Kentucky voters have spoken and the race for the governor’s seat is going to be a battle between two familiar political rivals.
Republican Gov. Matt Bevin received 51 percent of the party’s vote in Tuesday’s primary during his bid for reelection and Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear, who won a hard-fought race with longtime state Rep. Rocky Adkins, will be his opponent in November.
Beshear had a difficult three-way battle with Adkins and former state auditor Adam Edelen. His strong showing in Louisville and west Kentucky proved to be the difference against Adkins, who led for much of the night after carrying eastern Kentucky.
Bevin and Beshear have dueled in court on many issues over the last three years and this race promises to engage many more voters in the general election this November.
“Suing me is not beating me,” Bevin said. “In reality, he’s lost far more cases of significance than he has won. it’s a lot of empty talk but that’s what we’ve been getting from the Beshears for the last 10 years.”
Andy Beshear’s father, Steve, was a two-term governor in Kentucky.
"Tonight we not only won this primary, we did something we're going to do in November — we got more raw votes than Matt Bevin," Beshear told supporters in Louisville
Kentucky’s ailing state pension system and abortion are sure to be hot topics along with healthcare. There are stark differences between the candidates who have been digging at each other since Bevin took office.
“People in Kentucky are going to have a very clear and distinct choice in November,” Bevin said in front of the Governor’s mansion Tuesday night. “Conservative vs. liberal, black and white, it’s that clear.”
Bevin said the defining issues this fall we be the public pension issue, adoption and foster care, tort reform, judicial reform, economic development getting corporate and individual income tax rates in line with other states and modernizing the tax code.
Bevin has tied himself to President Donald Trump, who sent out a phone message to Republican voters on Monday night showing support for him and sent out a tweet on Tuesday reminding voters to go to the polls for him. Bevin will continue to utilize Trump’s overwhelming popularity in Kentucky and Republicans can expect at least one visit from Trump this summer or fall.
Bevin prides himself on job creation in Kentucky and the state having one of its lowest unemployment rates in years.
The governor said he wasn’t surprised that Beshear will be the opponent.
“This has been his election to lose,” Bevin said. “This isn’t that surprising. I think it’s a little concerning to him that he couldn’t even hit 40 percent of the electorate but, in fairness, it was a tight race with three credible candidates on that side. We’ll see what they can do going forward.”
Beshear, who got 38 percent of the Democratic vote, said they will be doing plenty between now and November.
"I will tell you what I see: This race is not about what's going on in Washington, D.C.," Beshear said. "It's not about right versus left. Folks, it's about right versus wrong. It is wrong when Matt Bevin tries to strip healthcare from thousands of our families. It is wrong when he tries to slash our workers’ pensions. It is wrong when he tries to tear down public education and it is wrong when he fails to create good jobs in eastern and western Kentucky, because every part of our state deserves to succeed.”
State Rep. Robert Goforth, who ran a strong race against Bevin, said he would support the governor in November.
““We wish Bevin well and will be supporting him in the fall,” he said. “This effort was not in vain. Kentucky Republicans deserved a choice. Kentuckians deserved someone who is a fighter for the average man and woman who want a fair shake and an honest shot at the American dream.”
Adkins said he would work for the Democratic Party and Beshear’s campaign going forward, as did Edelen.
“This race wasn’t about Rocky Adkins,” Adkins said. “This race was about the people in the state of Kentucky. Being an old athlete, you learn how to win and learn how to win with respect and dignity but, in defeat, you learn how to turn it into something positive. I’ll be trying my best to help Andy Beshear as we go over theses next months and next weeks to help him win in November.”
Edelen, in his concession speech, said the way forward is for a united Democratic Party.
“It starts with us unifying our party behind our nominee, because despite the size of our differences, they are still just family differences,” he said. “And when you compare them to that which separates us from Matt Bevin and his radical cohort, we are easily brought back together by that which binds us, which is a commitment to building the future of Kentucky.”
Voter turnout was nearly 19 percent, which was far better than predicted but still low.
-Rocky Adkins and Stephanie Horne, 125,970
-Andy Beshear and Jacqueline Coleman, 149,438
-Adam Edelen and Gill Holland, 110,159
-Geoff Young and Josh French, 8,923
-Matt Bevin and Ralph Alvarado, 136,060
-Robert Goforth and Michael Hogan, 101,343
-Ike Lawrence and James Anthony Rose, 8,447
-William Woods and Justin Mille, 14,004