Republican U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell got precisely what he wanted out of the Kentucky 2019 Gubernatorial election. To recap what I revealed in my previous op-ed, bravely published by the Richmond Register, Governor Bevin dumped Lt. Governor Hampton from the ticket in favor of Alvarado, chose to fire Steve Knipper and Adrienne Southworth splintering the Republican base in Kentucky. Governor Bevin's unforced errors included his treatment of teachers, and most recently, his reversal on toll bridge in Northern Kentucky. Mitch McConnell's desire to demoralize and divide the Republican party in Kentucky succeeded the evening of Nov. 5 when Governor Bevin was defeated by the Democratic challenger Andy Beshear.
Before getting into what is next, it's important to understand what has been done. In 2015, Governor Matt Bevin won the GOP nomination by 83 votes. It is generally understood and accepted that the only reason he squeaked by was because of his choice of Lt. Governor in Jenean Hampton. She is loved by the Tea Party base. This led to his victory in a three-way race later that year by 52%. Independent candidate Drew Curtis received around 35,000 votes. This is important to note because the Libertarian Candidate John Hicks only received around 28,000 votes.
So, the question becomes, what happened? Did Kentucky change? The results of the 2019 election would indeed say no. The remainder of the down ballot indeed went to the GOP in convincing fashion. This would include Mitch McConnell's picks of Daniel Cameron for Attorney General and Michael Adams for Secretary of State. In the hours and days following the defeat of Governor Bevin, we saw the seemingly sophomoric boasting of the Libertarian Party on Facebook with taunts of "delicious Bevin tears" and being glad to split the vote. We also saw how the GOP party loyalists are out in full force on social media attacking, intimidating, those who dared to tell the truth about why Bevin got beat, and fear mongering about the future of Kentucky under Governor-Elect Beshear.
It is worth noting that Andy Beshear is all alone at the top. Currently the GOP still has a majority in both houses of the Legislature and the likes of the Attorney General, Secretary of State, State Treasurer and State Auditor. His agenda will have little impact if the GOP can stay united against it. In other words, if Beshear is successful at all in pushing his agenda, it will be because the GOP caved. It has already appeared that the GOP has caved on the election results itself. It was less than 48 hours after the election and elected Republicans in the State Legislature had already put out statements to the effect of "Governor Bevin should prove there is evidence of voter fraud or accept defeat."
This doesn't sound like a Republican Party that wanted to vigorously defend Governor Bevin. This was precisely what Mitch McConnell wanted. He wanted the Republican Party in Kentucky to be divided and weakened so that he could continue his Long Game pursuit to rid the state of principled constitutional conservatives in favor of moderate Republicans that will work within the system to continue advancing globalism and eroding the power of the US Constitution. This shores up Mitch McConnell's power even if Republicans lose the senate majority. He certainly sacrificed Matt Bevin so that the Tea Party conservatives in his administration would be ousted. The big take away from the 2019 Gubernatorial Election in Kentucky is that people are no longer going to hold their nose and vote for the party pick. People are voting their conscience and their hearts for people and thank God for that.
What is next? As for now, Mitch McConnell is done with Kentucky. He will now turn his focus to his re-election campaign. In a contest which has already seen Democrat Matt Jones kicked off LEX18 and his own KSR show due to rumored complaints by Amy McGrath's campaign and FEC complaints filed by the Republican Party respectively, we have only begun to see the dirt slinging and attacks. The media is already declaring this a contest between Amy McGrath and Mitch McConnell. It's worth noting that Amy McGrath failed in her 2018 attempt to unseat current US House Kentucky 6th District Representative Andy Barr in a district that included Lexington and Frankfort. What isn't being discussed perhaps intentionally by the media is GOP challenger and former State House 81st District Representative C. Wesley Morgan.
Morgan filed back in the summer his FEC intentions and formed his exploratory committee. Morgan has already been traveling the state going to various GOP events to spread his message. It can be easily argued that Mitch McConnell's approval in Kentucky is at its lowest point ever. Once Morgan officially files for US Senate and makes his announcement via a press conference, the media, Mitch McConnell will have no choice but to recognize him and his challenge. In the days following Morgan's announcement, there will be marked increase in attacks from the Kentucky Republican Party establishment. There have already been troll attempts directed at Morgan to say that he has no chance. Facebook Group "Kentucky Conservatives" has said that Morgan and others challenging McConnell should not waste their money. These attacks will increase. Fear mongering about how removing Mitch McConnell will weaken Kentucky's influence in national politics will rise. The same old lies used by Democrat Morgan Eaves and then re-used by Representative Deanna Frazier will be once again dredged up. These establishment party loyalists will lay blame to Morgan and his supporters for why Governor Bevin was defeated.
If Mitch McConnell makes it out of the GOP Primary in 2020, he will then set his sites on removing US House Representative of the Kentucky 4th district, Thomas Massie. Representative Massie is the only remaining house member in Kentucky that has a grade of A when it comes to adhering to the US Constitution and when it comes to fiscal responsibility and tax policy. Removing Massie would complete the demoralizing of the Tea Party in Kentucky. The weakening and demoralizing of true conservatives in Kentucky would empower McConnell to push for moderate GOP Candidates particularly for US President to challenge President Trump. Candidates such as Bill Weld and especially Senator Romney would benefit from this. In exchange for laying off criticizing Mitt Romney, Mitch McConnell is keeping the potential impeachment of President Trump at bay. McConnell is currently using the effort by the Democrats as a fundraising opportunity rather than flat out squashing it by declaring it dead on arrival in the US Senate. The Democratic Party field for president is by no means even set. There is still time for Hillary Clinton to put her name in the field and make no mistake, if she does, she will be the nominee once again. GOP moderates like Senator Romney will be pushed by the likes of McConnell as the more rational conservative choice to go against the Democratic Party nominee which as of now would be so far to the left that they would be considered socialists.
But what of Senator Rand Paul? Between his principles on career politicians, the attacks on his life in 2017 the latter has led to long term issues with his lungs, and the direction of this country, I feel that Senator Paul is in his last term. His term is set to expire in January of 2022. It is not likely that Senator Paul would attempt to run for President in 2020. Does this mean the end of Dr. Rand Paul in DC? Not by a long shot. Dr. Paul could choose to run for US House in his district or use the time between 2022 and 2024 to prepare for his second run for President. Senator Paul has been recognized and admonished depending on your political slant for his work with President Trump.
Accomplishments such as the Health Care Association push and the Criminal Justice Reform signed by President Trump can be attributed to the work Senator Paul has put in behind the scenes. Arguably the move to remove US Troops from Syria can also be attributed to Senator Paul having the President's ear. Senator Rand Paul represents the last bastion of Constitutional Adherence in the US Senate.
In conclusion, Mitch McConnell's LONG GAME to remove all remnants of threat from Tea Party conservatives which began in the aftermath of the Kentucky GOP Primary in 2010 continue to this day. The only way which this game ends is with McConnell's defeat. The game of life will ultimately ensure that Mitch is removed from the US Senate, but by that time, the damage will be generationally irreversible. The commonwealth of Kentucky, the nation for that matter, can't afford for Mitch McConnell to succeed in the long run.
Virgil Edwards is a EKU graduate and Richmond resident.