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