A day after receiving President Trump’s endorsement at a rally where he was portrayed as the state’s only hope of fighting back against Democrats’ impeachment push, Republican Gov. Matt Bevin looked set to lose a gubernatorial race to his Democratic challenger, Andy Beshear, on Tuesday night.
The same state where Trump won by nearly 30 points in 2016 thus appeared to turn blue on Tuesday night as Beshear, Kentucky’s attorney general since 2016, was on track to unseat Bevin.
With all of the votes in, NBC News and The New York Times reported Beshear had 49.2 percent of the votes compared to Bevin’s 48.8 and 48.9 percent, respectively. The Associated Press deemed the race “too close to call,” while Beshear claimed victory and suggested Bevin should concede.
“I haven’t had an opportunity yet to speak to Governor Bevin. But my expectation is that he will honor—he will honor the election that was held tonight, that he will help us make this transition,” Beshear told supporters late Tuesday.
Meanwhile, an aide to Bevin reportedly told Politico he would not concede and intends to go to a recount.
The race was widely seen as a litmus test of how powerful the issue of impeachment would be among Republican voters, with Bevin—who has consistently ranked in polls as one of the most unpopular governors in the U.S.—repeatedly suggesting to Republican voters that a vote against him would be a gift to Democrats and their impeachment inquiry against Trump.
The president himself has clung to that idea, telling voters on Twitter that Bevin “will never let you down” and that “we need to send a strong signal to Nancy Pelosi and the Radical Left Democrats.”
At a Monday night rally in Lexington, Trump was even less subtle.
“You gotta vote because if you lose, it sends a really bad message. It just sends a bad and they’re going to build it up... You can’t let that happen to me,” he told the crowd.
While Beshear has made a point to focus on local issues, Bevin appeared to make his anti-impeachment stance the backbone of his campaign, at one point reportedly speaking to voters against the backdrop of a poster of himself and Trump disembarking Air Force One with the president’s endorsement as the caption.
“I will stand proudly with this president and vice-president and their administration,” Bevin told voters at the event outside Louisville last week, reminding the crowd that Trump would be attending a rally on his behalf.
While Beshear’s apparent win gave a boost to Democrats, Republicans still managed to gain the attorney general post he vacated, with Republican Daniel Cameron easily defeating Democrat Gregory Stumbo. The secretary of state’s office also flipped red, with Republican Michael Adams clinching victory for the term-limited post vacated by Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes.
Kentucky also wasn’t the only state at the center of a red-vs.-blue tug-of-war on Tuesday. Democrats gained full control of Virginia's state government for the first time in decades, while the GOP kept its grip on Mississippi's highest state office as Republican Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves beat Democrat Jim Hood to be elected governor.