LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — After a hard-fought race marked by angry rhetoric about teachers and the intervention of national politics, Kentucky voters finally got the chance to make their decision at the ballot box.
In the end, Attorney General Andy Beshear was able to emerge victorious in a gubernatorial race being watched as much for what it says about next year's national elections as it does about the direction of the Commonwealth.
Both men were with supporters in Louisville on Tuesday night watching as the results came in.
The Democrats -- Beshear and his running mate, Jacqueline Coleman -- placed much of their focus on Kentucky's educators and their anger over moves by the Bevin administration to make changes to their pensions.
"I believe the more Kentuckians that come out, the better our chances are, because people are hungry for a governor that listens more than he talks and solves more problems than he creates," Beshear said earlier Tuesday.
Bevin, a Republican who has polled consistently as among the least popular governors in the nation, highlighted his anti-abortion rights agenda and close ties with President Donald Trump. He switched his lieutenant governor running mate this time out to Ralph Alvardo.
John Hicks and Ann Cormican ran a long-shot race on the Libertarian Party ticket.
On Tuesday after casting his ballot, Bevin said he was feeling good and confident.
“I thought we’d win by 6 to 10 [percentage points]. I still feel very confident in that," he said. "I’d like it to be more like 10 to 12. We’ll see.”
Trump and Vice President Mike Pence made high-profile visits in the final week before the election, including an election eve rally by Trump in downtown Lexington at Rupp Arena.
While Bevin basked in the attention and personal visits from Trump and Pence, Beshear worked to shore up votes and keep voters looking at local issues, including his support for expanded gambling in the state.
Beshear campaigned with his father, former Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, and Democratic House Floor Leader Rocky Adkins, a popular eastern Kentucky Democrat who he beat in the primary.
Kentucky Democratic Party chair Ben Self released the following statement on the Beshear/Coleman victory, "Congratulations to Governor-elect Andy Beshear and Lieutenant Governor-elect Jacqueline Coleman on their hard-fought victory. Tonight voters sent a clear message: they’re ready to turn the page on four years of failed, divisive Republican governance and want to move forward with leadership that will deliver real solutions for all Kentuckians. Tonight’s results should serve as a wake-up call to members of the General Assembly and Senator McConnell heading into 2020. Kentuckians want leaders who fight for public education, good paying jobs and access to affordable healthcare."
The President of Kentucky Government Retirees, Jim Carroll, released the following statement, "Kentucky Government Retirees congratulates Gov.-elect Andy Beshear and Lt. Gov.-elect Jacqueline Coleman in their election victory. In his capacity as attorney general, the governor elect defended Kentucky Retirement Systems stakeholders against a “sewer bill” that was overturned by the Kentucky Supreme Court. We are confident that Gov. Beshear will serve as a strong advocate for pension sustainability and stakeholder contract rights."
Gov. Matt Bevin has refused to concede the race.