A year ago, Matt Bevin was seen as a rather ridiculous figure in Kentucky Republican politics. He’d launched a primary fight against incumbent Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), which led the GOP establishment to go after Bevin with a vengeance.
The results weren’t pretty. Bevin was labeled by leaders of his own party as a “con man” who lies “pathologically.” The first-time candidate was exposed a man who lied about his educational background, and whose business needed a taxpayer bailout. By Primary Day, Bevin lost by 25 points, and his career in politics appeared to be effectively over.
A year later, however, Kentucky Republicans will have to stop calling him a dishonest con man and start calling him their nominee for governor. The Lexington Herald-Leader reported this morning:
After Thursday’s recanvass of votes cast in the Republican primary for governor, Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes said that there were “no substantial changes” and that she thought Matt Bevin would be the GOP nominee when the vote is certified June 8.
This morning, Bevin’s primary rival conceded the race. Bevin will now take on state Attorney General Jack Conway (D) in November, in the race to replace outgoing Gov. Steve Beshear (D).
McConnell, who characterized Bevin as a dangerous loon just last year, issued a statement this morning that said, “I congratulate Matt Bevin on his victory and endorse him for governor.”
It’s just such an improbable scenario. Even this year, the GOP gubernatorial primary was supposed to come down to state Agriculture Commissioner James Comer and former Louisville Metro Councilman Hal Heiner. But when the top candidates turned on each other, they ended up tearing each other down, clearing the way for Bevin.
I honestly can’t think of a comparable recent situation in which a state party viciously tore a guy down one year, only to scramble to build him back up less than a year later.
As for whether or not Bevin might actually become governor, we’ll find out soon enough – this has instantly become the most interesting race of 2015 – but as the process continues, I’m reminded of my favorite Matt Bevin story.
In early 2014, as regular readers may recall, Bevin accepted an invitation from the Gamefowl Defense Network and he delivered a speech to several hundred attendees. Asked later for an explanation, the GOP candidate claimed ignorance, saying he thought he was addressing a states’ rights group and had no idea he was speaking to pro-cockfighting activists.
The event’s hosts soon after explained that Bevin’s defense was literally unbelievable: the “entire rally” was devoted to the issue and “there was never any ambiguity” about the point of the gathering organized by the Gamefowl Defense Network.
Bevin told reporters he was “the first speaker” at the event and left before he realized what the Gamefowl Defense Network was up to. It turns out, that wasn’t true – the group’s director was the first speaker and he made it abundantly clear what the gathering was all about.
Bevin also told reporters he didn’t address the issue of cockfighting itself, which also turned out to be untrue – he specifically told attendees at the end, “I support the people of Kentucky exercising their right, because it is our right to decide what it is that we want to do, and not the federal government’s.”
Making matters slight worse, when msnbc originally asked Bevin about his appearance, he argued, “It wasn’t a cockfighting event, that’s where you all need to start telling the truth about what happened.”
Yes, telling the truth about is important.
Bevin eventually apologized for the whole mess. Now he’s the Republican nominee for governor in the great state of Kentucky.