He kept the state in suspense for more than a week, but in the end, Gov. Matt Bevin conceded the governor’s race to Attorney General Andy Beshear, rightfully concluding “we’re going to have a change in the governorship based on the vote of the people.”
A race with less than 1 percent between candidates deserved to be recanvassed, and it was, showing, as expected, nearly the same results as Nov. 5. Spurious accusations about voter fraud by Bevin and his supporters were quickly debunked.
Still, the governor deserves our thanks, both for his willingness to serve his adopted state of Kentucky, and for his willingness to step aside when it was clear he had lost his bid to be governor a second time.
The Nov. 14 recanvass put to rest the rumors brought up by Bevin and others that the results were sullied, or the voting machines didn’t work. Bevin understands nail-biter elections; after all, he got into office via an 83-vote win over his 2015 primary opponent, James Comer. He is to be thanked for avoiding a long, costly constitutional crisis at a time when Kentucky lawmakers need to focus on how to pay for schools, health care and prisons.
Bevin often spoke his mind to drastic effect; just how drastic became clear when he became the only Republican on the ticket to lose last week. His attacks on teachers and public education created well-deserved enemies across the state; his attempts to roll back the Medicaid expansion could have grievously wounded one of this state’s greatest success stories.
But Bevin also used his bully pulpit to condemn Frankfort’s worst excesses – a culture of shame and secrecy that covered up a heinous ring of sexual harassment among legislators. He made two changes that Democrats never would: He stopped raiding lottery funds and devoted all of that money to education as was originally promised, and he forced the state to face a looming budget crisis that had been ignored for years.
In his news conference, Bevin rightly called out one of the jewels of American democracy: “We’re blessed to live in a country where things do transition,” he noted. “There’s a natural exchange in leadership.” Let’s hope people around the country remember this next year as a bitter presidential election draws near.
Politics has become increasingly bitter and polarized, and Bevin has contributed mightily to that while in office. We need politicians who are more willing to compromise, listen to opponents and admit when they are wrong.
In his final act in office, Matt Bevin did the right thing.