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Matt Bevin Rolls In on Conservative Causes

Image: Matt Bevin Rolls In on Conservative Causes
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Wednesday, 04 Nov 2015 07:57 AM Current | Bio | Archive

Kentucky's historic election Tuesday that swept in conservative Matt Bevin as the state's third Republican governor in 75 years was the result of some very unusual forces.

The failure of Obamacare and other conservative causes, such as overhauling public pension systems and advocating the right-to-work business model, helped businessman Bevin defeat Democratic State Attorney General Jack Conway by a 52 percent to 44 percent.

Moreover, Bevin’s strong support from onetime arch-nemesis Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and the recent controversy surrounding Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis’s refusal to sign same-sex marriage licenses all assisted the Republican gubernatorial candidate, supporters told me.

Along with the vigorous network of the tea party and other right-of-center activists that forged his volunteer legions throughout the state, Bevin benefited from the spirited support of McConnell.  Only last year, Bevin unsuccessfully challenged him as a tea party insurgent in the GOP primary.

“Mitch certainly did a lot more than folks thought he would do,” state Senate GOP leader Damon Thayer told me Tuesday.  He recalled how the senator appeared at a “unity meeting” with his old foe days after Bevin was declared the winner of the four-candidate gubernatorial primary by 83 votes out of more than 214,000  cast.

McConnell made frequent appearances with Bevin, occasionally joking how neither would be there if the 2015 gubernatorial nominee got his way in 2014. 

His campaigning for a former primary foe was likened to that of Republican Gov. Louie Nunn, who in 1967 narrowly won the incendiary GOP primary for governor over then-Jefferson County Judge Marlow Cook and, a year later, worked hard to help Cook’s election as U.S. senator.

More importantly, as Thayer said, “I think Mitch was very instrumental in getting the Republican Governors Association to get back [in the race] in the end, when they were really needed.”

He was referring to the much-publicized news Sept. 29 that the RGA had stopped airing its pro-Bevin commercials — reportedly because the Republican nominee was not raising enough money on his own and was lagging behind Conway in the latest Bluegrass Poll. 

In mid-October, however, the RGA returned to Bevin’s corner in a big way and reportedly spent more than $6 million on his behalf.

"They largely ran positive ads, which contrasted to Conway’s final and very negative ads showing registered Republicans saying ‘you can’t trust Bevin,’” Al Cross, longtime Louisville Courier Journal political columnist, told me.

But conservative issues were ingredients as essential to Bevin’s triumph as any endorsement or effort on his behalf.  In October, the collapse of the nonprofit Kentucky Health Cooperative, which provides Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), and resulting loss of health insurance for 51,000 Kentuckians appeared to validate Bevin’s cry that Obamacare was a failure and the state needed to try something different to provide healthcare.

In addition, the Republican hit hard at reports that public employee pensions were underfunded by $30 billion.  Where Conway defended the system, Bevin called for reforms such as those Wisconsin’s Republican Gov. Scott Walker championed that require public employees to pay a small portion toward their retirement plans.

Most dramatically, the internationally-watched furor over Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis’s refusal to sign marriage licenses for same-sex couples clearly strengthened Bevin’s support among cultural conservatives. 

In a move that supporters likened to John F. Kennedy comforting Martin Luther King’s wife after her husband was jailed in Georgia shortly before the 1960 election, Bevin visited Davis when she was in jail last month.

A strong backer of traditional marriage himself, the Republican nominee fired at Democrat Conway for “not defending the Kentucky Constitution” through his refusal to voice support for its amendment proclaiming marriage as a union between man and woman.

Bevin also suggested an alternative to the conflict that led to Davis’ incarceration by calling on the governor to sign an executive order providing a “conscience clause.” Under this clause, county clerks would not be required to sign same-sex marriage licenses if it conflicted with their religious beliefs.  Conway never endorsed the alternative proposal.

The Republican’s support of right-to-work may have helped him boost turnout in traditionally Republican turf.  In traditionally Democratic West Jefferson County, turnout was less than 10 percent.  In part, several sources told us, this was in part due to a group of black ministers denouncing Conway for his opposition to school vouchers the clergymen felt were necessary to help failing schools in the black community.  Bevin was a strong voucher booster.

Bevin’s election also meant that running mate Jeneen Hampton will become the state’s first-ever lieutenant governor who is a black woman.

The GOP’s sweep of four of the six statewide offices on the ballot also meant a boost to a Republican who wasn’t on the ballot: Rand Paul, Kentucky’s junior senator and a presidential candidate. 

Many Democrats felt Paul would be vulnerable for re-election next year because of his seeking both the presidency and the Senate simultaneously.  They talked increasingly of State Auditor Adam Edelen, considered one of their brightest young leaders, as an opponent and Edelen signaled interest.

But last night, Edelen lost re-election to Republican State Rep. Mike Harmon.

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.         

   

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Kentucky's historic election Tuesday that swept in conservative Matt Bevin as the state's third Republican governor in 75 years was the result of some very unusual forces.
kentucky, bevin, governor
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2015-57-04
Wednesday, 04 Nov 2015 07:57 AM
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