Following the 2019 Kentucky primary, we got the gubernatorial race we expected: Matt Bevin vs. Andy Beshear.
The former is the sitting Republican governor of the Commonwealth, hoping to become the first Republican ever to win re-election. On the Democratic side is Andy Beshear, the attorney general and son of a former governor, Steve Beshear. As the prize fight in November takes shape, we look at how each candidate found victory on May 21.
2019 Kentucky Primary: Democratic Primary
Andy Beshear was considered by some to be the favorite in Kentucky’s Democratic primary. His win was by just six percentage points as he claimed 37.9 in a three-way battle. Geoffrey Young was the fourth candidate, earning just two percent.
Beshear did better in western and central Kentucky, with Jefferson County (Louisville) putting him over the top. His margin there was just 7,500 votes over Adam Edelen, the third-place finisher, but Rocky Adkins was about 37,000 votes behind there. Beshear won by 23,000 and change statewide. Adkins also placed a distant third in Fayette County (Lexington), helping cost him a chance at victory.
Edelen won just two counties, Breckinridge and Meade. He is from Meade County, so mark that down as a personal win.
Adkins won counties in different parts of the commonwealth, but by far, he relied on votes in eastern Kentucky. In Elliott County, for example, Adkins took just short of 97 percent of the vote. If you guess he’s from Elliott County, you would be correct. His state house district includes Elliott, Rowan, and Lewis Counties. (Rowan is the county in which Kim Davis, then county clerk, refused to issue same-sex marriage licenses in 2015 following the Obergefell vs. Hodges decision.)
2019 Kentucky Primary: Republican Primary
In sports, it is sometimes said that an ugly win is still a win. Governor Matt Bevin may know that feeling.
In the end, Bevin won his primary with 52.4 percent of the vote. Robert Goforth, his main challenger, took 39 percent, while two others scored in the single digits.
Goforth’s strength was in southeastern and eastern Kentucky, carrying counties such as Pike, Knox, and Whitley. Laurel County, home to London, was one of Goforth’s best, beating the governor by over 1,800 votes. His district in the Kentucky House includes Laurel, Jackson, and Madison Counties; Goforth carried Laurel and Jackson, but lost Madison by just 12 votes.
Bevin ran up the score in Jefferson County, the commonwealth’s most populous and his home base. The governor came up just short of 60 percent there, though the number of Republican voters there paled to the Democratic rolls.
Central and western Kentucky were, for the most part, good to Bevin. The governor pocketed a few big wins in places like Shelby, Nelson, and Hardin Counties.
2019 Kentucky Primary: The Boil-Down
Both Matt Bevin and Andy Beshear had tougher primaries than expected. Let’s start with the governor, who put up an unimpressive 52.4 percent in his re-election primary. Sure, he won by 13 points — over a no-name state representative. A sitting governor should not squeak by in his primary; it was far from a dominant victory and should not be called anything other than what it is: a tepid showing.
Andy Beshear can hardly claim any sort of dominant mantle himself. The attorney general and son of a governor, one would think, would have a bigger advantage. Adkins came into this election with plenty of rural support, but one would imagine it will fall back into line under Beshear in November.
According to Morning Consult, Bevin is the most unpopular governor in the nation; his approval rating is just 33 percent and is 19 points under water.1 We did not need a primary to tell us that not all Republicans find favor with him, either, given poll numbers that low. The primary just confirmed it. Based on the approval ratings alone, Bevin was bound for a tough race in November. There may, however, be some hope for him: Gina Raimondo (D-Rhode Island) is the second-most unpopular governor, and she just got re-elected. Kentucky is also a red state, so though the situation is bleak, and he had a dismal primary performance, he cannot be counted out in November.
1: Morning Consult’s Governor Approval Rankings (Morning Consult), web site, accessed 22 May 2019