Local GOP leadership talks Beshear win aftermath

Christopher Harris I CJ

U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers went just down College Street from his home to the Somerset Energy Center to vote on Tuesday. Rogers commented Wednesday on the results of Tuesday's General Election for his Republican Party.

So ... Bevin's out. Probably.

What's next?

Despite his stated intention to seek a recanvass of the votes, Matt Bevin fell just short in his bid to hold onto the governor's mansion in the Commonwealth of Kentucky on Tuesday night. Bevin lost to Democratic challenger and arch-nemesis Andy Beshear by the thinnest of margins -- 709,577 votes to 704,388.

To put it in terms that basketball-crazy Kentuckians might visualize better, Bevin's shot rolled around the rim at the buzzer -- and rolled right off.

Though considering everyone else on the Republican ticket survived and advanced Tuesday night, Somerset's own State Sen. Rick Girdler used another hoops-related metaphor.

"It's kind of like UK going to the Final Four, they get to the final championship game, and lose," said Girdler. "Yeah, we've had a good year and did all the things we needed to do, but we just couldn't pull it off."

Republican leadership in Kentucky -- and there's still a lot of it -- must now adjust to life with a Democrat as governor come 2020. It's not such a bad deal for them: They still have supermajorities in the state Senate and House of Representatives, and hold all the other constitutional offices after Tuesday night, in which the GOP picked up the Secretary of State and Attorney General's offices and held onto their other positions.

Of course, while Democrats tended to loathe the blunt-tongued Bevin, even the Republicans didn't always see eye-to-eye with him. Tommy Turner, Somerset's own state representative, representing House District 85, didn't sound terribly shaken up by the prospect of facing Bevin's absence.

"The governor did a lot of good things, but he had issues sometimes getting along with people involved in politics," said the Republican Turner on Wednesday. "You might have disagreements with people, but you've got to have humble disagreements."

Turner isn't sure yet, but said Beshear, son of former governor Steve Beshear, could be better about that.

"You would think that the new governor would be able to work with the General Assembly," said Turner. "His family has been around politics for a long time. You've got to understand how to work with people. I've got to think he'll have a pretty good relationship (with us). His dad understood politics, and he does too."

Pulaski County's fate is also up in the air. Partisan politics tends to filter down to the local level; a county like Pulaski, that has such a diehard Republican voting tradition, stands to lose out on visits and favors from the governor's office. Turner isn't too worried about that.

"We've got several members of the General Assembly from Pulaski; I think (Beshear) realizes he's got to work with them," said Turner. "When you look back in history, even when we had a Democratic governor, we were still able to get some things for Pulaski County."

Girdler didn't sound as convinced.

"I guess we'll have to wait and see," he said as to whether or not he thought Pulaski would be particularly affected by the change in governors. "I really don't know. This is a first for all of us, especially me, but also for the state of Kentucky."

Despite its conservative nature, Democrats have historically done better in many key areas of state politics -- the "Kentucky Democrat" is a fabled creature in these parts, not particularly liberal but not willing to vote red either. The GOP's recent success in Frankfort has been unusual, and Tuesday's results show that trend continuing, the controversial Bevin notwithstanding.

"For an example, Daniel Cameron beats Greg Stumbo, who was the Democratic Party head for years, by (a considerable margin)," said Girdler. "You've got a brand new Attorney General, he's young. Then you've got another guy by the name of (Michael) Adams, he beat who I probably thought was the up-and-coming (Democratic candidate for governor Heather French Henry, in the Secretary of State race), he beat her real bad. You've got to read into all that what we're doing and what we're looking at -- the GOP got five constitutional offices. ... I guess the perception would be, who really thinks they won?"

Turner thinks the Republicans will still be able to advance their agenda without much problem. "We've got a supermajority in both chambers, (Beshear) has got to somewhat work for us, and we've got to somewhat work with him. Bevin, his first couple of (years), vetoed a bunch of bills and the General Assembly overrode everything he vetoes, so that's something a supermajority can do," said Turner.

The Republican Girdler, again, was less optimistic.

"I don't see it getting any better" with Beshear in office, he said. "We didn't have any real issues with (Bevin) other than that we overrode his vetoes on three, four, five bills. ... I don't see that being any different. Beshear is the AG who sued us. My questions would be to anybody, how do you think that would make it better for us?

"It will slow down (Republican bill-passing) quite a bit because we have to go through the vetoes," he added, "especially if you've got budget line items. ... I'm not seeing it going as smooth as it has the last few years. We passed a lot of bills, a lot of conservatives bills, especially in regards to pro-life (positions). It's probably got to take a lot longer to get things done."

According to the Associated Press, on Wednesday, Bevin said he asked for a recanvass of Tuesday's election results in order to make sure there is "integrity in the process." At an afternoon news conference, Bevin said his campaign is also in the process of getting affidavits about things that happened or didn't happen during the election, but those won't be followed through on until after the recanvass of the votes.

On Tuesday night, Kentucky Senate President Robert Stivers said that the process of sorting out the true winner in the super-tight race could be a matter for the Republican-controlled state legislature to sort out, according to the Louisville Courier Journal.

"I don't think it will come down to that," said Girdler. "You'll have a clear winner, surely. You're gonna have to find a 5,000-vote mistake."

Without a race of his own this year, U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers had stumped vigorously on the campaign trail for Bevin and the rest of the GOP ticket -- a highly diverse one, demographically speaking. For most of them, the work by Rogers paid off, and Rogers was pleased with that much, including making Cameron not only the first Republic Attorney General in Kentucky since 1948, but the first African-American one ever.

"Kentucky Republicans have a lot to celebrate, including historic wins in the Attorney General's office, the Treasurer's office and the Auditor's office," said Rogers. "I'm proud of the strong returns from southern and eastern Kentucky, but if official election results confirm we have new Governor, then we will move forward as Kentuckians.

"During my tenure representing Kentucky's 5th congressional district, I have worked with both Republicans and Democrats to ensure that Kentucky's Appalachian region has every possible opportunity for revitalization and growth, most recently through the SOAR initiative," he added. "I'll continue to advocate for job creation, infrastructure improvements, enhancements in tourism, more tools to battle the drug epidemic, and more, alongside our state legislators and leaders."

Nationally, party leadership had words to say about the Kentucky results as well. Brad Parscale, President Donald Trump's 2020 campaign manager, released the following statement: "President Trump's rally helped five of six Kentucky Republicans win clear statewide victories, including Attorney General-elect Daniel Cameron, who will be the first black A.G. in Kentucky history and the first Republican to hold the office since 1948. The President just about dragged Gov. Matt Bevin across the finish line, helping him run stronger than expected in what turned into a very close race at the end. A final outcome remains to be seen."

Meanwhile, Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez had the following statement: "Congratulations to Governor-elect Beshear, Kentucky Democrats, and DGA Chair Raimondo -- this earth-shattering victory in a state Trump won by 30 points should terrify him and every Republican running in 2020. Governor-elect Beshear has dedicated his life to solving big problems and working on the issues that keep families up at night, and I'm proud to see him take that fight to the governor's mansion.

"Americans across the country are voting for the values that Democrats fight for every day. That's why we're competing in every election and every state, and it's why in 2020 we are going to defeat Trump and win Democratic victories at every level."

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