Democrat claims victory in Kentucky governor’s race

Democrat Andy Beshear claimed victory in the Kentucky governor’s race, with a margin of about 5,000 votes over Republican Gov. Matt Bevin, in a state won by President Trump by 30 points in 2016.

Three hours after the polls closed, Bevin had not conceded, and there were reports he might seek a recount. 

The election was largely a referendum on Bevin’s unpopular plan to roll back Medicaid expansion and his attacks on the state’s teachers. But Bevin also tied himself to the president, who held a rally for him in Lexington Monday night along with Kentucky’s two Republican senators, Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul. Trump, addressing the governor, said, “If you lose, it sends a really bad message … you can’t let that happen to me.”

Beshear, the state attorney general, rolled up large margins in the suburbs while improving on recent Democratic numbers in parts of coal country.

Bevin is unpopular in the state, with a 53 percent disapproval rating, the second lowest of any governor but an improvement from polling earlier this year that had him even lower. He had been antagonistic toward teacherstelling an interviewer last year that children left at home were being sexually assaulted and trying drugs while some schools shut down for a protest at the capital. A number of Republicans endorsed Beshear, including one of Bevin’s Republican primary opponents

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Governor of Kentucky Matt Bevin speaks at 2017 SelectUSA Investment Summit in Oxon Hill, Maryland, U.S., June 19, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin (L) talk at a meeting during the National Governors Association summer meeting in Providence, Rhode Island, U.S., July 14, 2017. REUTERS/Brian Snyder
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 11: U.S. President Donald Trump listens to Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin speak, during a prison reform roundtable in the Roosevelt Room at the White House, on January 11, 2018 in Washington, DC. State and local leaders joined Trump to discuss programs intended to help prisoners re-enter the workforce among other policy initiatives. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin addresses the crowd as they wait for the arrival of U.S. President Donald Trump for a campaign stop in Louisville, Kentucky, March 20, 2017. REUTERS/John Sommers II
GEORGETOWN, KY - OCTOBER 30: Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin speaks at the unveiling of a new $80 million Toyota engineering headquarters October 30, 2017 in Georgetown, Kentucky. The 235,000 square foot state-of-the-art Product Engineering and Manufacturing Center (PEMC) is the final building constructed under the 'One Toyota' project. (Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)
FOUNTAIN RUN, KY - MAY 17: Kentucky Republican senatorial candidate Matt Bevin greets voters at the Fountain Run BBQ Festival while campaigning for the Republican primary May 17, 2014 in Fountain Run, Kentucky. Bevin and Senate Minoriry Leader Mitch McConnell are campaigning heavily throughout the state during the final weekend before the Republican primary to be held May 20. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
FOUNTAIN RUN, KY - MAY 17: Kentucky Republican senatorial candidate Matt Bevin holds newsborn Mary Halston Brandon at the Fountain Run BBQ Festival while campaigning for the Republican primary May 17, 2014 in Fountain Run, Kentucky. Bevin and Senate Minoriry Leader Mitch McConnell are campaigning heavily throughout the state during the final weekend before the Republican primary to be held May 20. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Senate Republican primary candidate Matt Bevin (L) campaigns in a restaurant in Sligo, Kentucky, on April 23, 2014. Bevin, an unknown businessman, opposes Mitch McConnell, the Republican minority leader , with 30 years in the US Senate. Bevin launched an incendiary campaign on behalf of the Tea Party, to eject the McConnell, 72, in the Republican Senate primary to be held in May. AFP PHOTO / Ivan COURONNE (Photo credit should read Ivan COURONNE/AFP/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - APRIL 14: Matt Bevin, republican Senate candidate for Kentucky, talks with diners at the Village Restaurant in Liberty, Ky., April 14, 2014. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - APRIL 12: Matt Bevin, republican Senate candidate for Kentucky, high fives Isabelle Sester, right, and Katelyn Hall, both 10, during the Knob Creek Gun Range Machine Gun Shoot Out in West Point, Ky. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - APRIL 12: Matt Bevin, republican Senate candidate for Kentucky, talks with an attendee of the Knob Creek Gun Range Machine Gun Shoot Out in West Point, Ky. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
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One of the dividing lines in the race was health care: Beshear’s father Steve was Bevin’s predecessor in the governor’s mansion and expanded Medicaid. Bevin has attempted to undo that expansion, requesting a waiver from the White House to impose work requirements that the younger Beshear opposed. Bevin’s plan was blocked by a federal judge, but an estimated 95,000 people would lose health care if the change went through. 

In his election-night speech Beshear said preserving Medicaid expansion, protecting public-employee pensions and investing in public schools would be his priorities.

If Beshear wins, it will prove that you can’t mess with people’s pensions, call them thugs, and threaten to take away their healthcare in the same year,” wrote Lexington Herald-Leader columnist Linda Blackford in her preview of the race.

While Bevin lost, Republicans won the race for state attorney general for the first time since the 1940s, with Daniel Cameron winning over 57 percent of the vote. Cameron will be the state’s first African-American attorney general.

 

“Now he is difficult, I have to say, maybe it costs him the election, but it’s OK,” Trump said of Bevin at Monday’s rally. “When he needs something for Kentucky like money, like aid, he wants me to call one of the many manufacturers now that are coming into Kentucky, ‘Could you call the head of some company in Japan, please?’ I say, ‘Matt, do I have to?’ ‘Please, please.’ But isn’t that what you really want in a governor? That’s what you want. He’s such a pain in the ass, but that’s what you want.”

The Trump campaign continued to push for Bevin on Twitter.

“Fantastic being in the Great State of Kentucky last night,” wrote Trump. “Vote for Matt Bevin NOW! [Bevin] One of Best Governors in U.S. He will never let you down!”

“Big numbers to help [Bevin] win four more years as the governor of Kentucky!” wrote Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale following the rally.

While Bevin tried to nationalize the race, frequently bringing up his support for Trump, Beshear steered clear of impeachment, only telling the New York Times, “I would like to see more of any proceedings happen in the public” when asked about the House inquiry. When asked if he thought Trump was a good man, Beshear said “I don’t know the president” and said he would work with him if it helped Kentucky.

In his interview with the Times, Bevin predicted an easy night.

 “I’d say six to 10 percent,” said the governor, predicting his margin of victory, adding, “I think you’re going to be shocked at how uncompetitive this actually is.”

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