UPDATE (November 14): Republican incumbent Matt Bevin has conceded the Kentucky governor's race to Democrat Andy Beshear.
After Beshear's narrow win just last week, Bevin continued to fight for the office, with many believing he'd force a recount. The Republican governor with a streak of anti-LGBTQ beliefs now bows out of the race officially.
In a turn of events that surprised some observers, Kentucky appears to have elected a Democratic governor who’s supportive of the LGBTQ community, over a Republican incumbent who had praised antigay county clerk Kim Davis.
The election was called by Kentucky media outlets for Andy Beshear, currently the state’s attorney general and son of former Gov. Steve Beshear, over incumbent Matt Bevin, about 9 p.m. local time Tuesday. Andy Beshear, who as attorney general was the only Democrat to hold statewide office in Kentucky, was leading Bevin 49.2 percent to 48.9 percent, about 4,600 votes, with all precincts reporting, according to The New York Times. The remainder of the vote went to Libertarian John Hicks. Beshear has declared victory, but Bevin is not conceding, Louisville TV station WLKY reports.
Bevin, who was first elected in 2015, had become one of the least popular governors in the nation. “Bevin’s approval has plummeted over cuts in government services he pushed for and his brash handling of a teacher walkout, calling protestors ‘selfish’ and ‘ignorant,’ and blaming them for hypothetical sexual assaults and the actual shooting of a 7-year-old girl,” the Times notes. Donald Trump had campaigned for Bevin, but that failed to win the governor a second term.
One of Bevin’s first acts in office was to issue an executive order removing county clerks’ names from marriage licenses, something later codified by the state legislature. Davis, the clerk of Rowan County, had pushed for this because she didn’t want to approve licenses for same-sex couples, saying that doing so conflicted with her religious beliefs. After the U.S. Supreme Court ruled for nationwide marriage equality in 2015, she famously shut down all marriage license operations in the county rather than serve same-sex couples and went to jail for contempt of court. Bevin called her a hero and a role model, although he has contended that she, not the state, should be liable for costs incurred as the result of the successful lawsuit four couples filed against her.
Steve Beshear had said Davis should obey the law and issue marriage licenses without discrimination. This year, marriage equality was still enough of an issue in Kentucky that Andy Beshear made a statement about it on his campaign website, saying, “I support the right of all Kentuckians to marry the person they love. Discrimination is wrong and it’s time to turn the page on a governor who seeks to divide us and demean those he disagrees with.” In another anti-LGBTQ move, Bevin had signed a bill that allowed student groups at high schools and public universities to keep LGBTQ members out on religious grounds.
Beshear and his running mate, Jacqueline Coleman, also emphasized support for public education, public employee pensions, expanded health care, reproductive freedom, legalization of marijuana for medicinal purposes, criminal justice reform, voting rights, and a living wage. In his victory speech, Beshear said he would reverse Bevin's move to put in a work requirement for Medicaid recipients, appoint a new board of education, and restore voting rights for 140,000 Kentuckians, WLKY reports.
This story is developing. Check back for updates.