Democrats are claiming victory for Andy Beshear over political rival and Republican incumbent Matt Bevin in the Kentucky governor’s race. As of 10:30 p.m. Tuesday, the Associated Press said the race was still too close to call.
With 100% of precincts reporting, Beshear had a lead of 4,658 votes out of more than 1.4 million counted, or a margin of 0.3 percentage points.
During a speech to supporters Tuesday night, Bevin said he is not conceding. He said the process needs to be followed in such a close race — an apparent reference to the process of checking to ensure ballots were reported and added correctly.
“Would it be a Bevin race if it wasn’t a squeaker,” Bevin told the crowd. He won the Republican primary for governor by a few dozen votes four years ago.
For his part, Beshear declared victory and told his supporters that he hoped Bevin will honor the election results.
Beshear thanked his family and also acknowledged teachers. During the campaign, Beshear exploited Bevin’s feud with teachers over pensions and education issues, an issue that resonated with voters.
Beshear said, “To our educators, this is your victory.”
There is no mandatory recount law in Kentucky. Bevin may request counties recanvass their results, which is not a recount, but rather a check of the vote count to ensure the results were added correctly. Bevin would need to seek and win a court’s approval for a recount, the process for which would be dictated by the court.
The final hours of campaigning were overshadowed by the endorsement Bevin received from President Donald Trump as the incumbent tried to overcome a tenacious challenger bearing a well-known last name. Beshear is the son of Kentucky’s last Democratic governor.
Trump’s election eve rally at Rupp Arena in Lexington was meant to give Bevin a last-minute boost.
Beshear dominated in the state’s urban areas in Louisville and Lexington and won some traditionally Republican suburban counties in the state’s northernmost tip, just south of Cincinnati, to offset Bevin’s strength in rural areas.
The result could reverberate far beyond Kentucky. The fierce contest was being watched closely for early signs of how the increasingly partisan impeachment furor in Washington might affect Trump and other Republican incumbents in 2020. Among those with an especially keen interest: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who’s on the ballot himself next year in Kentucky.
Jonathan Greene contributed to this story.