Republican Gov. Matt Bevin conceded to his heated rival Democrat Andy Beshear on Thursday, putting an end to Kentucky’s bitterly fought governor’s race.
The Republican governor, who had requested all 120 counties recheck the results from last Tuesday’s election which showed he had lost by a slim margin to Beshear of just several thousand votes, announced he was halting the effort just hours after the recanvassing of votes began, CBS-affiliate WLKY reported.
Bevin made the dramatic announcement outside his statehouse office.
“We’re going to have a change in the governorship based upon the vote of the people,” Bevin said at the news conference.
Members of Bevin’s administration watched solemnly as the pugnacious governor graciously wished Beshear well in his new role.
“I truly want the best for Andy Beshear as he moves forward. I genuinely want him to be successful, I genuinely want this state to be successful,” Bevin said.
Bevin’s defeat comes despite President Trump’s last-minute efforts to stump for the Republican incumbent at a rally in Lexington the night before the vote — urging his supporters to vote for him.
Beshear, the state’s sitting attorney general, declared victory on election night despite leading by such a narrow margin that it would trigger a recount in most states.
With 100 percent of precincts reporting, Beshear led by a little over 5,000 votes out of more than 1.4 million counted, or a margin of less than 0.4 percentage points.
In the days after the election, Bevin had steadfastly refused to concede while hinting, without offering evidence, that there had been “irregularities” in the voting.
Bevin, however, faced a growing chorus of state Republicans urging him to accept the results of the recanvass unless he could point to evidence of substantial voter fraud.
Beshear, the son of a former two-term Kentucky governor, has been preparing to become governor in December.
Trump loomed large in the race as Bevin stressed his alliance with the Republican president in TV ads, tweets and speeches. Trump carried Kentucky by a landslide in winning the presidency in 2016 and remains popular in the state. The president took center stage in the campaign with his election-eve rally in Lexington to energize his supporters to head to the polls for his fellow Republican.
But the combative Bevin was unable to overcome a series of self-inflicted wounds, highlighted by a running feud with teachers who opposed his efforts to revamp the state’s woefully underfunded public pension systems. Beshear effectively exploited the feud, branding Bevin as a bully.
Bevin lashed out at teachers who used sick days to rally at Kentucky’s Capitol. In 2018, Bevin asserted without evidence that an unidentified child who had been left home alone somewhere in the state had been sexually assaulted on a day of mass school closings as teachers rallied. He apologized but doubled down earlier this year by connecting a girl’s shooting in Louisville with school closings caused by teacher protests.
The election outcome settles a bitter rivalry between Beshear and Bevin.
As attorney general, Beshear sued Bevin to challenge several of his policy and executive decisions. Beshear challenged Bevin’s actions to make wholesale changes to boards and commissions. In the highest-profile case, one of Beshear’s lawsuits led Kentucky’s Supreme Court to strike down a Bevin-supported pension law on procedural grounds last year.
With Associated Press
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