Under two-term Gov. Steve Beshear (D), Kentucky has been one of the best-run states in the nation. Not only is the Bluegrass State’s unemployment rate at a 14-year low, but Kentucky has been so successful in implementing health care reform, it’s cut its uninsured by over 40%.
Perhaps the state’s voters grew tired of success and decided to go in a different direction.
Voters in Kentucky elected Republican Matt Bevin as governor Tuesday.Bevin beat Democratic Attorney General Jack Conway. Unofficial results from the Kentucky State Board of Elections had Bevin beating Conway 52.52% to 43.82% with all 120 counties reporting Tuesday night.
Independent Drew Curtis was also on the ballot, and garnered 3.6% support – not enough to affect the overall outcome. Statewide turnout was only about 30%, meaning that over two-thirds of the state’s voters didn’t bother to show up at all.
Bevin’s road to the governor’s office was, for lack of a better word, improbable. A year ago, the right-wing candidate, who’s never served a day in public office, launched a primary fight against incumbent Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). Republicans quickly labeled Bevin a “con man” who lies “pathologically.” The first-time candidate was exposed a man who lied about his educational background, and who even struggled in the private sector – his business needed a taxpayer bailout.
At one point, he even delivered a speech at a cockfighting gathering and then lied about that, too.
Bevin lost that primary. A year later, he’s a governor-elect.
The smart money bet against him. Indeed, even as this year’s race unfolded, the Tea Partier seemed on track to lose. In September, the Republican Governors Association scaled back its investments in the Kentucky race, and as recently as mid-October, Bevin’s own internal polling showed him trailing.
Complicating matters, the GOP candidate “created a nightmare for Kentucky’s political reporters” by lying – about a wide variety of issues – on an almost habitual basis, and then creating an “enemies list” of journalists who challenged the accuracy of his falsehoods.
And yet, voters in Kentucky yesterday overlooked all of this and handed Bevin a relatively easy victory.
What happens now is likely to have a major impact on many of his constituents’ lives. One of the central tenets of Bevin’s odd platform has been scrapping Medicaid expansion, which would have the effect of taking away health care benefits from many low-income families statewide. And because outgoing Gov. Steve Beshear (D) used executive orders to create much of the state’s health network, the new right-wing governor-elect will have the power to undermine the health security of a significant chunk of Kentucky’s population rather quickly.
The question is simple: will he? This sets the stage for the the first real test of whether far-right officials are prepared to hurt their own constituents, on purpose, to advance a partisan goal. It’s one thing for Republican state policymakers to block Medicaid expansion from taking effect, but in Kentucky, the Affordable Care Act has already been fully implemented – and it’s working beautifully.
Bevin’s stated goal is to roll back the clock, consequences be damned. Coverage for over 400,000 struggling Kentuckians was on the line in yesterday’s election, and as of last night, they appear to have lost.