Kentucky’s Libertarian Party appears to be enjoying its role as a potential spoiler in the state’s gubernatorial contest – as incumbent Republican Governor Matt Bevin is behind the state’s Democratic Attorney General in the results of Tuesday’s closely watched contest.
“We are always happy to split the vote so that there are delicious tears. Tonight there are many delicious tears from Bevin supporters,” said the party on Tuesday evening in a Facebook post.
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In the competition, Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear Bevin leads with 5,333 votes out of more than 1.4 million votes, with 100 percent of the counties reporting on the Kentucky election.
Libertarian gubernatorial candidate John Hicks received 28,426 votes – or about 2 percent of the vote – far more than the difference in votes between Beshear and Bevin.
Libertarian gubernatorial candidate John Hicks received 28,426 votes – or about 2 percent of the vote – far more than the difference in votes between Beshear and Bevin. (Facebook).
A defiant Bevin said on Tuesday evening that “we are nowhere near going to admit this race”. And the GOP incumbent cited unspecified “irregularities”. This could potentially spark weeks of uncertainty in a contest the AP said was too short to convene, but the Kentucky Democratic Secretary of State called for Beshear.
Beshear – the son of a former two-term Democratic governor – told reporters on Wednesday that “the elections ended last night” and said “it is time to move forward with a smooth transition.”
It’s hard to tell whether Hicks, the libertarian candidate, Bevin or Beshear took more votes away. The candidate, a Vietnam War veteran and internet technology specialist, ran on a platform calling for reform and downsizing of the state government, as well as tightening restrictions on abortion – an attitude that would likely appeal to conservative voters.
In its statement, the Libertarian Party targeted Bevin, a deeply unpopular governor who has struggled with the state’s GOP-dominated legislature and even his own lieutenant governor.
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“If Matt Bevin had not given up his Freedom Lt. Governor for a corrupt, Mitch McConnell-elected Vice-President Against Freedom who tried to remove Kentuckians’ jury rights, Matt Bevin would not have presided over a huge sales tax hike, Matt would have.” Bevin one of our supports? If we had acted on key issues related to criminal law reform, marijuana legalization, expanded gambling, tax cuts or with the slightest politeness, we probably would not have nominated a candidate, ”the party stressed.
“Of course he did the opposite. And here we are, ”they added. “We shared the vote. And we couldn’t be more enthusiastic. “
President Trump wasn’t on the ballot, but he was definitely on the minds of Kentucky voters. The president teamed up with Bevin at an election night rally. And the governor had repeatedly tried for weeks to nationalize the competition, praise Trump and beat up Democrats for the impeachment investigation of the House of Representatives against the president.
Trump appeared to be helping to keep the competition tight, but apparently couldn’t pull Bevin over the finish line. Many political pundits described the apparent loss of the GOP to the Kentucky gubernatorial race and the Democrats’ recapture of majorities in both houses of Virginia’s legislature as a major defeat for the president, but Trump got none of it.
Recalling Republican victories in other Kentucky statewide competitions and the GOP winning the Mississippi Governor’s Showdown, Trump tweeted, “Won 5 out of 6 Kentucky elections, including 5 great candidates I spoke for and featured last night have. @MattBevin has scored at least 15 points in the past few days, but maybe not enough (fake news will blame Trump!). Victory in the Mississippi Governors’ Race! ”
While the president sought to positively influence the results and emphasize Bevin’s luggage, the Democrats cited Trump’s own comments Monday night in Kentucky when he told the state’s Republican voters that the outcome of the race would be viewed as a reflection in him.
But veteran Republican strategist Colin Reed said trying to read what the 2019 competitions mean for the 2020 elections was “just speculative.”
Pointing out the Doom and Gloom scenarios that went on sale Wednesday morning, Reed emphasized, “I think it’s a mistake to extrapolate too much from Kentucky.”
“Of course it’s always better to win than to lose, but Matt Bevin was a historically unpopular figure in a state where the Democrats have dominated the state level for the past 100 years. In Kentucky, only four Republican governors have been elected since 1920. Every other national candidate won in Kentucky, ”he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.