In a state where party registration is not a true indication of political sentiment, Republicans dominated at the polls Tuesday despite losing at the top of the ticket.
The state’s conservative bent is strong, even though it appears Matt Bevin’s political fortunes are broken.
It’s important to note the election night tallies will be double-checked in a statewide recanvass and it’s likely Bevin’s camp will challenge the outcomes by appealing to the courts for the more extensive recount process.
Yet the most obvious fact will not change: Bevin is his own worst enemy.
Bevin managed to lose despite a period of economic growth plus positions favorable to pro-life and pro-second Amendment groups – who are devoted voters.
Andy Beshear, who frequently challenged the governor from his position as attorney general, ran as the anti-Bevin. He promised civility and respect for all. Bevin’s undeclared war on educators and spats with state employees, including his own lieutenant governor, raised the level of hostility.
Elections always will be about popularity. It’s hard to embrace policy from a person you find distasteful.
A unified segment of the electorate – primarily professional educators and supporters of public education – were heard at the polls. Elections typically serve as referendums on the incumbents and Kentuckians told him enough is enough.
But the governor has not yet accepted the message. The fussing and counter fussing will continue as the 5,086-vote margin is verified.
This year’s vote also reminds us Kentucky’s election is about Kentucky. It’s not a referendum on President Donald Trump, although Bevin did attempt to nationalize the issues and enjoyed significant support, including an 11th-hour rally featuring the president.
The Republican success has to do with quality candidates, including Hardin County’s own Daniel Cameron, convincing voters GOP sentiments best match their mindset. Even extremely popular candidates such as Heather French Henry, the beloved hero of veterans everywhere, could not overcome the Republican message.
Yet Bevin still lost.
Beshear now is faced with being the governor – not the former governor’s son nor the present governor’s nemesis. With clear Republican majorities in the Senate and House, that will not be an easy job.
Throughout social media, people celebrating Beshear’s victory punctuated their posts with the hashtag #AnybodybutBevin. That’s hardly a mandate.
It won’t be satisfactory for him to simply vilify the legislature for four years as he did with Bevin. Hopefully, Beshear is able to find commonality and build bridges that speak to the values he professed in TV ads.