When a Democrat Bested Gov. Matt Bevin in Election, What Happened Down Ballot Was Also Intriguing

Nov 11, 2019

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Some political observers may be scratching their heads over how a reliably red state that embraces President Donald Trump chose a Democrat over the Republican incumbent for governor in last week’s election in Kentucky. 

Outgoing Attorney General Andy Beshear emerged the apparent winner with a more than 5,100-vote advantage over Matt Bevin. 

Joel Turner, a political science professor at Western Kentucky University, doesn’t think the governor’s race was a referendum on President Donald Trump, whom he expects to win Kentucky again in the 2020 election by 20 to 30 points.  Turner says the results from the Nov. 5 contest instead reflect widespread dissatisfaction with Bevin.

“I think what it is, is not even a rejection of the Republican party in the state," Turner told WKU Public Radio. "I think it’s a rejection of Bevin, maybe not so much his politics, but his abrasiveness.”

The entire Republican ticket other than Bevin emerged victorious in last week’s election.  The top vote-getter was State Treasurer Alison Bal,l who earned 856,144 votes. That's 151,384 votes more than Governor Bevin, who received the least amount of votes of any GOP candidate running for statewide office.

Attorney General-elect Daniel Cameron was the next highest vote-getter with 823,343 votes.  Turner says the results put Senator Mitch McConnell in a good position heading into the 2020 election.

“You’ll hear people say it’s a rejection of Trump because Bevin lost, but Daniel Cameron was Mitch McConnell’s hand-picked candidate in many ways to run for the attorney general seat," noted Turner. "He had his full endorsement and he won convincingly.”

Bevin has yet to concede the governor’s race to Beshear and a recanvass of vote totals will be held on Thursday.  The process will require county clerks to count absentee ballots and check printouts to make sure the numbers they submitted to the State Board of Elections were correct.