By Jim Ellis
Nov. 7, 2019 — Kentucky’s GOP Gov. Bevin looses, Republican Reeves wins in Mississippi and state legislatures in New Jersey and Virginia are looking decidedly blue …
Gov. Matt Bevin (R), always lagging near the bottom of the 50-state gubernatorial approval polls throughout his term, lost his re-election bid to Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear.
The vote totals fell within three-tenths of one percent, or an unofficial raw vote margin of 5,150 votes of 1.41 million votes cast. The Beshear victory spread translates into just 1.4 votes per precinct, statewide. Additionally, the Libertarian candidate in the race, Kyle Hugenberg, attracted over 46,000 votes, nine times greater than the spread between the two major party candidates.
The defeat appears to belong solely to Gov. Bevin, and not the Republican Party in general. The down-ballot Republicans scored a clean sweep, converting the attorney general’s office that Beshear held with 58 percent of the vote, and the secretary of state’s position (52 percent). GOP incumbents also were re-elected as state treasurer (61 percent), agriculture commissioner (58 percent), and auditor general (56 percent). With these hefty Republican percentages recorded for the other offices, it is clear that Gov. Bevin severely under-performed.
Political trouble for the governor became apparent when he won re-nomination last May with just 52 percent of the vote against little-known state Rep. Robert Goforth (R-East Bernstadt) and two others. Bevin under-performed in the “coal country” area of the state, an area from which Goforth hails, and again fell below typical Republican vote patterns here in the general election, which evidently cost him the race. Mining healthcare issues became a problem for Bevin, and his position with regard to miner health benefits went a long way toward unseating him election night.
Andy Beshear was elected attorney general in 2015. His father, Steve Beshear (D), served the maximum two terms as governor prior to Bevin winning four years ago. Therefore, the Beshear name is extremely well known throughout Kentucky.
Voter turnout was up a whopping 45 percent above the 2015 odd-year election, though still significantly under presidential levels. In 2016, more than 1.9 million voters cast ballots in the presidential election.
The Mississippi voter patterns in the election were similar to Kentucky’s, except for the final result in the governor’s race.
In this contest, Republican Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves defeated four-term Attorney General Jim Hood (D), 52-46 percent, thus likely nullifying a federal court challenge to the state’s system of requiring that gubernatorial candidates carry a majority of state House of Representatives’ districts in addition to winning the popular statewide vote. Since Reeves recorded a clear majority in the popular vote, there will be no grounds for legal action.
Even though the GOP and Reeves held onto the governor’s office, the vote pattern was similar to Kentucky’s in that the top of the party’s slate under-performed the rest of the ticket. In Mississippi, as in the Bluegrass State, Republicans swept the down-ballot races, all with better percentages than their gubernatorial candidate, in this case Reeves’ six-point spread against Attorney General Hood.
Turnout exceeded 847,000 voters, up over 18 percent from the 2015. Polling in this race proved relatively accurate, as all three published October polls projected Reeves to be holding a small lead and hovering around the 50 percent mark.
As expected, Democrats successfully converted both state legislative chambers on election night, giving the party full control of state government. The three constitutional offices of governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general, all Democratic held, were not on the ballot last night.
In the state Senate, Democrats converted two Republican seats and now enjoy a 21-19 majority instead of being in a 19-21 minority. As usual, the Democrats rode Northern Virginia to victory as they won 10 of the 12 regional state Senate elections. Republicans, however, didn’t put up much of a fight as the Democratic candidate ran unopposed in seven of those dozen districts.
Democrats converted a net five Republican state House of Delegates seats now giving them a 54-46 majority in the 100-member chamber. The state has been trending Democratic for the past several elections and the party is now cementing its advantage since the domain can no longer be considered marginal, or “purple.”
Though the Democratic majority in the General Assembly was not endangered, Republicans did surprisingly make gains. The party converted six state House seats and won a state Senate special election.
The Senate, where members are in the middle of their four-year terms, was not on the ballot last night but one seat in southern New Jersey was in special election and Republicans defeated the appointed Democratic incumbent.
Though the GOP had a better night than expected in the legislative elections, the Democrats still maintain a veto-proof 54-26 majority in the state House.