Kentucky

February 3, 1900: William Goebel Assassinated

Only one sitting governor in the history of the United States has been assassinated, which is remarkable over two hundred and forty years of history and the number of men who have served as governors.  The very unlucky man was William Justus Goebel.  A Democrat, Goebel had an abrasive personality.  He was not a glad-hander, greeting only his closest friends.  His features were described as reptilian.  Nonetheless, his championship of populist economics as a Democrat gave him the political heft to win a State Senate seat in Kentucky.

In 1895 he had a shootout with a political opponent, former Confederate General John Lawrence Sanford.  Goebel had referred to Sanford as Gonorrhea John in a newspaper article.  Witnesses were not sure who fired first.  Sanford’s bullet passed through Goebel’s coat and ripped his trousers.  Goebel’s bullet hit Sanford’s head, Sanford dying five hours later.  Placed on trial, Goebel claimed self-defense and was acquitted.

Goebel ran for Governor as a Democrat in 1899.  He was opposed by Republican William Taylor and John Y. Brown, a former Democrat governor, who ran as the candidate of a faction of the Kentucky Democrats.  Taylor won the election, beating Goebel by 2,383 votes.  The Democrat controlled General Assembly invalidated enough votes to allow Goebel to win.  Republicans were incensed and the state seemed to be heading for civil war.  William Taylor was sworn in pending a judicial determination of who won.

On January 30, 1900 Goebel, while walking near the State Capitol in Frankfort, came under fire from persons unknown.  Five or six shots were fired from the State Capitol with one seriously wounded in the chest.  The next day Goebel was sworn in as governor, dying on February 3, 1900.  The Kentucky Court of Appeals eventually ruled that the General Assembly had acted legally in having Goebel sworn in. Continue reading

Bluegrass State Goes GOP

 

Yesterday, in a move ominous for Democrats in 2016, the GOP had a very good night in Kentucky.  This is significant in that Kentucky is a state where Democrats have tended to dominate at the state wide level, even while Kentucky was reliably Republican in Federal elections:

Republican Matt Bevin easily won Kentucky’s governorship on Tuesday as the GOP made major inroads in a state that had stubbornly resisted the party at the state level even as it voted reliably Republican in federal contests in recent years.

Bevin, a self-funding investment manager, rode a late surge of outside support from national Republicans to defeat Democrat Jack Conway, 53 percent to 44 percent, according to The Associated Press. Bevin will become just the second Republican to inhabit the governor’s mansion in Frankfort in more than four decades.

 

Polls prior to the vote showed a close race, with most surveys giving Conway, the state’s sitting attorney general, a slight advantage.

Bevin’s victory capped a successful night for Republicans, who picked up four of the six independently elected statewide positions despite going into Tuesday with just one GOP officeholder. Their victories included ousting state Auditor Adam Edelen, who was thought to be Democrats’ top pick to challenge GOP Sen. Rand Paul next year.

It also marked a stunning political turnaround for Bevin, who has spent $7 million trying to win elected office between this run and his failed 2014 Senate primary against now-Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. In 2014, he lost the primary to McConnell by 25 percentage points and was mocked by fellow Republicans as an “East Coast Con Man” and a supporter of cockfighting. He entered the governor’s race just hours before the filing deadline and won a May primary against two more establishment-oriented Republicans by a mere 83 votes.

The general election was ugly, with both candidates repeatedly impugning the other’s integrity and Conway repeatedly blitzing Bevin with negative ads branding the eventual victor as a hypocrite and a liar. Bevin was outspent for most of the contest and had his tactics consistently questioned by his fellow Republicans. But a late $2.5 million spending blitz from the Republican Governors Association helped Bevin close the gap in television advertising in the final weeks.

“We need a fresh start. We truly do,” Bevin said in his victory speech. “We’ve run this race our way. We have not chosen to go into the trough. We’ve taken the proverbial high road.”

Bevin, who has often clashed with the party establishment in the state, said he was happy Republicans swept into state offices, but noted he was even “more grateful tonight was such a good night for conservatives in Kentucky.”

Bevin’s win throws into doubt the future of KyNect, the state’s Obamacare exchange, and Medicaid expansion in the state. It also means that an expansion of early childhood education — something Conway had made a priority — is unlikely in the near future.

The Republican gains continue two distressing Obama-era trends for Democrats. The party will now hold just 17 governorships, down from 29 in 2008. Only one of those governors — Virginia’s Terry McAuliffe — hails from the South. (Democrats will have a chance to pick up a governor’s mansion in the South on Nov. 21, when Democrat John Bel Edwards faces GOP Sen. David Vitter in Louisiana’s gubernatorial race.) Continue reading

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