Tuesday night, Democratic candidate and Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear pulled off an apparent stunning upset, edging out the unpopular Gov. Matt Bevin (R) for his seat in the mansion.
Shortly after, more good news rolled in for Democrats one state over, as liberal Virginians learned that for the first time in 25 years, they’d won control of both chambers of the statehouse along with the governorship.
The New York Times has Beshear at 49.2 percent to Bevin’s 48.8 with 100 percent of precincts reporting. The latter has refused to concede, citing “more than a few irregularities,” but no specifics.
Beshear gave a victory speech anyway, saying that he’d not yet spoken to Bevin. “My expectation is that he will honor the election that was held tonight, that he will help us make this transition.”
“Let’s wish this governor and his family the very best,” he added.
He also promised that in his first week in office, he’d “rescind this governor’s Medicaid waiver,” “give this state a brand new board of education” and “restore the voting rights of more than 140,000 citizens.”
Kentucky has no mandatory recount law, meaning that Bevin would have to take his case to the courts. He can also ask that counties check that the votes they already counted were tallied correctly.
Bevin’s shocking loss is an outlier in the Bluegrass State, as every other statewide contest Tuesday night went to the Republican.
While the outcome is certainly a commentary on Bevin’s deep and bipartisan unpopularity, it also sheds light on the limitations of President Donald Trump’s coattails.
The President stumped in Kentucky, his arm draped around Bevin’s shoulders, just two days ago. He implored his supporters to vote, telling them it “sends a really bad message” if Bevin loses. The incumbent also took pains to nationalize the race, impugning the impeachment inquiry and modeling himself as Trump’s mini-me.
Beshear, on the other hand, avoided impeachment and national Democrats at all costs, homing in on “bread and butter” issues like healthcare and the state’s public school system. He ran up the margins in city centers like Louisville and Lexington and their suburbs, capitalizing on the lack of GOP enthusiasm for Bevin.
Trump immediately tried to distance himself from Bevin’s apparent loss.
Our big Kentucky Rally on Monday night had a massive impact on all of the races. The increase in Governors race was at least 15 points, and maybe 20! Will be in Louisiana for @EddieRispone on Wednesday night. Big Rally!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 6, 2019
His numbers are fantastical, as the race has been close throughout and at a dead tie heading into Tuesday night.
Trump was much more hands-off in the Democrats’ other big win last night, avoiding the ever-bluer Virginia altogether.
There, the parties switched tactics: Democrats tied Republicans to the unpopular President, while Republicans tried to keep D.C. at arms-length.
Democrats came out on top, wrenching back both the state Senate and House of Delegates from the Republicans, who had slim majorities in each.
Their political prizes are legion: LGBTQ protections, gun control, minimum wage hikes. And of course, Democrats also get the crown jewel — control over drawing congressional districts after the 2020 census.
State Democratic candidates managed to get out from under the self-inflicted damage that had plagued the party earlier in the year, with the trifecta of the Governor, Lt. Governor and Attorney General all mired in blackface scandals or sexual assault allegations.
Still, the hobbled party leaders did not cast much of a pall over the rest of the field, and some historic firsts were achieved. Democrat Ghazala Hashmi became the first Muslim elected to the Virginia Senate. Democratic state Delegate Danica Roem, the first openly trans lawmaker, became the first to also be reelected.
And, bookending the über dramatic result of the 2017 midterms where the political majority in the Virginia House of Delegates was decided by a name plucked out of a bowl, the candidate scrawled on the slip not picked finally got her day.
Democrat Shelly Simonds won Del. David Yancey’s (R) seat by a whopping 18 percent of the vote.