Republican incumbent Gov. MattBevin refused to concede late Tuesday in Kentuckys gubernatorial race, citing unspecified irregularities -- potentially kickstarting weeks of uncertaintyas the closely-watched contestwith national implications remains too close to call.
Meanwhile, Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear held a press conference Wednesday morning in Louisville, declaring victory by saying, Last night, the election ended. It ended and its time to move forward with a smooth transition.
With 100percent of precincts reporting, Bevin was behind Beshear by5,333 votes out of more than 1.4 million counted,49.2 percent to 48.8percent.Libertarian candidate John Hicks received 2percent.
The Associated Press said it could not declare a winner, owing to the tight margin. The Democratic National Committee and Beshears campaign, however, claimed victory.
My expectation is that he [Bevin]will honor the election that was held tonight, Beshear said in a speech to supporters Tuesday. That he will help us make this transition. And Ill tell you what, we will be ready for that first day in office, and I look forward to it.
And Democrat Amy McGrath, who is running in a long-shot bid to unseat GOP Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in 2020, said simply:All I have to say is: Mitch, youre next.
Bevin, however, called it a close, close race and said he wasnt conceding by any stretch. He added, We want the process to be followed, and there is a process.On Monday, Trump had called on an angry majority of votersto boost the relatively unpopular Bevin in Kentucky, in a nod to Richard Nixons silent majority and Ronald Reagans moral majority.
TRUMP CALLS ON ANGRY MAJORITY TO BOOST BEVIN, IN NOD TO REAGANS MORAL MAJORITY AND NIXONS SILENT MAJORITY
The history-making evening also saw Republicans decisively hold onto the governorship in Mississippi despite a fierce Democratic challenge, while electing Kentuckys first black attorney general. Democrats, meanwhile, took complete control over the Virginia statehouse for the first time in 26 years.
Although Bevin has not outlined his next steps, Kentucky law provides for a variety of possible avenues.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 courts approval for a recount.
Bevin could also mount a legal challenge to the election results, assuming he could identifysufficient grounds. Such a move could expose Bevin to criticism that, like defeated Georgia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, he was refusing to accept the legitimate resultof an election. (Abrams lost by 50,000 votes, a much larger margin than Bevins current deficit.)
Regardless of the final outcome, the razor-thin margin in the race did not come as a surprise to Republicans. Although Trump carried deep-red Kentucky by 30 points in the 2016 presidential election, Bevin has long been very unpopular for a Republican in the state, owing in part to his numerous spats with striking public school teachers and his plan to address a growing pension crisis.
Bevinsignificantly underperformedthe rest of the GOP ticket on the ballot in Kentucky on Tuesday, as Republican candidateDaniel Cameron handily won hisrace to become the states next attorney general. Cameronmade history as thefirst African-American to be electedKentucky Attorney Generaland the first Republican to hold the post in more than 70 years.
In a strongindicatorthat Bevin isunpopular among Kentuckians, Cameron received 774,864 votes in his 15-percentage-point win -- while Bevin garnered only approximately 700,000 votes for his marquee gubernatorial bid. It is highly unusual for down-ballot races to attract more voter interest than gubernatorial contests.
Meanwhile,Republican attorney and former elections board member Michael Adams was easily elected as Kentuckys next secretary of state, andRepublican Mike Harmon wasre-elected as Kentucky auditor. Additionally, Republican Ryan Quarles was re-elected as Kentucky commissioner of agriculture, and GOP incumbent Allison Ball won a second term as Kentuckys treasurer.
Those results --and Bevins unique vulnerabilities --led Republicans to dismiss claims that the gubernatorial race had any meaningfulnational implications.
DEMS SWEEP VIRGINIA STATE HOUSE, SENATE ELECTIONS, CAPPING STATES DRAMATIC LEFTWARD SHIFT
President Trumps rally helped five of six Kentucky Republicans win clear statewide victories, including Attorney General-elect Daniel Cameron, who will be the first black A.G. in Kentucky history and the first Republican to hold the office since 1948, Brad Parscale, Trumps 2020 campaign manager, said in statement to Fox News late Tuesday. 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. A final outcome remains to be seen.
Commentator Philip Klein noted that Beshears Democratic father won the governorship in Kentucky by strong margins in 2011, just a year before Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney carried the state by double-digits.
However, in what could be a worrying sign for Republicans in the long term, Bevin underperformed inNorthern Kentucky, typically a GOP stronghold, and among suburban voters in several counties outside of Cincinnati.
Apparently aware of his problems with voters, Bevin had remarkedin February,There has never been a poll ever taken since Ive been a candidate or since Ive been governor ... that has ever found me above water on anything or likely to win anything, ever. ... Polls, shmolls.
Polls, shmolls.— Republican Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin, in February
Calling health care a basic human right, Beshear supports inserting the federal Affordable Care Acts consumer protections into state law. He also vowed to rescind Bevins efforts to require some able-bodied Medicaid recipients to get a job, go to school or volunteer to keep their benefits.
Beshear, whose father set federal health care reform into motion in Kentucky when he was governor, said at least 95,000 people would lose coverage if Bevins work requirements became law. A federal judge blocked the work requirements, and Bevins administration is appealing.
Also on Tuesday, Virginia Democrats took control of the state Senate and state House, as the state continues its dramatic leftward shift. The GOP had a slim majority in each chamber going into Tuesdays elections.
Democrats in Virginia nowcontrolboth the executive mansion and the General Assembly for the first time in more than two decades.Outside groups and political parties in Virginia had beentest-driving expensive campaigns for months to win over and motivate voters in a state that was until recently considered a presidential battleground.
Ofthe four statesholding legislative elections this year, Virginia was the only one with control of the statehouse up for grabs. Virginia has been trending blue for years thanks to growth in more diverse, liberal suburbs and cities, and population declines in more rural, conservative areas.
Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, wasnot up for reelection Tuesday but hadbeen actively campaigning for his partys candidates after bouncing back from a near politically fatalblackface scandalearlier this year.
Over in Mississippi,GOP candidate Tate Reeves soundly defeated Democratic rivalJim Hood.With 99percent of precincts reporting, Reeves was ahead52.3 percent (442,444 votes) to 46.5 percent (393,520 votes).
Hood, the attorney general, had been seeking to become the second Democratic governor in the Deep South. Reeves, who gotcampaign helpfrom both Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, is currently lieutenant governor. The president visited the state on Tuesday.
Reeves will succeed term-limited Republican Gov. Phil Bryant.
President Trumps rally and endorsement in Mississippi undoubtedly had an impact and helped Governor-elect Tate Reeves nail down his victory, Parscale told Fox News.Governor Reeves will be a tremendous conservative leader for Mississippians in fighting for freedom and keeping taxes low. He will also be a key ally as 2020 approaches and President Trump continues building momentum for re-election.
Democrats sawHood as their strongest nominee in nearly a generation in a conservative state where Republicans have been governor for 24 of the past 28 years.
There were concerns in advance of the race that Mississippis Jim Crow-era election process could have made the election difficult to decide.The states 1890 constitution requires a statewide candidate to win a majority of both the popular vote and an electoral vote, with one electoral vote awarded to the top vote-getter in each of 122 state House districts.
If nobody had won both, the election would have beendecided by the state House, now controlled by Republicans.
Headlininga fired-up rally at Rupp Arena in Lexington on Monday night, Trump jokingly acknowledged that the elections could be seen as a barometer of his popular support amid Democrats impeachment inquiry.
If Republicanstriumphed, Trump remarked, the media wouldcover it as a ho-hum event -- but if Democrats won, the day would be portrayed as a major loss for the White House.
You cant let that happen to me! Trump said, laughing.
Top Democratshave acknowledgedthat Trumps influence helped the GOP sweep key House special elections in North Carolina in September.
But, Democrats ongoing impeachment inquiry has blunted some of the presidents momentum. Tuesdays races were voters first major opportunity to cast ballots since the probe began.
Another key race is coming up: Thelone Democratic governor in the Deep South, Louisianas John Bel Edwards, is in a Nov. 16 runoff as he seeks a second term. Trump is set to headline a rally in Monroe, Louisiana, on behalf of GOP candidate Eddie Rispone on Wednesday.
The Louisiana race has become heated in recent days, with Rispone unloading on John Bel Edwards in personal terms and claiming hes soft on crime.
Rispone is doing what hes got to do, Roy Fletcher, a veteran Republican consultant, told The Advocate. He knocked the piss out of [Rep. Ralph] Abraham, who ran in the gubernatorial primary but didnt qualify for the runoff.
DEMS ADMIT TRUMP HELPED NORTH CAROLINA GOP CANDIDATES SWEEP SPECIAL ELECTIONS, AS RNC TOUTS DATA OPERATIONS
But the races tough rhetoric pales in comparison to the tension that marked theKentucky contest. Bevin drew perhaps his harshestcriticism when he lashed out at teachers who used sick days to go on strike. In 2018, Bevin asserted without evidence that an unidentified child who had been left home alone somewhere in the state had been sexually assaulted on a day of mass school closings as teachers rallied.
He apologized but doubled down earlier this year by connecting a girls shooting in Louisville with school closings caused by teacher protests.
Bevin wants to be bailed out by President Trump, who won the state by a mile in 2016, and it seems like he is bringing up impeachment about every chance he can get, said Fox News anchor and chief national correspondent Ed Henry.
ILHAN OMAR CALLS FOR MASS MOVEMENT OF THE WORKING CLASS, AS CROWD CHANTS LOCK HIM UP
And Beshear, the son of Kentuckys last Democratic governor, countered Bevins campaignwith a disciplined campaign style that stressed what he called kitchen table issues education, jobs and health care. He exploited Bevins combative style, branding the governor as a bully for a running feud with teachers who opposed his efforts to revamp the states woefully underfunded public pension systems.
Leah Askarinam, a reporter and analyst with the nonpartisan newsletter Inside Elections, noted that even in these increasingly partisan times, voters in states like Kentucky are willing to cross party lines when it comes to governance of their specific states.
Gubernatorial candidates can campaign on issues that are state-specific like the states budget and education funding -- and they can cross party lines without facing the same kind of political pressure as Senate candidates who have to work with a national legislature, Askarinam said. Weve seen candidates like John Bel Edwards support state policies that limit abortion access, for example, which is a much more difficult stance to take as a Democrat in the Senate.
The Kentucky election was to settle a bitter rivalry that stretched from the statehouse to courtrooms and finally to the campaign. Wielding his authority as the states top lawyer, Beshear filed a series of lawsuits challenging Bevins executive actions to make wholesale changes to boards and commissions and sought to block Bevin-backed pension and education initiatives. In the highest-profile case, a Beshear lawsuit led Kentuckys Supreme Court to strike down a Bevin-supported pension law on procedural grounds last year.
Bevin ramped up the rivalry by frequently attacking Beshear and his challengers father in deeply personal terms. Beshears father, former two-term Gov. Steve Beshear, preceded Bevin in office.
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Andy Beshear took a shot at Bevin on Tuesday after Trumps visit.
He had to have someone come to town for him, because he knew he couldnt win it on his own merits, Beshear said.
Fox News Jim Murphy, Michael Tobin, Paul Steinhauser and The Associated Press contributed to this report. A previous version of this article included descriptions of Kentucky election law and election procedure from the Election Law Society blogmaintained byUniversity of Kentucky College of Law Professor Joshua Douglas.B: