Covington Woman Explains Why She Told GOP Crowd Bevin Won
Alyssa Dara McDowell spent Election Day waving signs, encouraging voters, and praying that Kenton County would go to Republican incumbent Governor Matt Bevin.
Clad in a Wonder Woman shirt that had become a staple of her campaign wardrobe in the closing days of the 2019 election season, McDowell had no time to change before rushing to pick up a friend as soon as the polls closed.
The two were headed to Louisville's famed Galt House for what supporters hoped would be a victory celebration for Bevin's reelection.
But the night took an unexpected turn for McDowell in a variety of ways. Her prayers for a Bevin victory went unanswered, with Bevin losing to Democratic rival Andy Beshear. And then, after a hasty decision to rush the stage, the Covington mother of eight found herself in a viral video that garnered headlines across Kentucky and beyond.
McDowell told The River City News on Wednesday, more than two weeks after the close election and days after Bevin's concession, that when she first arrived at the Galt House, a woman approached her in the ladies room. "It seemed like she was beginning to placate me about Bevin's pending loss," McDowell remembered. McDowell was unmoved, convinced still that Bevin would prevail and win a second term.
"I was keeping up with it online and it looked like he was going to win, or at least come close to winning," she said.
But more and more people at the event were beginning to whisper about the governor's fading chances. Beshear had won Kenton County, where McDowell's first prayers that day were shared on Bevin's behalf, and neighboring Campbell County, two reliably Republican areas. Fayette County, home of Lexington, and Jefferson County, where the state's largest city, Louisville, looms large in statewide elections, were both bloodbaths for the top of the Republican ticket.
It was becoming clearer as the night wore on, that Bevin would be unable to make up the margin of defeat in those areas.
"I ran into other people involved in the campaign process and they had similar things they were saying, trying to talk you into that he lost," McDowell said.
Amid all these messages that she did not want to hear, McDowell turned to her frequent tool: prayer.
"I'm a praying woman. I just go into prayer. That's what I do," she said. "I took it to a spiritual level."
She also took it to Facebook Live, a feature on the social media platform's mobile app that allows users to broadcast in real time to their followers. She saw comments from followers supportive of a Bevin comeback.
"I just felt like it was a spiritual thing. It just seemed so strange. Everyone was acting really weird," she said. "And so that's why I prayed."
Her thoughts drifted to "voter fraud". "I felt it in my spirit. There was some kind of thing undermining the Bevin win," McDowell said. "I just felt like that the entire time. It was such a dark feeling."
McDowell is no stranger to electoral politics. In 2010 she waged a longshot bid for Kenton County Judge/Executive, where, running as an independent, she managed to get 24 percent of the vote (more than 9,000 votes) against Republican winner Steve Arlinghaus. There was no Democrat running that year, and the Democratic Party didn't field a candidate for the county's top job in 2014 or 2018, either, an indication of how strongly Republican the state's third-largest county is.
That's why at the Galt House, Kenton County was an early warning sign when Democrat Beshear carried it.
But McDowell was unmoved by her dark feelings.
"Bevin's a strong Christian, so of course the enemy is not going to want him to win," she said.
She continued praying with her friend when another woman approached them and wanted to join in. But then, she suspected, the enemy came closer.
"She was trying to steer our prayer toward Bevin was going to lose," McDowell said. "And I'm thinking, this is really weird. That's the enemy trying to come in and interrupt our prayer."
From prayer, McDowell turned to chant.
"So, I started to begin a chant - Bevin is the best!"
She first started chanting that at the final debate between Beshear and Bevin at Northern Kentucky University to sound off against pro-Beshear attendees. There, she was clad in her Wonder Woman shirt, a purchase from Halloween that became a campaign staple for her.
But in Louisville, someone inside the GOP victory event approached her and asked why she was chanting, she said.
"I kept thinking, why would you ask me?"
Convinced that "the enemy" was in her midst, McDowell returned to prayer and Facebook Live. "And then I ended up getting a phone call from another friend and was praying with him and my friend who was there (at the Galt House), and he's telling me the results are coming in," she said.
The idea that results were still coming in kept McDowell's hopes alive.
Bevin just needed more prayers, she thought.
"There was nobody there to lead us in prayer, so somebody needs to lead us in prayer," she said.
Bevin had, after all, appointed McDowell to the state consumer protection advisory council just weeks before the election. The failed candidate for Kenton County judge/executive (2010), Covington mayor (2012), Covington city commission, Kentucky state representative (2018), and President of the United States (as she announced in 2016) wanted to stand up for her guy.
The somebody who needed to lead the GOP victory rally in prayer may just be her, Alyssa Dara McDowell, she thought.
