Some in GOP warn against election challenge in Kentucky

Kentucky Democratic gubernatorial candidate and Attorney General Andy Beshear speaks to the media during a press conference at the Muhammad Ali Center, Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2019, in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Bryan Woolston)

The apparent victory by Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andy Beshear would undoubtedly bring new priorities to Frankfort.

But that’s only if Beshear gets through a recanvassing process and whatever other options Republican Gov. Matt Bevin might choose to pursue in the wake of Tuesday’s narrow election.

The polls might have closed Tuesday, but the official result of the governor’s race will wait until at least Nov. 14 after Bevin asked for a recanvass in light of his 5,189-vote statewide deficit. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are ready to see the outcome.

State Rep. Steve Sheldon, R-Bowling Green, said he looks forward to supporting the voters’ decision.

“I think it is important as state representatives to show that the democratic process does work and when they (voters) make a choice that it is up to us to stand tall and stay firm in our own beliefs, but also support the governor in that office and whatever that entails,” he said.

Sheldon said recanvassing is common under the circumstances.

“I have not heard of any irregularities before,” said Sheldon, referring to Bevin’s claims – made so far without supporting evidence – that “irregularities” happened in Tuesday’s voting. “However, it is a close election and ... when you have 1.4 million votes cast to be within 5,000 votes, I would say it is pretty normal for most people to ask for a recanvassing just to make sure when something is that close.

“It wouldn’t take a whole lot to steer it in a different direction. I’m not Gov. Bevin, but I think if I were running a race of that type of importance in Kentucky, I think I’d probably want to get it right as well.”

Scott Lasley, the head of Western Kentucky University’s political science department and member of the Warren County Republican Party, agreed that the recanvass is an expected step. A recanvass reviews the vote totals in each county, a process that differs from a full recount of every vote.

“With an election this close, I think it is a pretty normal response ... ,” Lasley said. “All it is doing is rechecking the math and making sure that nothing was counted wrong in the process. Very seldom does it lead to any consequential changes.”

Lasley also touched on Bevin’s option of pursuing a full recount.

“Recounts are expensive ... ,” Lasley said. “Typically what happens, there is pressure to move on and that comes from both parties. Obviously Democrats want to move on, but generally people in the party that comes up short, there is pressure from them as well. You’ve seen that as far back as the 2000 election. … There really is some pressure because there are a fair amount of folks who are ready to turn the page and move on to 2020 certainly since (U.S. Sen.) Mitch McConnell is up for reelection.”

Should Beshear be certified as the election winner, the lawmakers and Lasley agree that significant changes would happen in Frankfort.

“As far as governing, I think the tone in Frankfort will change,” said State Rep. Patti Minter, D-Bowling Green. “There are a lot of prominent Republicans that supported Governor-elect Beshear in this election and I think that speaks volumes. So, I am hopeful that we will be able to get back to work for the people of this commonwealth and I look forward to being part of that in the coming session.”

Sheldon said Republican legislators likely will have to “regroup” and “work toward those things that are best for Kentucky.” Republicans control both chambers of the General Assembly, which Lasley said would create an interesting dynamic with a Democratic governor.

“There’s a couple of things (Beshear) will be able to do administratively, as far as things like leadership positions in the bureaucracy that will be impacted,” Lasley said. “I think it will be a little more give-and-take, but what you’re going to see is the Republican leadership is going to have a chance to craft their own agenda without gubernatorial pressure.

“When the governor is from your own party, they have significant influence or sway over the legislature. I think what you will see is the Republican leadership really develop and articulate their agenda and figure out what can be passed, where are places they can work with Gov. Beshear. ... It is going to be interesting to watch.”

Lasley also said Beshear’s victory in Warren County – he claimed 50.8 percent of the vote to Bevin’s 47.6 percent – was a reflection of his campaign’s focus on the area.

Warren County “certainly has gone over the past 20 or 30 years more Republican than not,” Lasley said. “Hillary Clinton got her fifth-highest vote total in Warren County across the state in 2016, but it was like 35 percent, so I think that what you’re seeing is that we’re behaving a little bit more like a suburban area.

“Where you saw Beshear do better tended to be more populated counties. ... Beshear put a lot more emphasis on Warren County than (Bevin) did.”

Minter, who campaigned for Beshear in Bowling Green, said she was excited about the local outcome.

“It is not a surprise given that there are so many educators that live here and, as someone who worked hard on Gov.-elect Beshear’s campaign, I can tell you what people in the community have been telling me all year is that they wanted a change,” Minter said. “They were ready for someone who was going to fight for them, who was going to fight for teachers, who was going to fight for health care and who was going to fight or a better vision for Kentucky. That is exactly what we got on Tuesday night.”

– Follow Daily News reporter Will Whaley on Twitter @Will_Whaley_ or visit bgdailynews.com.

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