Kentucky's incumbent governor, Republican Matt Bevin, has conceded, meaning Democrat Andy Beshear will be the next governor of Kentucky.
In an election night stunner, a Republican incumbent appears to have lost his reelection bid in one of the nation’s most conservative states.
With 99 percent of districts reporting, Democrat Andy Beshear leads Matt Bevin by the slimmest of margins: 49.2 percent to 48.8 percent. Although CNN has not yet called the race for Beshear, both MSNBC and NBC have. Bevin, who had been one of the nation’s least popular governors until his apparent election night defeat, has claimed he will not concede the race.
Should Beshear, who campaigned in favor of expanding Medicaid and restoring the voting rights of felons, hold on, it would be a major coup for Democrats in a reliably conservative area. Kentucky voted for President Donald Trump by a nearly 20 point margin in 2016.
Trump campaigned heavily for Bevin, claiming that a loss would be viewed as a referendum on the president’s 2020 reelection chances. At a rally held on the eve of the election, Trump told Bevin: “If you win, they are going to make it like, ho hum. And if you lose, they are going to say Trump suffered the greatest defeat in the history of the world. You can’t let that happen to me!”
The county that rally was held in, Fayette, elected Beshear by a 32-point margin.
However, it’s difficult to say whether Beshear’s victory is a reflection on the national GOP or merely indicates how deeply Bevin was resented in the state. When teachers protested Bevin’s decision to rollback pension plan by calling in sick, he said it would lead to children being sexually assaulted at home. Comparing protesters to drowning victims, Bevin also claimed, “You just need to knock them out and drag them to shore.”
Bevin was also one of the nation’s most anti-LGBTQ+ governors, once comparing marriage equality to parents marrying their children. In a case that eventually went to the Kentucky Supreme Court, Bevin sided with a local business that refused to print t-shirts for a Pride event. In the trio of landmark workplace discrimination cases currently before the national bench, he asked the U.S. Supreme Court to rule against the right of LGBTQ+ people not to be fired from their jobs because of who they are.
Although Kentucky voters are on the verge of rejecting Bevin’s divisive politics, Republicans swept every other statewide race. In a result that is not good news for Democratic Senate hopeful Amy McGrath, Daniel Cameron — who served as legal counsel for Mitch McConnell — defeated his Democratic opponent by 16.6 points in the Kentucky Attorney General race.
Bevin has yet to tweet about the election results, but Beshear posted a photo with his wife, Brittany, on Tuesday evening. “Thank you, Kentucky!” he said.