"I kind of felt like - this thought came to my head - it would be weird for me to go on stage," she said. But her friend on the phone praying with her prodded her. "He said, if there is no one there to stop you..."
McDowell, in her Wonder Woman shirt, her mind on praying away the enemy, made her way to the stage.
"Honestly, I didn't expect to announce that Governor Bevin had won," she said.
But she did.
As seen in a viral video distributed by Lexington TV station WLEX, which now has nearly 400,000 views, McDowell is seen coming on an empty stage with a mobile phone at her ear, trotting towards the open podium.
"Hey, we just got word," she shouted into the mic. "Matt Bevin has won!"
The crowd, which had much to celebrate as the Republicans easily swept all the other statewide offices but were down at the prospect of Bevin's pending loss, went from somber to jubilant in an instant.
McDowell appeared to become swept up in it. Still holding a phone to her ear, she began to "whoo" along with the crowd, her voice amplified by the mic. "Yes!," she shouted before jumping up and down and waving her hand around.
By the time she went back to the mic, grabbing it with her free hand and beginning to speak into it, the sound had been cut off and a man was tapping her on the back. Still holding the phone at her ear and shouting into a mic that was no longer on, McDowell initially ignored the man who was trying to get her to leave the stage. She yelled into the turned-off mic for fifteen full seconds, long enough for a second man to come along and nudge her off stage.
Finally, she relented and departed.
McDowell was kicked out of the Galt House.
In sharing her recollection of the event, McDowell maintains that she was motivated purely to lead the attendees in prayer on behalf of their governor. A friend on the other end of the phone was sharing information that some counties were going for Bevin, she said, and she just wanted to say the Lord's Prayer to the crowd.
In fact, while the mic was still on, it can be made out that McDowell said, "Hey, we just got word, Matt Bevin has won! So, we're just gonna pray," before she was swept up in the cheers.
"I had planned on saying the Lord's Prayer and it kind of came out," she said to The River City News about her erroneous victory proclamation on behalf of Bevin. "I was trying to think back, why did I say that?
"I did not premeditate this."
But the jubilation from the crowd was a good feeling for her, she remembered.
"It felt like that was Joshua's walk in the Bible when the wall came down and people were able to enter the Promised Land," she said. "We have to pray for the wall to come down and then they shouted and that's what it felt like, the spiritual battle is over."
But McDowell's battle at the Galt House would not be over.
After being ushered off the stage, she said some in the crowd shouted at her, Lock Her Up, a refrain common at rallies for President Donald J. Trump in reference to his vanquished Democratic rival Hillary Clinton. Someone ripped her Matt Bevin pin from her lapel, McDowell said.
She said that while she was on stage shouting into a mic that was no longer on, she was reciting the Lord's Prayer.
"Someone tried to grab me while I was getting ready to pray. I felt somebody's hand on my arm, but I didn't register exactly what he was saying. I was just thinking, let me finish this prayer," she said. "I just finished the whole Lord's Prayer, even the mic wasn't on. I didn't realize the mic was off until halfway through, but I just thought, at least complete the prayer."
"The other guy did get a little pushy. I had to turn around and say, do not push me."
"As I walked through the crowd, it was so traumatic for me," McDowell said. "People had lined up. People were shouting, lock her up. Someone ripped my Bevin pin off my jacket. They accused me of being a teacher."
Kentucky teachers had been credited with buoying Beshear's campaign against Bevin following the incumbent's support for controversial pension reform legislation.
"I just kept thinking, why?," she said. "You don't even know if he won or not."
"To me, it was a blatant coup. It was already set up and I just wanted to uncover it."
Instead, she was asked to depart the premises.
"I was escorted out of the event," she said.
But her moment on stage inside the event would become a viral moment that McDowell herself would be late to see. She said she had exhausted herself campaigning for Bevin across Kenton County and then driving to and from Louisville, and by the time she returned to Covington and went to bed, she slept until 2 the next afternoon.
"My kids were saying, mom's gone viral," she said. "And they were just watching it and laughing their butts off and my daughter was like, I don't want to watch it, I don't want to hear about it."
"We like to laugh a lot anyway. I don't mind laughing at myself and I thought it was funny. My daughter is a little embarrassed. I'm probably a laughing stock at church now."
Some pastors, she said, called to see if she was OK.
And she is OK, she said, and even plans to run for office again. "I will probably do it perpetually," she said.
"I always pray about it. And Lord, if you want me to do something, I'll get an idea to do it," she said. "I'm wide open to politics. I'm pretty much always going to be involved at some level."
And as she reflected on her viral moment from the GOP event in Louisville, she turned upward again.
"I did it for you, Lord."
Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher