Let’s start where we ended the previous report. The three postscripts to the previous report read 1) Heiner – too much money to lose; 2) Comer – grassroots against last minute chaos; and 3) Bevin – could carve a victory a la Wallace Wilkinson in his Primary with John Y. Brown and Steve Beshear. Well, two out of three ain’t bad.
Matt Bevin appears to have won the Republican Primary for governor by the slimmest of margins, margins so slim that runner-up James Comer is asking for a recanvass. While a recanvass may change a vote here and a vote there, the outcome will very likely remain the same – Bevin wins. How? We told you last week Bevin’s road to the Governor’s Mansion would be won by running against Louisville and Frankfort. A look at the map of counties Bevin won shows he did just that. In addition to a cluster of counties around Ashland, Bevin carried counties along the Ohio River from Bracken to Union, with the exception of Jefferson where he ran 2nd carrying one in three of the votes cast. One-in-three is where Bevin started, claiming one-in-three votes last year in his Primary with Senator McConnell. We suggested that was his best asset going into the race. His voters from last year remained organized and both the Tea Party and the Republican-registered Libertarians claimed him as their own.
Beginning with his bevy of support from his 126,000 votes in 2014, then adding the combination of suburban libertarians with Tea Party rural voters gave Bevin the most comfortable of launching pads. Bevin won suburbia and newer Republican voters. Bevin also carried vote-rich northern Kentucky, which we expected Heiner to capture at least some of with his Right-To-Life endorsement, and moving those votes from the Heiner column to the Bevin column appears to have given him the boost he needed over the more traditional Republican voters captured by Comer and Jefferson’s allegiance to Heiner. This combination made it hard for Bevin to lose, especially given the blood battle going on between his two main competitors. This is exactly what happened in the 1987 Democratic Primary when then-Lt. Gov. Steve Beshear and former Gov. John Y. Brown engaged in a series of back-and-forth attacks, allowing the outsider, Wallace G. Wilksinson, running against both Frankfort and Louisville the opportunity to “sneak up the middle.” (Wilkinson also had the lottery issue in his arsenal)
But Bevin almost did lose – to James Comer.
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