Democrat Andy Beshear claimed victory over incumbent Republican Matt Bevin in the Kentucky governor’s race, which came as a major shock in a deep-red state. President Trump won Kentucky by 30 percentage points in 2016, and still remains incredibly popular there.
“I think if the election were held today, Trump would win this state by double digits easily,” Bill Estep, a reporter for the Lexington Herald-Leader, said Wednesday in an interview on CBSN. Part of the message of this election, he said, is that “being Trump only works for Trump.”
According to Estep, some Republicans who were “turned off” by Bevin either didn’t come out to vote, or snubbed him in the ballot box.
“There were 100,000 or more voters who voted Republican generally but didn’t vote for Bevin… that was the difference in the race,” he said.
He explained that Bevin “made a lot of folks mad here in Kentucky” with his push to cut teachers’ pensions and slash education spending. In 2018, lawmakers passed a bill that cut pensions for new and retired teachers, prompting 5,000 teachers to walk out of class and protest outside the state capitol in Frankfort.
Estep said Bevin’s “harsh criticism of teachers” hurt his standing in rural communities where the school system is often the biggest employer. In one notorious comment, “[Bevin] ‘guaranteed’ that somewhere in Kentucky a child was sexually molested because they were at home rather than at school where they should have been,” Estep said. “It angered teachers and turned off a lot of people who are supporters of teachers.”
Bevin attempted to nationalize the race by talking about issues such as abortion and gun rights, while Democrats in Kentucky mostly framed Tuesday’s vote as a referendum on Bevin and focused on local issues such as education, the economy and health care. President Trump tweeted his endorsement and urged voters to support Bevin at a raucous “Make America Great Again” rally in Lexington last week, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the large number of residents who’d soured on the governor.
“With the economy in relatively good shape, a Republican incumbent in this state shouldn’t have had this much trouble,” Estep observed. “So I think a lot of it comes back to Bevin and how he’s turned some people off.”
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