Beshear claims victory in Kentucky; Bevin refuses to concede

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky's bitter race for governor went into overtime as Democrat Andy Beshear declared victory while Republican Gov. Matt Bevin, a close ally of President Donald Trump, refused to concede with results showing he trailed by a few thousand votes.

Kentucky has some sorting out to do before inaugurating its next governor.

With 100% of precincts reporting, Beshear — the state's attorney general and the son of Kentucky's last Democratic governor, Steve Beshear — had a lead of 5,333 votes out of more than 1.4 million counted, or a margin of nearly 0.4 percentage points. The Associated Press has not declared a winner.

In competing speeches late Tuesday, Beshear claimed victory while Bevin refused to concede.

"My expectation is that he (Bevin) will honor the election that was held tonight," Beshear said. "That he will help us make this transition. And I'll tell you what, we will be ready for that first day in office, and I look forward to it."

That first day isn't far off. Kentucky inaugurates its governors in the December following an election.

Bevin, meanwhile, called the contest a "close, close race" and said he wasn't conceding "by any stretch."

"We want the process to be followed, and there is a process," he said.

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Kentucky Attorney General and democratic Gubernatorial Candidate Andy Beshear stands with his wife, Britainy as he delivers a speech at the Kentucky Democratic Party election night watch party, Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019, in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Bryan Woolston)
Democratic gubernatorial candidate and Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear, along with lieutenant governor candidate Jacqueline Coleman, acknowledge supporters at the Kentucky Democratic Party election night watch event, Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019, in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Bryan Woolston)
Democratic gubernatorial candidate and Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear walks with his daughter Lila to speak to supporters at the Kentucky Democratic Party election night watch event, Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019, in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Bryan Woolston)
Democratic gubernatorial candidate and Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear speaks at the Kentucky Democratic Party election night watch event, Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019, in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Bryan Woolston)
Democratic gubernatorial candidate and Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear speaks at the Kentucky Democratic Party election night watch event, Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019, in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Bryan Woolston)
Democratic gubernatorial candidate and Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear speaks at the Kentucky Democratic Party election night watch event, Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019, in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Bryan Woolston)
Democratic gubernatorial candidate and Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear speaks at the Kentucky Democratic Party election night watch event, Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019, in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Bryan Woolston)
Kentucky Attorney General and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andy Beshear listens to voters during a campaign stop at Wagner's Pharmacy, Tuesday on Election Day, Nov. 5, 2019, in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Bryan Woolston)
Kentucky Attorney General and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andy Beshear speaks with voters during a campaign stop at Wagner's Pharmacy, on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019, in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Bryan Woolston)
Joe Newberg, of Louisville, holds an Andy Beshear campaign sign while standing along Frankfort Ave. in Louisville, Ky., Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019. (AP Photo/Bryan Woolston)
Kentucky Attorney General and Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate Andy Beshear poses for a photograph after voting, Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019, in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Bryan Woolston)
Kentucky Attorney General and Democratic Gubernatorial candidate Andy Beshear stands with his family while speaking with the media after voting Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019, in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Bryan Woolston)
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Bevin hinted there might be "irregularities" to look into but didn't offer specifics. His campaign didn't immediately respond to an email seeking an explanation.

There is no mandatory recount law in Kentucky. Bevin may request counties recanvass their results, which is not a recount, but rather a check of the vote count to ensure the results were added correctly. Bevin would need to seek and win a court's approval for a recount.

The final hours of campaigning were dominated by the endorsement Bevin received from Trump at a boisterous rally Monday night in Lexington, Kentucky. Through a spokesman, the president boasted Tuesday night about the boost he had given the incumbent governor despite Bevin finishing with fewer votes to his name.

"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."

Trump had loomed large in the race as Bevin stressed his alliance with the Republican president in TV ads, tweets and speeches. Trump carried Kentucky by a landslide in winning the presidency in 2016 and remains popular in the state. The president took center stage in the campaign with his election eve rally to energize his supporters to head to the polls for his fellow Republican.

But the combative Bevin had been struggling to overcome a series of self-inflicted wounds, highlighted by a running feud with teachers who opposed his efforts to revamp the state's woefully underfunded public pension systems.

Bevin lagged well behind the vote totals for the rest of the GOP slate for statewide offices. Republican candidates swept Kentucky's races for attorney general, secretary of state, auditor, treasurer and agriculture commissioner.

Meanwhile, the Libertarian candidate for governor, John Hicks, got 2% of the vote.

Beshear dominated in the state's urban areas in Louisville and Lexington and won some traditionally Republican suburban counties in the state's northernmost tip, just south of Cincinnati, to offset Bevin's strength in rural areas. Beshear also made inroads in eastern Kentucky, winning several counties in a region where Trump is highly popular.

While Beshear looks to quickly pivot to governing, he'll be confronted by a dominant GOP. Republicans hold overwhelming majorities in the state legislature.

Beshear maintained his focus throughout the race on "kitchen table" issues like health care and education to blunt Bevin's efforts to hitch himself to Trump and nationalize the race.

On health care, Beshear could have an immediate impact by backing away from a Bevin proposal to attach work requirements to Medicaid benefits received under the Affordable Care Act. Bevin's plan for some "able-bodied" recipients has been challenged in court and is yet to be enacted, and Beshear has vowed to rescind it.

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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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On the campaign trail, Beshear also said he wants to legalize casino gambling, proposing to use that revenue to support public pensions. Some Republican lawmakers campaigning for Bevin vowed to reject that idea if it came before them.

Beshear also exploited Bevin's feud with teachers over pensions and education issues, repeatedly referring to Bevin as a bully.

Beshear said Tuesday night that teachers shared in his victory.

"To our educators, your courage to stand up and fight against all the bullying and name calling helped galvanize our entire state," Beshear said.

Beshear proposed a $2,000 across-the-board pay raise for public school teachers and vowed to submit "an education-first budget" to lawmakers.

School bus driver Conley McCracken said earlier Tuesday in Bowling Green that he voted for Bevin the first time. He said school issues turned him away from the Republican.

"He's trying to keep retirement away from a lot of the teachers and school employees and things of that nature," the 68-year-old McCracken said.

Trump's support of Bevin wasn't enough to get McCracken's vote a second time around.

"I don't like the way he's doing (things), so I changed my mind," McCracken said.

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