(CN) – Following in the footsteps of his father Steve, Democrat Andy Beshear is set to become the next governor of Kentucky, though the drama may be far from over as current Republican Governor Matt Bevin has refused to concede the race.
With 100% of precincts reporting, Beshear edged Bevin by just over 5,000 votes, a margin of less than 1%. Kentucky does not have a mandatory recount law, and in order to compel one, Bevin would need to seek and win court approval.
However, Bevin does have one tool at his disposal: a recanvassing of results that would check to ensure votes were added correctly. As of Wednesday morning, the governor has yet to request a recanvassing.
The Associated Press has labeled the race too close to call, while CNN and NBC declared Beshear governor-elect.
With a victory, Bevin would have become the only two-term Republican governor in the state’s history.
“To our teachers,” Beshear said Tuesday night, “this is your victory.”
Propelled by support from teachers and other public employees fed up with Bevin’s pension and benefit cuts, Beshear secured victory in a state that overwhelmingly supported President Donald Trump in the 2016 election by prioritizing education and the expansion of legalized gambling to fund Kentucky’s beleaguered pension system.
Recent polling showed the race was a dead heat as Beshear and Bevin entered the home stretch, but voters ultimately sided with the Democrat – who is currently serving as the state’s attorney general – even after Trump visited Lexington on Monday night.
Although Trump won the bluegrass state by more than 30 percentage points in the 2016 presidential election, public opinion of Bevin was very low throughout the latter half of his term, during which he was almost always ranked as the least popular governor in the country.
“Here’s the story,” Trump said at Monday’s rally, “If you win, they are going to make it like, ho hum. And if you lose, they are going to say Trump suffered the greatest defeat in the history of the world. You can’t let that happen to me!”
Beshear capitalized on Bevin’s repeated criticisms of the state’s teachers, who marched to the capitol in Frankfort in 2018 to oppose the Republican government’s budget and cuts to pension benefits, and based his campaign on providing for public employees and improving the quality of the state’s public education.
Expanded gambling, including casinos and sports betting, was also a hot-button issue for voters, and they responded favorably to Beshear’s plan to use tax revenue from gaming to fund the public pension system.
Currently, the only form of gambling allowed in the state is the placement of bets on horse races.
Bevin was categorically against gaming expansion, and infamously claimed at least one person dies by suicide every day in America at a casino, even though he never provided evidence of the claim.
Beshear focused on state and local issues throughout his campaign, while Bevin shifted the narrative in the run-up to the election toward Democrats’ efforts to impeach Trump.
Beshear’s father, Steve Beshear, was governor of the state from 2007 to 2015.
It appears at least one group of voters other than the Democratic Party was happy with the narrow margin of victory: the Libertarian Party.
In a Facebook post, the Libertarian Party of Kentucky wrote: “In an ideal world we elect Libertarian candidates and advance liberty. Failing that, we push mainstream candidates towards liberty to advance the cause. But if we can’t do those things, we are always happy to split the vote in a way that causes delicious tears. Tonight there are plenty of delicious tears from Bevin supporters.”
Aside from the race for governor, Republicans performed very well on election night in Kentucky.
Daniel Cameron, former counsel to U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell, became the state’s first Republican Attorney General since 1948, and just the second African American to win a statewide election in Kentucky’s history.
Incumbent Republicans Allison Ball, Mike Harmon and Ryan Quarles held their positions as Treasurer, Auditor, and Agriculture Commissioner, respectively.