FRANKFORT, Ky. — For a governor who had invariably made the political personal, it was a pointedly personal outcome on Thursday when Gov. Matt Bevin of Kentucky bowed to the inevitable and conceded after a recanvass of votes showed clearly that the Democrat Andy Beshear would be the state’s next governor.
Mr. Bevin had alienated many in both parties, describing some of those who protested his policies as “ignorant” and “selfish,” and leaving even political allies feeling insulted and bullied. Public school teachers, who were particularly angered by his approach, said openly that they had knocked on thousands of doors across the state to defeat Mr. Bevin.
He lost by more than 5,000 votes in a year when every Republican on the state ticket won easily and after President Trump campaigned for him on the night before the election.
“We’re going to have a change in the governorship based on the vote of the people,” Mr. Bevin said to the crowd of reporters and others gathered outside his office in the Capitol, who were unsure up until the last minute whether the governor would acknowledge defeat or fight an increasingly solitary crusade to contest the election.
His fellow Republicans, who conspicuously did not swarm to Mr. Bevin’s defense when he began alleging widespread voting irregularities without presenting any evidence, were candid about the reason for his downfall.
“This race did not turn on policy,” said Robert Stivers, the State Senate president and a Republican, in an interview this week. “If it had been on policy he would have won hands down. What it turned on was personality. And his comments and rhetoric basically fatally wounded him from a political standpoint.”
The defeat came after Mr. Bevin, among the least popular governors in the country, had wrapped himself in the mantle of Mr. Trump, whose fervent advocacy for Mr. Bevin did not work out as either of them had hoped. And it now raises expectations for the final governor’s race of the year, the Louisiana election on Saturday.
Mr. Trump has inserted himself on behalf of the Republicans in all three governor’s elections in cherry-red states this year. In the two that have taken place so far, the results are split. While Mr. Bevin lost, the Republican in Mississippi, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves — the least endangered of the three — won.
Now all eyes are on Louisiana, where the Democratic incumbent, John Bel Edwards, is trying to survive a challenge from Eddie Rispone, a Republican businessman. Mr. Rispone has explicitly styled himself after Mr. Trump, who is campaigning for him.
In his concession speech on Thursday, Mr. Bevin thanked his staff, trumpeted the successes of his term and wished the best to Mr. Beshear, the son of a former two-term Democratic governor. He concluded his speech by criticizing the voting process as insufficiently transparent in the age of electronic voting machines, and continued to maintain that there had been improprieties in the election, just not enough to affect the outcome.
Mr. Beshear delivered a sort of second victory speech after Mr. Bevin’s concession. He began by thanking the governor but also made remarks clearly meant to differentiate his style from Mr. Bevin’s.
“I believe that we can change the tone as we have seen it in Frankfort,” he said, “that we can be an example not just for the state but maybe even for the nation on how we can move forward on areas that we can agree on and how we can civilly disagree on areas that we might not have common ground.”
Though his final words were largely positive, Mr. Bevin had kept up his pugnacious style to the last days. At a conservative youth conference this past weekend in California, he talked about people who aim “to hijack our political process,” who are talking of Russia collusion while “at the back gate robbing us blind.” He denounced electronic voting as unaccountable and spoke ominously of voting by noncitizens and dead people — “multiple times even.”
Fellow Republicans, however, had made clear that they were ready to move on.
“I think the right course is easy to determine,” Jason Nemes, a Republican legislator from Louisville, said this week, “and that’s to concede the race unless you have significant and specific evidence of illegal votes that were cast for the opponent.”
Mr. Bevin had never provided such specific evidence, instead simply raising doubts more generally about the integrity of the process.
In announcing the results of the recanvass shortly after Mr. Bevin’s concession, the outgoing secretary of state, Alison Lundergan Grimes, a Democrat, rebutted such claims by pointing out the decentralized administration of Kentucky elections, which are essentially 120 different elections, one in each county.
“By no means is there any vast conspiracy to hurt one candidate or party,” she said to reporters. “This is a process that depends on a lot of people. Its decentralization is its greatest asset.”
Kentucky had already begun preparing for a new administration before Thursday’s news, with construction of the inauguration platform underway at the State Capitol building. Mr. Beshear has named the grand marshals of his inauguration parade, and both he and Mr. Bevin said on Thursday that their teams had already been working together on transition matters. The House Republican caucus has invited Mr. Beshear to its annual retreat to discuss areas of possible policy agreement.
This transition had been going on quietly despite the scheduled recanvass, which Mr. Bevin had requested and which, given the relative closeness of the election, many Kentuckians felt was justifiable. While it was hard to find people who supported a prolonged challenge beyond this, as Mr. Bevin had been indicating, a recanvass is a relatively easy and straightforward procedure.
The process on Thursday morning was hardly gripping, unfolding in the 120 counties across the state much as it did in the third-floor conference room at the Scott County Courthouse in Georgetown, Ky. Pulling envelopes out of a plastic bin, Rebecca M. Johnson, the county clerk, read the vote totals, one precinct at a time, to a handful of county officials gathered around a conference table, along with the county sheriff, a local Democratic Party official and a couple of observers from the Bevin campaign. After winning Scott County handily in 2015, Mr. Bevin had come 97 votes short last week. It was among the closest margins in Kentucky.
After about 45 minutes of reading totals, and a few more minutes’ talk of weather and basketball over the rattling of adding machines, Mr. Beshear’s victory margin in Scott County was, again, 97 votes. Bobby McDowell, 61, chairman of the Scott County Democratic Executive Committee, who sat in on the recanvass, had doubted from the start that anything would change. But he was sure that he and most people in Kentucky, including Republicans, were ready for this election and all the business that followed to come to a definitive end. “Everything’s got to have an amen,” he said.
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