Democrat Andy Beshear got about 4,500 more votes on Election Day than incumbent Gov. Matt Bevin. Several media outlets called the race for Beshear, but the Associated Press deemed it too close to call late Tuesday as Republicans swept all other statewide races.
Bevin called the race “a squeaker” when he spoke first Tuesday evening — but he promised not to concede.
“This is a close, close race,” Bevin said at the Republican gathering at the Galt House Hotel in Louisville. “We are not conceding this race by any stretch. Not a chance.”
But Beshear, the current attorney general and son of former Gov. Steve Beshear, claimed victory.
“From now on, the doors of your state capitol will always be open,” Beshear said to cheers at the Democratic party at the C2 event venue in downtown Louisville.
The State Board of Elections reported voter turnout was around 41 percent; far higher than predicted.
It was a contentious campaign for the two front-runners, with Bevin and Beshear frequently at odds and trading words.
As Attorney General, Beshear challenged Bevin through a series of lawsuits. He pushed for expanding gaming in Kentucky to bring in revenue, rather than raising sales taxes.
The two disagree on abortion, with Bevin favoring policies that would restrict access.
“It wouldn’t bother me one lick if there wasn’t an abortion provider in this state. It wouldn’t. Our state wouldn’t be less well-served by that,” he said last month at a campaign event.
Beshear is opposed to late-term procedures.
“When you’re the attorney general, you work with victims of that trauma and they deserve options,” he said during a debate last week.
Incumbent Bevin received a burst of support from prominent Republicans in recent days, including President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson. That did not end up being enough to carry the governor to victory.
Bevin is known for his conservatism, including his attempts to change programs like Medicaid in Kentucky.
Some voters who support educators said that they opposed Bevin because they perceived him of being disrespectful of teachers. His administration also sought to investigate teachers who participated in sickouts earlier this year to protest legislation at the Capitol.