Republican Matt Bevin wins in runaway Kentucky gubernatorial election

Posted In Elections

Democrats barely withstand conservative wave and hold onto Attorney General & Secretary of State posts; GOP win 4 of 6 statewide offices

The conservative momentum finally overtook the state of Kentucky Tuesday, as Tea Party Republican Matt Bevin became the first governor from Louisville and Lt. Gov. candidate Jenean Hampton became first African American to win statewide office in Kentucky as Republicans rolled to victories in several key races.

 Bevin and running mate Hampton were able to drive greater-than-anticipated GOP voters to the polls to defeat Jack Conway (D) and third-party candidate Drew Curtis by a margin of 52% to 44% to 4%. Conway and his running mate Sannie Overly held consistent leads in all of the polls leading to election day, but were unable to stem the increasingly conservative tide of the Kentucky electorate.

Bevin, from Louisville, is a businessman, Tea Party candidate, and father of 9. This is his first political win, following a decisive defeat at the hands of U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell during the 2014 Senate primary. Hampton hails from Bowling Green and is also retired military.

Bevin and Hampton will be sworn into office and have inauguration festivities on December 8th.  In the meantime, Bevin will immediately begin putting together a transition team to select his senior Cabinet members and other members of his administration, as he must quickly prepare a two-year state budget to present to the Kentucky General Assembly in late January. 

 Bevin succeeds two-term Democratic Governor Steve Beshear, who was term limited and is now retiring from public office. A special election will be held for all legislative seats currently held by winning statewide candidates.

 Attorney General

The son of current Governor Steve Beshear, Andy Beshear, very narrowly defeated current Senate Judiciary Chair Whitney Westerfield in the race for Attorney General by less than 2,000 votes.  Beshear is from Louisville and is an attorney for the law firm of Stites and Harbison, his father’s former firm.  Beshear heavily outraised Westerfield by a margin of $5 million dollars to $300,000 in the race.

 Secretary of State

Alison Lundergan Grimes (D-Lexington) narrowly defeated challenger Steve Knipper (R) to retain her job as Secretary of State by a margin of 51.3% to 48.6%.  Grimes lost a grueling campaign against Republican U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell last November, but capitalized on the high name recognition she earned in that race to barely avoid the Bevin-lead sweep by an unknown and underfunded Republican candidate. 

Auditor of Public Accounts

In a significant surprise, incumbent Auditor Adam Edelen (D-Lexington) was narrowly defeated by Republican Mike Harmon by a margin of 51.8% to 48.1%.  Harmon, a mortgage loan officer and state Representative from Danville, was vastly outspend by Edelen, yet was able to ride the Bevin wave to victory.

 Treasurer

By a wide margin of 61% to 39%, political newcomer Allison Ball (R-Prestonsburg) defeated current State Representative Rick Nelson (D-Middlesboro) in the race for State Treasurer. Prior to running for office, Ball served as an Assistant County Attorney.

 Commissioner of Agriculture

State Representative Ryan Quarles (R-Georgetown) easily defeated Democrat Jean-Marie Lawson Spann for Commissioner of Agriculture by a margin of 60% to 40%.  Quarles, an attorney who has served 6 years as a state representative, will replace outgoing Commissioner Jamie Comer who narrowly lost to Matt Bevin in the May Republican Gubernatorial primary.  Comer was previously the only Republican constitutional officer in the state.

 What’s next?

The next Governor and Lt. Governor will be sworn in on December 8th, while the other constitutional officers will take office on January 4th.

There also will have to be special elections to fill the state House seats being vacated by Commissioner- Elect Ryan Quarles and Auditor-Elect Mike Harmon.  Depending on what day they officially resign from their House seats, Governor Beshear, Governor-Elect Bevin, or Speaker Greg Stumbo will set the dates for the special elections.  

Quarles’ district is just west of Lexington and includes Scott, Owen, and part of Fayette County.  Harmon’s district includes Boyle and Casey counties in Central Kentucky. With the balance in the House sitting at 54 Democrats and 46 Republicans, all of these races will be seen as must win by both parties in 2016. 

As always, we are looking ahead to the 2016 elections, which in addition to the Presidential race will see U.S. Sen. Rand Paul’s Senate seat on the ballot along with half of the state Senate and all 100 seats in the state House of Representatives.