Live Election Blog 2019: Kentucky Chooses a Governor, Attorney General, Other Statewide Offices

Nov 5, 2019

Credit thinkstock

Democrat Andy Beshear Garners Most Votes As Republicans Sweep Down Ballot Races

Democrat Andy Beshear got about 4,500 more votes on Election Day than incumbent Gov. Matt Bevin. Several media outlets called the race for Beshear, but the Associated Press deemed it too close to call late Tuesday as Republicans swept all other statewide races.

Bevin called the race “a squeaker” when he spoke first Tuesday evening — but he promised not to concede.

“This is a close, close race,” Bevin said at the Republican gathering at the Galt House Hotel in Louisville. “We are not conceding this race by any stretch. Not a chance.”

But Beshear, the current attorney general and son of former Gov. Steve Beshear, claimed victory.

“From now on, the doors of your state capitol will always be open,” Beshear said to cheers at the Democratic party at the C2 event venue in downtown Louisville.

It was a contentious campaign for the two front-runners, with Bevin and Beshear frequently at odds and trading words.

As Attorney General, Beshear challenged Bevin through a series of lawsuits. He pushed for expanding gaming in Kentucky to bring in revenue, rather than raising sales taxes.

The two disagree on abortion, with Bevin favoring policies that would restrict access.

“It wouldn’t bother me one lick if there wasn’t an abortion provider in this state. It wouldn’t. Our state wouldn’t be less well-served by that,” he said last month at a campaign event.

Beshear is opposed to late-term procedures.

“When you’re the attorney general, you work with victims of that trauma and they deserve options,” he said during a debate last week.

Incumbent Bevin received a burst of support from prominent Republicans in recent days, including President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson. That did not end up being enough to carry the governor to victory.

Bevin is known for his conservatism, including his attempts to change programs like Medicaid in Kentucky.

Some voters who support educators said that they opposed Bevin because they perceived him of being disrespectful of teachers. His administration also sought to investigate teachers who participated in sickouts earlier this year to protest legislation at the Capitol.

9:13 p.m.: The Herald-Leader has called the race for Kentucky Governor in favor of Andy Beshear. The Associated Press has said the race is too close to call. 

With 100 percent of precincts reporting, Beshear has a lead of 4,658 votes out of more than 1.4 million counted, or a margin of 0.3 percentage points.

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 process for which would be dictated by the court.

8:56 p.m.: With 100% of precincts reporting Andy Beshear is leading with more than 4,600 votes over Matt Bevin. 

8:23 p.m.: With 99% of precincts reporting Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear is ahead of Governor Matt Bevin by about 8,100 votes. 

Republican Michael Adams Wins Kentucky Secretary of State

Kentucky’s next Secretary of State is Republican Michael Adams. Adams, an election lawyer with ties to prominent conservative politicians, defeated Democrat Heather French Henry, a former state government official and Miss America.

The Secretary of State is Kentucky’s top election official, and also oversees administrative functions such as maintaining business filings.

Adams is an election lawyer in Louisville and serves as counsel for the Great America Committee, a political action committee created by Vice President Mike Pence.

Gov. Matt Bevin appointed Adams to the State Board of Elections, a post he resigned earlier this year to run for secretary of state.

Adams said last month he is proud of his connections to federal politicians.

“I think it’s a good thing for me to have those relationships, it would help Kentucky to have me in this office and help me get the support that we need from from Washington to help fund our improvement of our infrastructure in Kentucky,” Adams said.

He also said he is able to work with individuals from both parties and would not serve as Secretary of State in a partisan manner.

Adams will succeed Alison Lundergan Grimes, a Democrat, who is term-limited and could not seek reelection. The Secretary of State’s office has been under scrutiny in the past year, following accusations that Grimes improperly accessed voter registration data. After that, the Republican-led legislature made the Secretary of State a non-voting member of the State Board of Elections.

Both Adams and Henry said they would support restoring voting rights to the Secretary of State on the State Board of Elections in the future.

7:57 p.m.: The Associated Press has called the race for Secretary of State in favor of Michael Adams. 

Republican Mike Harmon Wins Reelection for Kentucky Auditor

Former legislator and Republican incumbent Mike Harmon has won reelection as Kentucky’s Auditor of Public Accounts.

Voters elected Harmon over Democrat Sheri Donahue and Libertarian Kyle Hugenberg to serve another four years as the state’s chief auditor. With 78 percent of precincts reporting, Harmon received 55 percent of the vote. In the role, Harmon will continue to serve as an independent office tasked with reviewing accounts, financial transactions and the performance of all state government.

Harmon said he plans to use his second term to build on his accomplishments.

“But our goal is to, one, continue to be a resource, try to be more resource, try to continue the great work we’ve done and more specifically try to look for things that have not already been audited,” Harmon said in an interview last month.

Harmon graduated from Eastern Kentucky University, served 13 years in the state legislature and in 2015, defeated incumbent Democrat Adam Edelen to become auditor.

Over the past four years, Harmon has used the office to oversee special audits of the state’s pension systems, the Administrative Offices of the CourtsKentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources and the University of Louisville Foundation.

Republican Ryan Quarles Reelected Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner

Republican incumbent Ryan Quarles has won reelection as Kentucky’s Commissioner of Agriculture.

The former state representative staked much of his bid for reelection on his efforts to develop the Kentucky Proud program, which markets local farm products, and efforts to expand hemp farming in the state — a plank that appears to have resonated with Kentucky voters.

In addition, Quarles has emphasized his status as a Kentucky native, working to improve the lives of Kentucky’s small farmers.

“I also believe that I’m the strongest candidate for this office because I grew up on a Kentucky farm. My family continues to farm today,” Quarles said ahead of the election. “It’s the primary source of income for my family growing up and continues to be so for my dad, and that separates myself from the competition.”

At only 36 years, Quarles holds two masters degrees, three undergraduate degrees and a doctorate in education from Vanderbilt University. He served in the legislature from 2010 until 2015.

Quarles defeated Democratic challenger Robert Conway.

Republican Allison Ball Wins Reelection As Kentucky Treasurer

Republican Allison Ball has won a second term as state treasurer against challenger Michael Bowman, according to the Associated Press.

In a previous interview, Ball pointed to her work launching projects like a state spending transparency website, and starting a savings and investment program for Kentuckians with disabilities. She said starting these accounts, which were enabled by a federal law, allow people with disabilities who are enrolled in programs like Social Security Income to save more money without losing that benefit.

Ball has a law degree from the University of Kentucky, and was previously a bankruptcy and commercial litigation attorney.

She’s said one challenge for her office is the ongoing pension crisis.

“You need to be need to tighten your belt as much as you can and make sure you’re using money as wisely as you can be,” Ball said. “And that’s one reason I also push for transparency, because I think it’s important that people see where their money is going when you don’t have an abundance of money.”

The treasurer’s office is in charge of Kentucky’s money and making sure state spending is legal and constitutional. And while candidates running for treasurer race run on a political party ticket, the job was created to serve as a watchdog over taxpayer dollars, no matter the political party in the legislature or who’s in the Governor’s mansion. Ball said she’s done just that.

“I have not only done a job the way it’s supposed to be done, I’ve been that watchdog on taxpayer dollars,” Ball said. “I’ve stopped fraud: I caught a $5.3 billion fraud attempt several months ago, caught embezzlement attempts, I made sure whatever comes out of my office legal, was constitutional was correct. And that’s the core function of the job.”

The treasurer also sits on several state boards, such as the Kentucky Teachers’ Retirement System, the Lottery Board and the Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority. The office is also in charge of state unclaimed property, such as rental deposits that a Kentuckian never had returned, old life insurance policies, stocks or paychecks. They serve four year terms, and can be elected twice.

Republican Daniel Cameron Elected As Kentucky Attorney General

Daniel Cameron, a 33-year-old corporate attorney and former counselor for Mitch McConnell has won the election to become Kentucky’s Attorney General.

At less than half the age of his Democratic opponent, Daniel Cameron will become the state’s first African-American to win state office at the top of the ticket.

Cameron defeated Former Attorney General and House Speaker Greg Stumbo.

Throughout the campaign, David Cameron’s Democratic opponent attempted to paint the Republican as young and inexperienced. Cameron touted the D.C. connections he made in his time working with McConnell.

As attorney general, Cameron will defend the state in court, file lawsuits on behalf of the state and investigate potential criminal activity.

Cameron has said he will pursue litigation against opioid manufacturers and look at criminal justice reforms. He is opposed to legalizing marijuana, but is open to discussing medical pot, he said in a KET interview.

On abortion, Cameron has said he believes in the “sanctity of life” and will defend laws passed by the state’s Legislature, which legislation that is currently being challenged in court.

“I’m here to tell you that Daniel Cameron as attorney general is going to protect the sanctity of life,” he said.

Cameron touts his relationship with McConnell and President Donald Trump, and says he played a role in getting Justice Neil Gorsuch confirmed to the Supreme Court in 2016. Cameron also worked as a spokesman for the Kentucky Smart on Crime Coalition, a group that advocates for criminal justice reform measures in the state.

7:12 p.m.: The Herald-Leader has called the race for Attorney General in favor of Daniel Cameron. 

As well as for Mike Harmon for a second term as State Auditor. 

6:20 p.m.: With about 17% percent reporting Governor Matt Bevin has nearly a 4% lead over Attorney General Andy Beshear in the Governor’s race.

Daniel Cameron is ahead with a 20 percent lead in the race for Attorney General.

Ryan Quarles has a strong lead with 61% of the vote over Robert Haley Conway with 35.5%.

