Neck-and-neck election returns in Kentucky’s hotly-contested governor’s race made for a tense Tuesday night at both Democratic and Republican headquarters — with Attorney General Andy Beshear eking out a close win and the governor declining to concede.
Beshear, who made public education and incumbent Republican Gov. Matt Bevin’s relationship with teachers a centerpiece of his campaign, told supporters, “Our values and how we treat each other is still more important than our party.” Referencing Bevin’s campaign strategy of highlighting issues like abortion and immigration, along with the governor’s cozy ties to President Donald Trump, “what unites us as Kentuckians is still stronger than any national divisions."
But Bevin, who came up around 5,000 votes short in the final tally, appeared unfazed when he addressed Republican headquarters, joking, "Would it be a Bevin race if it wasn’t a squeaker?"
"This is a close, close race," the governor added, making reference to "irregularities" in the voting. "We are not conceding this race by any stretch.”
The gubernatorial results led to a somehwat subdued mood at the GOP election night party on what would otherwise have been a historic straight sweep for Republicans, who captured every other statewide office up for grabs, including attorney general, secretary of state, auditor, treasurer, and agriculture commissioner.
Asked if there were any issues a Governor Andy Beshear and Republican-dominated legislature could work together on, Senate President Robert Stivers told WUKY, "it depends on where (Beshear) wants to come from." The Manchester Republican, who called Bevin's decison not to concede "appropriate," went on to repeat that expanded gaming, a key plank in Beshear's plan to fund the state's ailing pension system, is a nonstarter.
Beshear has vowed to appoint a new state Board of Education and rescind the governor's Medicaid changes, which would add new restrictions to the expansion enacted under the Democrat's father, former Gov. Steve Beshear. Pointing to teachers, Beshear described the election results as "your victory."
Bevin's showing also prompted a response from President Trump, who only one day before at a Lexington rally described Bevin as a "patriot" who "put his whole life at stake to help this state." Despite polls showing a dead heat between the gubernatorial candidates, the president tweeted that he was responsible for a 15 or "maybe 20" point increase in the governor's race.
Trump's 2020 campaign manager also sounded much less enthusiastic, releasing a statement saying, "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."