By John Celock
Republicans picked up a governorship in Kentucky Tuesday night, while Democrats picked up a competitive bid for state attorney general.
Republican nominee Matt Bevin defeated Democratic Attorney General Jack Conway by almost 85,000 votes to become the state’s only second Republican governor in the last four decades. Bevin’s win, fueled by outside GOP groups in recent days, comes after polls had shown Conway with a narrow edge.
The victory for Bevin comes just over a year after he lost a competitive Republican primary campaign against U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell last year. Bevin was a narrow victor in this year’s primary for governor. Bevin will succeed term-limited Gov. Steve Beshear (D). While Kentucky has trended Republican for federal races, Democrats have long dominated politics in Frankfort, regularly winning the governorship and other statewide offices.
Democrat Andy Beshear, the outgoing governor’s son, won the competitive race for state attorney general, defeated Republican state Sen. Whitney Westerfield (R) by roughly 2200 votes. The attorney general’s contest featured heavy outside spending by party groups, along with large donations to Beshear’s campaign.
In the race for state auditor, Democratic incumbent Adam Edelen was unseated by Republican state Rep. Mike Harmon by 36,000 votes. Edelen, a former chief of staff to Beshear, had been considered a likely Democratic challenger to U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R) in next year’s race.
Opponents defeated by McConnell last year came out victorious tonight, with Democratic Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes defeating Republican challenger Stephen Knipper by 22,000 votes. Lundergan Grimes was the unsuccessful Democratic nominee against McConnell last year.
In the open contests for state treasurer and state agriculture commissioner, Republicans Allison Ball and Ryan Quarles, easily defeated, Democrats Rick Nelson and Jean-Marie Lawson Spann. Bevin’s victory elevates his running mate, tea party activist Jenean Hampton, to the lieutenant governorship.