5:53 p.m.: So far today, the Attorney General’s Election hotline has received 77 calls. Most of those calls were about procedure or voting machines or residency questions.

The most calls to the hotline came from Jefferson County. Of those 30 calls, most were under those same general categories, while one was about disrupting polls and another was about dead people voting. 

3:08 p.m.:  Voters in Daviess County have been showing up at the polls in a steady steam today.

Daviess County Clerk Leslie McCarty says her office got a preview of a higher-than-expected turnout when they counted absentee ballots. She says they sent out 353 and had 345 mailed back--an extremely high rate of return.

So McCarty says today’s busy polls are not a complete surprise.

“I think we were projecting and the state was projecting a 34 to 37 percent turnout. And I really think it’s going to be more than that. From what I’ve understood from poll workers, places have been steady, some of them packed.”

Like many counties in the state, Daviess County had a hard time finding enough poll workers in the previous election. The county combined some precincts, reducing the overall need for poll workers this time around.

2:30 p.m.: Reports of high voter turnout are being seen in parts of Kentucky.

Hardin County Clerk Debbie Donnelly told WKU Public Radio that polling places have been busy throughout the day there.

She’s predicting 40% of registered Hardin County voters will cast ballots by the end of the day, a figure that would be higher than the prediction made by the Secretary of State’s Office of a 31% turnout across the commonwealth.

Pulaski County Clerk Linda Burnett says 33% of voters there had voted by 3 p.m. eastern, suggesting a larger-than-expected turnout in that area, as well.

2:25 p.m.: Barren County Clerk Helena Chase Birdwell told WKU Public Radio several precincts there are reporting higher than expected turnout. She says the number of absentee ballots returned in her county was also better than usual.

She predicts a 35% turnout in Barren County.

2:14 p.m.: Months of campaigning are culminating at the polls Tuesday as Kentuckians choose their statewide leaders for the next four years. 

At the top of the ballot is the race for governor featuring Republican incumbent Matt Bevin and his Democratic challenger Andy Beshear. 

Polling released last month showed the candidates tied, suggesting the results will be close. 

Among the voters in Warren County was Michaela Pendley, who said she has issues with the Bevin administration.

“Not helping people that are disadvantaged or discrimination against the LGBTQ community. Matt Bevin has not done a good job for Kentucky. He doesn’t speak for Kentuckians and I believe that Andy Beshear will be doing a great job as governor,” she said.

Voter Sam Lindsay expressed a different sentiment after casting his ballot at Moss Middle School in Warren County.

“The governor we got is doing good and I want to make sure he stays in there. Of course, that’s my one vote and hopefully it counts. I just want to make sure we keep the Republicans in and the Democrats out,” he said.

Live Blog: General Election 2019

It’s election day in Kentucky and polls are open until 6 p.m. local time. If you’re in line at 6 p.m., you will be allowed to vote. We’ll have results as they come in from around the state. 

 

On this year’s ballot, you’ll see all of the state’s big constitutional offices: Governor/Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of State, Attorney General, Auditor of Public Accounts, State Treasurer and Commissioner of Agriculture.

Governor/Lieutenant Governor 

Republican Governor Matt Bevin is running for a second term in office, but his running mate has changed. Bevin replaced current Lt. Gov. Jenean Hampton with state Senator Ralph Alvarado.

 

Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear is running with educator Jacqueline Coleman as his Lieutenant Governor. 

Secretary of State 

Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes has already served two terms and can’t seek a third.

 

Democrat Heather French Henry and Republican Michael Adams are competing to fill her seat.

 

Henry recently served as the commissioner and deputy commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs.

 

Adams is an election lawyer who previously served on the State Board of Elections. 

Attorney General 

Because Attorney General Andy Beshear is running for Governor, his seat is open.

 

Former Attorney General Greg Stumbo, a Democrat, is trying to win back the position. He left the office in 2008 and was House Speaker until he lost his reelection bid in 2016.

 

Republicans are hoping to gain control of the office for the first time since 1947 with Daniel Cameron. He’s a former general counsel to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

 

If Cameron is elected, he’ll be the first African American to hold statewide office running on his own ticket. 

Auditor of Public Accounts 

Incumbent Republican Mike Harmon is seeking reelection.

 

Democrat Sheri Donahue and Libertarian Kyle Hugenberg are challenging him.

State Treasurer 

Incumbent Republican Allison Ball is seeking reelection. She points to her work to create a state spending transparency website among other efforts as reasons voters should give her another term.

 

Democrat Michael Bowman, a U.S. Bank branch manager in Louisville is running to replace her. He lost a race for Jefferson County Clerk last year. He wants to make a phone app to make it easier for Kentuckians to find out if they have unclaimed property. 

Commissioner of Agriculture 

Incumbent Republican Ryan Quarles is seeking a second term.

 

Democrat Robert Haley Conway and Libertarian Josh Gilpin are seeking to replace him.