LOUISVILLE, Ky.—Kentucky Democrat Gov. Andy Beshear withstood a late surge from Republican challenger Daniel Cameron to win a second term.
With 78 percent of the vote counted, Mr. Beshear was declared the winner by securing 53 percent compared to 47 percent for Mr. Cameron, according to Decision Desk HQ.
The Kentucky governor’s race has been of the nation’s most closely watched elections this year and could provide hints of what will happen in presidential and congressional campaigns in 2024.
The son of former two-term Democrat Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, Mr. Beshear was elected by a slim margin in 2019 when he defeated incumbent Gov. Matt Bevin by about 5,000 votes. Kentucky has a Republican super-majority in the state Legislature, and former President Donald Trump won the state by 26 percentage points in 2020, but Mr. Beshear was rated the nation’s most popular Democrat governor in a July poll conducted by Morning Consult.
Backed by President Trump, Mr. Cameron is the state attorney general and has tied Mr. Beshear to President Joe Biden and widely criticized the governor for his COVID-19 pandemic restrictions affecting businesses, inflation, and virus-related school closures, which he says resulted in learning loss among students.
Leading to Nov. 7, only two Republicans had been elected governor of Kentucky in the past 50 years, but the state has gradually shifted to be more conservative. Republicans have won the state in nine of the past 11 presidential elections. Republicans have captured U.S. Senate races in Kentucky since 1998, including current seatholders Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. Rand Paul.
Since 2003, the party that has won the Kentucky governor’s race has won the presidential election the next year, according to J. Miles Coleman, associate editor of the Crystal Ball newsletter at the University of Virginia Center for Politics.
Mr. Beshear won in 2019 by less than a percentage point in a contentious race against former Gov. Matt Bevin.
Mr. Cameron has repeatedly chastised Mr. Beshear for vetoing transgender-related bills, including one that banned “gender-affirming care” for transgender children and another that prevented transgender men from participating in women’s sports. The vetoes were overridden by Kentucky’s Republican-controlled Legislature.
President Donald Trump held a tele-rally for Mr. Cameron on Nov. 6 and called Mr. Beshear “a Joe Biden stooge.”
Mr. Beshear vetoed a bill introduced by Mr. Cameron’s running mate, state Sen. Robby Mills, to ban males from participating in women’s sports. The governor’s veto was overridden by Kentucky’s GOP-controlled Legislature.
During the 10-minute call, President Trump said that Mr. Beshear wanted “big, strong hulking men to bruise and brutalize Kentucky female athletes on the playing field while stealing all of their trophies for themselves.”
“Daniel strongly supports law enforcement, will not allow men to participate in women’s sports, fully supports our teachers and getting our children caught up from the massive learning loss caused from Beshear’s educational policies,” President Trump added.
Mr. Beshear has attacked Mr. Cameron for his support for Kentucky’s near-total abortion ban.
An October TV ad featured a Kentucky woman who said she was raped by her stepfather when she was 12, became pregnant as a seventh grader, and miscarried.
“Anyone who believes there should be no exceptions for rape and incest could never understand what it’s like to stand in my shoes,” the woman says as she looks into the camera.
In a statement released after the ad aired, Mr. Cameron said about Mr. Beshear: “He lectures us on partisanship and unity, then runs disgusting, false attacks. I have said if the legislature were to bring me a bill with exceptions, I would sign it.”
Mr. Cameron told a Kentucky TV station that he still supports Kentucky’s abortion measure that requires rape and incest victims to carry their pregnancies to term and noted that his “heart goes out” to the young lady and that he appreciates that she shared her story.
Mr. Beshear has encouraged unity between Democrats and Republicans throughout his campaign. After defeating an unpopular incumbent governor by a narrow margin in 2019 and faced with President Biden’s low approval numbers in a state decisively won by President Trump in 2020, Mr. Beshear recognizes that he needs support from some conservatives to get a second term.
“We run as proud Democrats, but we realize the moment you win, you take that hat off, and you serve every single family in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Everyone,” Mr. Beshear said at a campaign stop in October.
“The fact that most things that families care about aren’t partisan, they’re nonpartisan. And that we shouldn’t be moving a state to the right, or the left, but moving it forward for every family.”
Mr. Cameron said that Mr. Beshear’s plea for unity is empty and that Mr. Beshear is “beholden to the far left of his party.”
“I talk about Andy Beshear and Joe Biden because Andy Beshear refuses to stand up to this president, who tried to force vaccine mandates on your state, who’s trying to destroy the fossil fuels industry,” Mr. Cameron said.
“It is important to have leadership that’s going to represent your values, but also stand up to the nonsense that’s coming out of Washington.”
At a rally on Nov. 6, Mr. Cameron told supporters, “I think this is a race about crazy versus normal. And I think it’s crazy to have a governor who endorses Joe Biden for president.
“I know there’s a lot of folks here that want to make sure we get Joe Biden out of the White House. But before we do that, let’s remove Andy Beshear from the statehouse,” Mr. Cameron added.
Morning Consult reported that between July and September this year, 60 percent of Kentucky voters had a positive view of Mr. Beshear’s job performance. That figure included 43 percent of Republican respondents.
Mr. Beshear rarely discussed national politics during his campaign speeches. He said he has and will continue to embrace bipartisan cooperation on statewide issues such as the economy, infrastructure, and education.
“He’s trying to confuse people, to make them think that this is the race for president. It’s not,” Mr. Beshear said.
At a campaign stop on Election Day Eve, Mr. Beshear said that he expected a close race.
“The only poll that matters is the one that comes out on Election Day,” he said.
From The Epoch Times