Results from last night's wild primary in Kentucky

Kentucky Republican gubernatorial candidate Matt Bevin addresses supporters at the Galt House Hotel in Louisville, Ky., May 19, 2015. (Photo by Dylan Lovan/AP)
Kentucky Republican gubernatorial candidate Matt Bevin addresses supporters at the Galt House Hotel in Louisville, Ky., May 19, 2015.

Last night’s wild primary in Kentucky: Bevin comes out on top by 83 votes; recanvass set for May 28 … Why Kentucky’s gubernatorial race matters in 2015 … And why Bevin winning is awkward for Mitch McConnell … GOP wins competitive Jacksonville mayoral race — in all-important Florida … The role Super PACs played in Philadelphia’s mayoral race … LA to raise city minimum wage to $15 per hour … And remember the big upcoming Hillary speech? That won’t happen until June — at the earliest, according to Politico.


*** Last night’s wild primary in Kentucky: The premiere political race of 2015 -- Kentucky’s gubernatorial contest -- delivered a wild primary result last night. It appears that Tea Party Republican Matt Bevin, who lost his 2014 Senate primary to Mitch McConnell last year, won the right to face Democrat Jack Conway in November’s general election. But barely. The Lexington Herald-Leader: “After 214,187 votes were counted, Louisville businessman Matt Bevin held an 83-vote lead over Commissioner of Agriculture James Comer, but Comer said late Tuesday night that he owed it to his supporters to ask for a recanvass. According to the secretary of state's office, a recanvass will be conducted at 9 a.m. May 28. In a recanvass, printed vote totals are checked against figures sent to the state Board of Elections. No individual votes are actually recounted.” If Bevin maintains that lead, Conway would begin the general as the favorite — but not by much. Remember, this is Kentucky after all.

*** Why Kentucky matters in 2015: And if Bevin does win, he would have done so with Senate Majority Leader McConnell’s team opposed to his candidacy. Mitch McConnell is great at saving Mitch McConnell (see last year), but he’s not so great at using his political machine to help/hurt others (see Rand Paul beating Trey Grayson in 2010 and Bevin last night). So Kentucky’s gubernatorial race has national themes because of this McConnell angle. It also has national themes because a Conway-Bevin general election would be a referendum on the state’s health-care exchange, Kynect. As Bloomberg’s Dave Weigel notes, “Bevin has said he’d dismantle Kynect.” And it’s a national story because it’s the home state of presidential candidate Rand Paul. Bottom line: If you’re covering non-2016 politics this year, Kentucky is the best story out there.

*** Why Bevin winning is awkward for Mitch McConnell: And if you want to know how awkward it will be for McConnell and his team to stand next to Bevin in the general election, consider these quotes:

  • Former McConnell Chief of Staff Josh Holmes: “If Matt Bevin had moved to a state where he had a better shot at being elected to office as a Democrat, he would articulate the values of liberalism with the same conviction he now talks about conservatism." (Louisville Courier-Journal, May 6, 2015);
  • More Holmes: “Kentucky Republicans have a way of working through primary battles to reunite in the general election. Of course, there are certainly some candidates who are easier to reunite behind than others.” (Politico, May 16, 2015);
  • Even more Holmes: "I think Bevin disqualified himself with most Republican voters when he refused to endorse McConnell after the primary. It said more about his willingness to put himself before the party and the commonwealth than anything anybody else could possibly say." (Lexington Herald-Leader, Jan. 28, 2015);
  • Former McConnell Campaign Manager Jesse Benton: "Mitch was a gentleman and extended several olive branches, but Bevin acted like a petulant child and slapped the hand of friendship," Benton said. "Republicans should not, and will not, take Bevin seriously." (Lexington Herald-Leader, Jan. 28, 2015).

That said, before Comer staged his comeback last night, Holmes tweeted this conciliatory note about Bevin: “I've never said a bad word about a Republican nominee in my life and that won't change tonight. Congrats to @MattBevin. I hope he wins.”

Oh, and one other thing: The last time McConnell’s team didn’t get it preferred candidate was back in 2010. And guess what happened: Conway lost (to Rand Paul).

*** GOP wins competitive Jacksonville mayoral race — in all-important Florida: In another race we were following last night, Republican Lenny Curry defeated incumbent Democratic Mayor Alvin Brown in Jacksonville, Florida’s mayoral contest. And it was a nail-biter: Curry got 51%, Brown 49%. The Tampa Bay Times: “Curry, the former head of the state GOP, was boosted by a determined Republican effort to recapture the seat, strong fundraising and the help from Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio and other top officials... Brown won the seat in May 2011, becoming the first Democrat to hold the position in two decades and the first African-American. Democrats saw the former Bill Clinton aide as a future statewide candidate.” The questions we had going into this contest: Was Brown’s 2011 victory an aberration (goosed by Obama’s re-election machine, which saw the race as an opportunity to flex its turnout muscles)? Would it be a sign of the Florida GOP getting its groove back? Well, last night’s result was definitely good news for Florida Republicans. But it was a CLOSE race.

*** The role Super PACs played in Philadelphia’s mayoral race: Also last night, Philadelphia City Councilman Jim Kenney “rolled to an easy victory Tuesday in the Democratic mayoral primary, making him the odds-on favorite to become Philadelphia's next chief executive,” the Philly Inquirer says. But maybe the best story out of this race was HOW big of a role Super PACs played in a local contest. “Heading into the weekend, the race's three highest-spending groups on TV all were super PACs, according to a Democratic source tracking the buys,” National Journal wrote. “One outside group, funded by out-of-town charter-school advocates, had invested more on TV ads than the other campaigns combined. And the candidate expected to win, former City Councilman Jim Kenney, has not one but two super PACs working on his behalf, each of which has spent close to a million dollars.” Wow.

*** LA to raise city minimum wage to $15 per hour: Finally, there’s one other local political story worth noting from yesterday: “The Los Angeles City Council on Tuesday backed a plan to raise the city’s minimum wage to $15 per hour, joining a trend sweeping cities across the country as elected leaders seek to boost stagnating pay for workers on the lowest rungs of the socio-economic ladder,” the LA Times says. “Lawmakers agreed to draft an ordinance raising the $9-an-hour base wage to $15 by 2020 for as many as 800,000 workers, making L.A. the largest city in the nation to adopt a major minimum-wage hike. Chicago, San Francisco and Seattle already have approved similar increases, and raising the federal minimum wage has moved to the forefront of the Democratic Party’s agenda.”

*** Remember that big upcoming Hillary speech? That won’t happen until June — at the earliest: Turning to the 2016 race, Hillary Clinton finally answered reporters’ questions yesterday. (That wasn’t so hard, was it?) But today’s most interesting Hillary news comes via Politico: It looks like she’s delaying her big campaign kickoff (big speech, rallies, etc.) until June -- at least. “‘If they had their druthers, they would basically get off the front pages, let the Republicans eat themselves alive, and let her do what she needs to do: raise the money and not have to be part of the debate right now,’ said one Clinton donor who’s familiar with the campaign’s thinking. ‘She has 100 percent name recognition and is in a good place vis a vis the primary. Why put your foot on the accelerator?’” Is this perhaps a recognition that the campaign feels like she got in TOO EARLY? Yes, the launch in April helps on the fundraising front, and having a campaign in place helped battle with the “Clinton Cash” book. But if Team Clinton wants to delay the big speeches and rallies, what was the point of getting in back in April?

*** On the trail today: Jeb Bush is in New Hampshire … Hillary Clinton raises money in Chicago, where she also will discuss the issue of childcare… And Rick Perry is in Iowa.

OBAMA AGENDA: “A greener world”

Buzzfeed reports that the Obama administration will push trade deals by highlighting the upside for the environment, saying that the agreements will bring "a greener world."A1 headline in the Washington Post: "Iraq's strategy shows signs of unraveling." MORE: "The fall of Ramadi amounts to more than the loss of a major city in Iraq’s largest province, analysts say. It could undermine Sunni support for Iraq’s broader effort to drive back the Islamic State, vastly complicating the war effort."

Is the country's problem with rail safety a consequence of budget moves? The New York Times talks to experts who say yes.

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CONGRESS: Conservatives say they’re winning Export-Import fight

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Division in the GOP means that Congress is close to ending the NSA surveillance program.

OFF TO THE RACES: Hillary to delay her big kickoff speech

CLINTON: "When Hillary Clinton was secretary of state, her staff scrutinized politically sensitive documents requested under public-records law and sometimes blocked their release, according to people with direct knowledge of the activities," the Wall Street Journal writes.

She’s delaying her promised big-picture announcement speech, POLITICO reports.

Jack Shafer writes in POLITICO that Hillary Clinton isn't running FOR president, she's running AS president.

Iowa Democrats are resolved that she's the best candidate for the job, even if they can't cite too much about her accomplishments, a Bloomberg focus group found.

The AP reports on Clinton's low-key campaign strategy, which is getting criticism from the press and from voters. (See this kicker quote from an Iowa Democrat: "People in Iowa and people across the country want to know the specifics on all of these issues, including TPP," Schwartz said, referring to the Trans-Pacific Partnership. "We have a right to have our questions answered.")

HUCKABEE: National Journal makes an important point about his latest campaign: "This time, Huckabee will return to his roots—an approach deliberately designed to broaden his appeal and, more importantly, take advantage of a restructured Republican primary calendar that places a far greater emphasis on the very states and voters that he has spent his political career serenading. Because for the first time in the modern history of the Republican Party, the path to its presidential nomination takes an early and potentially decisive detour through the South."

JINDAL: Soon after it died in the state legislature, he issued an executive order to enact a religious freedom measure that critics say legalizes discrimination against same-sex couples.

O’MALLEY: He’ll announce in Baltimore’s Federal Hill on May 30.

And around the country ...

KENTUCKY: The Lexington Herald-Leader: "After 214,187 votes were counted, Louisville businessman Matt Bevin held an 83-vote lead over Commissioner of Agriculture James Comer, but Comer said late Tuesday night that he owed it to his supporters to ask for a recanvass."

More, from the Courier-Journal: "Battling the other Republicans and claims by a former girlfriend that he abused her while they were in college, Comer was in third place for much of the night before gaining ground in Western Kentucky. In the end, it didn't appear to be enough."

And on the Democratic side: "Attorney General Jack Conway isn't waiting any longer to see which Republican he will face in the fall election for governor. On Tuesday, hours before the polls closed, the Democrat was meeting with small business owners in Lexington and kick-starting his campaign after months of watching the combative GOP primary."

FLORIDA: Alan Grayson tried to have his estranged wife arrested for using his credit card, POLITICO reports.

NEVADA: From Roll Call: "Nevada Republican Rep. Joe Heck has told some Nevada Republicans he is close to deciding to run for Senate, a source told CQ Roll Call Tuesday, and the conversations have prompted speculation among Nevada Republicans that an announcement could come sooner rather than later."

—NBC News' Carrie Dann contributed reporting.