Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin has shaken up his reelection campaign weeks ahead of the November vote, a potentially ominous sign for the Republican incumbent.
Michael Antonopoulos, a GOP strategist who has worked for an array of Republican candidates and has been advising Bevin, has taken over operational control of Bevin’s campaign. He takes over for Davis Paine, who has been serving as campaign manager for Bevin. Paine will retain his title.
The staff change occurred around Labor Day. Two people familiar with the decision said it was at least partly related to the handling of a late August rally that Donald Trump Jr. held for Bevin.
The rally was held on a Thursday afternoon in a large Eastern Kentucky event space, leading to embarrassing images of a near vacant arena.
Paine chose to hold the rally at the venue over the objections of Trump Jr. advisers who recommended holding it in a smaller ballroom instead, according to people familiar with the matter.
The shakeup comes as Bevin tries to survive a competitive reelection battle against state Attorney General Andy Beshear, the Democratic nominee. Public polling is limited, though past survey data has shown Bevin to be one of the most unpopular governors in the country.
A Bevin loss in his deep red state would likely prove embarrassing to national Republicans. The Kentucky contest is one of three gubernatorial races taking place in conservative states this year, with Louisiana and Mississippi also on the ballot. President Donald Trump has boosted Bevin and is expected to be active in all three of the contests.
Neither Antonopoulos nor Paine responded to requests for comment.
Chip Englander, a Bevin campaign consultant, said in a statement: “Davis Paine was hired as the campaign manager and is excelling in that role. Michael Antonopoulos is a senior adviser who has been involved from the start of the race and has moved in-state as he’s done on other campaigns. Both are working hard to keep the socialists from taking power in the Bluegrass State.”
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