, isn’t conceding Tuesday’s election to opponent Andy Beshear. Unofficial results with 100 percent of precincts reporting have Beshear with a lead of nearly 5,000 votes. (Kentucky Today file photos)

Bevin, clinging to hope because of the small margin after all precincts had reported, wasn’t ready to give up. As of 10 p.m., unofficial results from the Associated Press showed Beshear leading Bevin by 5,189 votes with 100 percent of precincts reporting. More than 1.4 million votes were cast, a turnout far greater than predicted.

“Would it be a Bevin race if it wasn’t a squeaker?” Bevin said. “This is a close, close race. We are not conceding by any stretch. We want the process to be followed and there is a process. We know for a fact that there have been more than a few irregularities. They are very well corroborated and that’s all right. What they are exactly and how many, which ones, and what effect, if any, they have will be determined according to law that’s well established.”

The State Board of Elections approves the official election results within days of an election. Bevin has 30 days after the results are certified by the State Board of Elections to formally protest, according to state law.

“In the end, we will have the governor that was chosen by the people of Kentucky, and that’s the way the process should work,” Bevin said. “I will be the first one in line wishing well to my opponent if he ends up as our next governor because, guess what, we live here, too.”

Not even a boost from President Donald Trump on election eve was enough to keep Bevin in office, if the results stand.

“The president just about dragged Gov. Matt Bevin across the finish line, helping him run stronger than expected in what turned into a very close race at the end,” Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale said in a statement. “A final outcome remains to be seen.”

The voters in the urban counties, Jefferson and Fayette, were the difference. Beshear amassed more than 100,000 more votes than Bevin in Jefferson and 37,000 more in Fayette.

Angry teachers had something to say about the race as well. For the past two years Bevin has alienated teachers in the commonwealth with outlandish statements as he attempted to overhaul Kentucky’s ailing pension system.

Beshear took advantage of Bevin’s lack of civility with teachers, focusing his campaign on education. He made Jacqueline Coleman, a former assistant principal and basketball coach, his lieutenant governor running mate. He also said he would give teachers pay raises and increase funding for public schools.

“Your courage to stand up and fight against all the bullying and name-calling helped galvanize our entire state,” Beshear said, addressing educators directly. “I know so many of you worked hard on this campaign, and I appreciate every single hour that each of you and our nearly 3,000 volunteers spent knocking on doors. To our educators, this is your victory. From now on, the doors of your state Capitol will always be open.”

It all played well for Beshear on a night when the Democratic Party had nothing else to celebrate.

Part of northern Kentucky also went blue in a surprise for the Republican stronghold. Beshear won Kenton County by a small margin and also easily won in Campbell County while garnering more votes in Republican-dominated Boone County than most expected.

Beshear was the only Democratic who enjoyed a victory. All the down-ticket races went to Republicans, including Daniel Cameron, the man who will replace Beshear as attorney general.

But the big story of the night belonged to Beshear, who will follow his father Steve Beshear’s footsteps into the Governor’s Mansion. Bevin defeated Jack Conway im 2015 when Andy Beshear became atorney general.

Andy Beshear and Bevin have been feuding ever since and engaged in five heated debates where their dislike for each other showed.

Beshear, who turns 42 on Nov. 29, would be the youngest governor since Ned Breathitt in 1963.

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