The hotly contested governor’s race in Kentucky was too close to call Tuesday night, with Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear holding a narrow lead – and declaring victory – over Republican Gov. Matt Bevin.
With 100 percent of precincts reporting, Beshear had a lead of 4,658 votes out of more than 1.4 million counted, or a margin of 0.3 percentage points.
The bitter rivals gave competing speeches in which Beshear claimed victory while Bevin refused to concede.
“My expectation is that he (Bevin) will honor the election that was held tonight,” Beshear said. “That he will help us make this transition. And I’ll tell you what, we will be ready for that first day in office, and I look forward to it.”
Bevin called it a “close, close race” and said he wasn’t conceding “by any stretch.”
“We want the process to be followed, and there is a process,” he said.
Bevin hinted that there might be “irregularities” to look into but didn’t offer specifics.
There is no mandatory recount law in Kentucky. Bevin may request counties recanvass their results, which is not a recount, but rather a check of the vote count to ensure the results were added correctly. Bevin would need to seek and win a court’s approval for a recount.
The final hours of campaigning were overshadowed by the endorsement Bevin received from President Donald Trump as the incumbent tried to overcome a tenacious challenger bearing a well-known last name. Beshear is the son of Kentucky’s last Democratic governor, Steve Beshear.
Trump’s election eve rally at Rupp Arena in Lexington was meant to give Bevin a last-minute boost.
The political grudge match between Bevin and Beshear stretched into Tuesday night.
Beshear dominated in the state’s urban areas in Louisville and Lexington and won some traditionally Republican suburban counties in the state’s northernmost tip, just south of Cincinnati, to offset Bevin’s strength in rural areas.
Beshear maintained his focus throughout the race on “kitchen table” issues like health care and education to blunt Bevin’s efforts to hitch himself to Trump and nationalize the race. He exploited Bevin’s feud with teachers over pensions and education issues, which resonated with voters.
The result could reverberate far beyond Kentucky. The fierce contest was being watched closely for early signs of how the increasingly partisan impeachment furor in Washington might affect Trump and other Republican incumbents in 2020. Among those with an especially keen interest: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who’s on the ballot himself next year in Kentucky.