AP news guide: Nov. 5 general election in Kentucky
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Control of the Kentucky governor’s office is at stake in Tuesday’s primary election, as Republican incumbent Gov. Matt Bevin faces a close race with Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear. There are open races for state attorney general and secretary of state, while Republican incumbents are looking for second terms as agriculture commissioner, auditor and treasurer. The Secretary of State’s office predicts turnout at about 31 percent of registered voters, which would be a slight increase from the 2015 governor’s race.
Here are some key races on Tuesday’s ballot:
Republican incumbent Matt Bevin is hoping a last-minute visit from President Donald Trump will put him over the top in a close race with Democrat Andy Beshear, the state’s attorney general. Bevin enjoys a strong economy and an electorate trending Republican in recent years. But he has feuded openly with teachers, dismissed fellow Republicans and made exaggerated claims that he later had to defend, giving Beshear openings to attack.
In a race widely viewed as a tossup, Trump will headline an election-eve rally in Lexington that Bevin hopes will help him avoid an embarrassing GOP loss. Beshear, meanwhile, has countered with a methodical, disciplined campaign, sticking closely to a state-based script built around promises of continued access to health care, better schools and legalized casino gambling.
The race is being watched closely for any signs of vulnerability among Trump-aligned Republican incumbents heading into 2020. Kentucky is one of three states Trump won handily in 2016 that are electing governors this year, along with Louisiana and Mississippi.
The race for Kentucky attorney general features a Republican newcomer looking to make history and an experienced Democrat running to get his old job back. A win by Republican Daniel Cameron would make him the first African American to hold the office and the first Republican attorney general in 70 years. His opponent is Democrat Greg Stumbo, a former Speaker of the Kentucky House who served as attorney general from 2004 to 2008.
Cameron has called Stumbo corrupt and weak on immigration. Cameron served as a legal counsel for U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, and assisted McConnell in Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch’s confirmation process. Stumbo has compared the 33-year-old Cameron’s experience to a “third grader trying to solve a complicated math problem” and said Cameron has never even prosecuted a traffic ticket. Stumbo says he wants to “finish what I started” by fighting the spread of opioids and curbing addiction around the state.
SECRETARY OF STATE
A former Miss America is running for secretary of state in Kentucky as a Democrat, but she’d rather not talk about her party. Instead, Heather French Henry touts her bipartisan work. That makes sense in a state that has trended Republican in recent years — which might explain why Henry’s opponent, Michael Adams, is happy to play up his GOP connections. Adams calls himself the only conservative in the race, the only one to have an “A’” rating from the National Rifle Association and the only candidate endorsed by Kentucky Right to Life.
On the campaign trail, Henry emphasizes her leadership experience, while Adams highlights his success as an election-law attorney and his time on the Kentucky Board of Elections. Henry worked at the state Department of Veterans Affairs under both Democratic and Republican governors.
Republican incumbent Ryan Quarles faces a challenge from Democrat Robert Conway, a farmer and former school board member from Scott County. Quarles says as commissioner he has expanded the Kentucky Proud brand and has hired staff to focus on international trade. Quarles worked with Sen. Mitch McConnell’s office on the tobacco buyout bill and has focused on expanding the state’s hemp industry. Conway says he wants the office to do more for family farms being forced out of business as larger farms consolidate.
Kentucky Auditor Mike Harmon’s Democratic challenger, Sheri Donahue, is a cybersecurity expert who audited weapons projects for the U.S. Navy. Harmon, a former state representative, said his job since getting elected in 2015 has been to “follow the data” wherever it leads. The auditor oversees audits of state agencies and county governments. Donahue has said Harmon hasn’t done enough to scrutinize economic incentive packages being offered to potential businesses.
Republican incumbent Allison Ball’s challenger, Michael Bowman, is a bank executive who was also a legislative aide on Louisville’s Metro Council. Both candidates say the treasurer’s job is crucial to the operation of state government. The treasurer oversees the state’s finances and acts as head of the treasury. Ball, of Prestonsburg, says in her term as treasurer she has been a watchdog of taxpayer dollars, has stopped fraud and embezzlement attempts and promoted financial literacy. Bowman says a treasurer shouldn’t be afraid “to ask the tough questions” and hold branches of government accountable.
Two special elections for Kentucky House districts will also be held Nov. 5. In House District 18, Democrat Becky Miller faces Republican Samara Heavrin. The district includes Grayson County and part of Hardin County. In House District 63, Republican Kim Banta faces Democrat Josh Blair to represent parts of Kenton and Boone counties.