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Beshear Wins, Bevin Won't Concede, Banta Wins House Seat, Voter Turnout Up in NKY

TOPLINES

*Beshear (D) appears to win governor's race narrowly, unseating Bevin (R), but Bevin says he won't concede yet

*Republicans sweep all other statewide offices

*Attorney General-elect Daniel Cameron is first African-American elected to statewide office in Kentucky

*Republican Kim Banta wins special election to fill Diane St. Onge's term in the 63rd House District

*Voter turnout increases by double-digit percentage points in all three Northern Kentucky counties amid push to engage voters here


Democrat Andy Beshear, the state's attorney general, won a promotion on Tuesday night, unseating incumbent Republican Matt Bevin, and becoming Kentucky governor-elect.

But with the margin razor thin, and fewer than 5,000 votes separating them, Bevin said Tuesday night that he will not concede the race. 

"It wouldn't be a Bevin race if it weren't a squeaker," the current governor told supporters, an apparent reference to his 2015 win in the Republican primary in which he prevailed over then-Agriculture Commissioner James Comer by just 83 votes. 

"This is a close, close race," Bevin said. "We are not conceding this race by any stretch. We want the process to be followed and there is a process. We know for a fact that there have been more than a few irregularities. They are very well corroborated."

He did not mention specifics. 

The University of Kentucky Election Law Society explains the process that could follow a close race here.

"Whoever your next governor is, and we truly don't know," Bevin said, while speaking about "strides made in Kentucky" during his administration, "will have the responsibility to keep this trajectory moving forward.

"I will be the first in line wishing well to my opponent if he ends up as our next governor."

Beshear claimed victory on Tuesday night. Some media outlets concurred, but the Associated Press has held off.

As of 10:14 p.m., with 100 percent of precincts reporting across Kentucky, Beshear led Bevin, 711,955 votes to 707,297, or 49.18 percent to 48.86 percent.

Beshear won overwhelming victories in the state's two most populous counties, Jefferson and Fayette, home of Louisville and Lexington, but he also took two Northern Kentucky counties from Bevin. The Democrat won Kenton and Campbell counties, two won by Bevin in his first run for governor in 2015.

Beshear was the sole victorious Democrat in the 2019 statewide races for Kentucky constitutional offices. Even Kenton and Campbell, which surprised many political pundits on Tuesday night by going for Beshear, went for the Republicans in all the other races.

Bevin congratulated all the victorious Republican candidates in his speech.

Beshear said he had not spoken to Bevin during what appeared to be a victory speech.

"My expectation is he will honor the election that was held tonight and that he will help us make this transition, and I tell you what, we will be ready for that first day in office and I look forward to it," Beshear said. "Let's all wish this governor and his family the very best."

Beshear expressed gratitude to "the Commonwealth of Kentucky and its voters" as well as to educators that buoyed his campaign. He said teachers stood up to "bullying" and "helped galvanize our entire state."

Beshear, as attorney general, led legal battles against Bevin and Republican lawmakers over changes to the state pension system and was victorious in court. 

"I felt like that last soldier in Rome but I put on that armor and stepped to that front line every day until 12,000 reinforcements came to the Capitol," Beshear said, a reference to the massive teacher protests in Frankfort that shuttered schools across the state.

Beshear also thanked his parents, including his father, former Governor Steve Beshear, who preceded Bevin in office from 2007 to 2015.

In the other races, Republican Daniel Cameron easily defeated Democrat Greg Stumbo, and in the process becomes the first African-American to be elected directly to statewide office. Cameron is a former counsel to U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell. Stumbo served for years in the statehouse and was also Speaker of the House and served one term as attorney general from 2007-2011 before losing the Democratic primary for governor in 2011. 

Stumbo also lost his house seat in 2016.

Cameron said in his victory speech that Kentucky voters "wanted a new start in the office." "They wanted someone in that office who is going to get back to the bread and butter basics of being the chief law enforcement officer of the laws passed by the General Assembly and sign by the governor," Cameron said.

Cameron also thanked Senator McConnell, calling him a mentor and a friend.

Republican incumbents Allison Ball, Mike Harmon, and Ryan Quarles were reelected to their offices of state treasurer, state auditor, and agriculture commissioner, respectively.

In the open race for secretary of state, Republican Michael G. Adams defeated Democrat Heather French Henry, best known as the 2000 Miss America.

But the night's biggest event was the race for governor, and it drew President Donald J. Trump to Lexington on behalf of Bevin on Monday night. Trump spoke to thousands of people at Rupp Arena, encouraging them to reelect Bevin to another term. Bevin also had Vice President Mike Pence, a former governor of neighboring Indiana, in the state on Friday and Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson in Kentucky on Thursday.

The help from the Trump administration was apparently not enough to put Bevin back in the governor's mansion for another four years, even though Republicans swept the other statewide offices.

Bevin angered teachers over the past two years with his attempts at pension reform, an issue seized upon by Beshear, who tapped educator Jacqueline Coleman as his running mate. Bevin drew particular ire from educators and, perhaps, voters when he remarked that kids were likely sexually abused because they were not in school after classes were canceled while teachers protested pension reform in Frankfort.

Police and firefighter unions, whose pensions were also impacted by Bevin's and Republican lawmakers' legislation, endorsed Beshear.

"Congratulations to Governor-elect Andy Beshear and Lieutenant Governor-elect Jacqueline Coleman on their hard-fought victory," said Kentucky Democratic Party Chairman Ben Self. "Tonight voters sent a clear message: they’re ready to turn the page on four years of failed, divisive Republican governance and want to move forward with leadership that will deliver real solutions for all Kentuckians. 

"Tonight’s results should serve as a wake-up call to members of the General Assembly and Senator McConnell heading into 2020. Kentuckians want leaders who fight for public education, good paying jobs and access to affordable healthcare."

More recently, last Tuesday, at a debate at Northern Kentucky University, Bevin angered Northern Kentucky supporters when he said there would be "no way around" the use of tolls to fund the massive Brent Spence Bridge corridor project. Beshear was able to capitalize on that issue as well, and it is possible that it played a role in the results in Kenton and Campbell counties, where anti-toll sentiment is well-known. The issue marked a reversal in position for Bevin who ran against tolls in 2015 and even signed legislation into law that prohibited the use of tolls for any bridge project between Kentucky and Ohio.

Beshear said he would move forward with the bridge project while opposing tolls.

Lt. Governor-elect Jacqueline Coleman, who is expecting a child said, "You have to admit, I put up a pretty good fight for a pregnant lady."

"There is noting partisan about our kitchen-table agenda," Coleman said. 

In another Northern Kentucky race, Republican Kim Banta defeated Democrat Josh Blair in the special election for state representative of the 63rd House District. Banta will finish the term of Republican Diane St. Onge who resigned her position after marrying and determining that she would be splitting her time between Kentucky and California.

Banta defeated Blair, who also lost to St. Onge in 2018, by a margin of 10,921 to 6,385 or 63% to 37%.

Banta told The River City News on Tuesday night that she never envisioned herself entering politics but that she is "excited" and "ready to go to work."

"I think my district is interested in the bridge and the highway. I think they're very interested in education," Banta said. "I think they are also very concerned about the mental health and opioid issue."

She said that that's what she heard from her new constituents as she campaigned and knocked on 3,000 doors.

Banta said she will work cooperatively with the new Democratic governor while remaining a conservative. "I'm not worried about that at all," she said. "The governor is the boss and I will work with him. I'm going to remain a conservative person."

Banta's election drew praise from Speaker of the House David Osborne (R-Prospect).

“Representative-Elect Kim Banta will provide a powerful voice and strong representation to the people of the 63rd House District," Osborne said in a statement. "With her background in education and proven record as a dynamic leader and public servant, we are looking forward to having her play a critical role in the House Majority Caucus.”

The district encompasses parts of northwestern Kenton and northeastern Boone, and the cities of Edgewood, Fort Wright, Crescent Springs, and Villa Hills, along with the Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport in Hebron.

Meanwhile, voter turnout increased significantly in Boone, Campbell, and Kenton counties in 2019 compared to 2015. Vote for NKY was a new initiative launched in recent weeks to push more local voters to the polls. The Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce was a lead advocate in the Vote for NKY push.

Boone County's turnout this year was 38 percent, compared to 25 percent in 2015.

Campbell's was 41 this year, compared to 29 four years ago.

In Kenton, 37 percent of eligible voters turned out, compared to 25 percent in 2015.

"As a first year campaign, we are pleased with the results of our Get Out the Vote campaign efforts across Northern Kentucky," said NKY Chamber president and CEO Brent Cooper. "Voters are realizing that if they want attention, funding and a dialogue with their leaders in Frankfort and Washington, they need to get to the polls. Not only does voting hold our elected officials accountable, it is also the pillar of our democracy. We plan to build momentum into the critical 2020 campaign by raising awareness and changing the culture of voting across our region."

The numbers from Boone, Campbell, and Kenton counties:

BOONE COUNTY

Governor

Andy Beshear (D) 16,947

Matt Bevin (R) 23,000 winner

Attorney General 

Greg Stumbo (D) 12,981

Daniel Cameron (R) 27,223 winner

Secretary of State

Heather French Henry (D) 15,235

Michael G. Adams (R) 25,133 winner

Treasurer

Michael Bowman (D) 12,313

Allison Ball (R) 27,640 winner

Auditor

Sheri Donahue (D) 12,501

Mike Harmon (R) 25,259 winner

Agriculture Commissioner

Robert Conway (D) 12,023

Ryan Quarles (R) 25,698 winner

CAMPBELL COUNTY 

Governor

Andy Beshear (D) 16,352 winner

Matt Bevin (R) 14,587

Attorney General 

Greg Stumbo (D) 13,008

Daniel Cameron (R) 17,957 winner

Secretary of State

Heather French Henry (D) 15,248

Michael G. Adams (R) 15,871 winner

Treasurer

Michael Bowman (D) 12,487

Allison Ball (R) 18,174 winner

Auditor

Sheri Donahue (D) 12,493

Mike Harmon (R) 16,458 winner

Agriculture Commissioner

Robert Conway (D) 12,428

Ryan Quarles (R) 16,382 winner

KENTON COUNTY

Governor

Andy Beshear (D) 25,479 winner

Matt Bevin (R) 24,936

Attorney General 

Greg Stumbo (D) 20,760

Daniel Cameron (R) 29,841 winner

Secretary of State

Heather French Henry (D) 23,578

Michael G. Adams (R) 27,295 winner

Treasurer

Michael Bowman (D) 19,872

Allison Ball (R) 30,400 winner 

Auditor

Sheri Donahue (D) 19,763

Mike Harmon (R) 27,477 winner

Agriculture Commissioner

Robert Conway (D) 19,269

Ryan Quarles (R) 27,993 winner

Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher