KENTUCKY
     Nov. 3, 2015 Governor

Gov.
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+Matt Bevin / J. Hampton (R)
511,374
52.52%
Jack Conway / S.Overly (D)
426,620
43.81%
Drew Curtis / H.Curtis (I)
35,597
3.66%
B.E.Whyte / P.Jacobs w/in
71

G.B. Gatewood / E. Anderson w/in 30

973,692
Plurality: 84,754 votes (8.70 percentage points).
 State Board of Elections



REPUBLICAN PICK UP
Notes: Vying to succeed term-limited Gov. Steve Beshear (D), businessman Matt Bevin (R) upset Attorney General Jack Conway (D).  Also on the ballot was Drew Curtis (I), owner of Fark.com.

Conway announced his candidacy via video on May 6, 2014, naming state Rep. Sannie Overly, chair of the House Democratic caucus, as his running mate.  He easily bested Geoff Young in the May 19, 2015 Democratic primary, garnering 78.8% of the vote.

On the Republican side, Hal Heiner, former Louisville Metro Council member and 2010 candidate for Louisville Metro Mayor, was first to announce in March 2014; he ran with K.C. Crosbie.  Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, who announced on Aug. 2, was the establishment favorite; he tabbed Sen. Chris McDaniel as his running mate.  Matt Bevin, a businessman who had challenged U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell in the 2014 Republican primary, losing by 60.2% to 35.4%, announced his candidacy on Jan. 27, 2015, naming Jenean Hampton, an African-American U.S. Air Force veteran as his running mate.  Bevin eked out an upset win in the May 19 primary, defeating James Comer by 83 votes: Bevin 70,480 (32.9%), Comer 70,397 (32.9%), Hal Heiner 57,951 (27.1%) and  Will Scott 15,365 (7.2%).

In the general election the major candidates participated in various forums and debates:

  • County Judge-Executives/Magistrates Conference forum at The Galt House in Louisville on June 19.
  • "Measure the Candidates" forum hosted by the Kentucky Farm Bureau in Louisville on July 23.
  • Political Speaking at the Fancy Farm Picnic on Aug. 1.
  • Conway, Curtis and Bevin engaged in the Bluegrass Poll debate at Bellarmine University in Louisville sponsored by The Courier-Journal, WHAS-11, the Lexington Herald-Leader, and WKYT on Sept. 15. 
  • Conway, Curtis and Bevin engaged in a debate sponsored by Kentucky Sports Radio on Sept. 30.
  • Conway and Bevin debated at Centre College in Danville sponsored by WAVE-TV on Oct. 6.
  • Conway and Bevin debated at Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond sponsored by League of Women Voters of Kentucky, WLKY and WKYT on Oct. 25 (>).
  • Conway and Bevin debated on KET on Oct. 26.
Among the major issues discussed were jobs, Medicaid expansion and the Kynect health insurance exchange, the underfunded state employee pension system, and early childhood education.

Bevin's campaign was uneven and outspent.  In late September the AP reported that the Republican Governors Association stopped running ads for Bevin, but the organization did return to the fray with significant spending in the closing weeks. 

Polling consistently showed Conway ahead by a small margin, but Bevin ultimately won by more than eight percentage points (>).  Several factors tipped the balance in Bevin's favor.  The RGA portrayed Conway as "
a career politician who has routinely put Barack Obama’s destructive liberal policies ahead of the well-being of the Commonwealth."  This hit two notes: President Obama was very unpopular in Kentucky, and there was an significant outsider current at play.  A Democratic Governors Association post-election statement said of Conway, “Unfortunately, he ran into the unexpected headwinds of Trump-mania, losing to an outsider candidate in the Year of the Outsider.”  Also of note, in Aug. 2015 Kim Davis, the Rowan County clerk, refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples and in early September she was jailed for five days.  (This story drew international attention).  Bevin visited Davis in jail and strongly supported her position.
  


Campaign Managers:
Matt Bevin:  ?

Jack Conway:  Adam Sullivan
(Feb. 2015)  Campaign manager on U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu (LA)'s re-election campaign to Oct. 2014, then replaced and moved to advisor role. 
Regional political director (West) for the DCCC in the 2010 cycle.  Managed Scott Murphy’s March 31, 2009 special election win for Congress in NY-20 after running U.S. Campaign manager on U.S. Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand's 2008 re-election campaign in NY-20.  Consultant on John Hall's congressional campaign in NY-19.  Field director on Bruce Lunsford's campaign for governor in the 2007 Kentucky Democratic primary.


 


















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