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Kentucky Republican Gov. Matt Bevin Concedes Race To Democrat Andy Beshear


Today in Kentucky, embattled Republican Governor Matt Bevin conceded to Democrat Andy Beshear. It's been more than a week since Election Day. After the initial tally, Bevin, the incumbent, was about 5,000 votes behind Beshear. But in a press conference this afternoon, Bevin continued to insist, as he has done for many days now, that there were voting irregularities during the race.


MATT BEVIN: We've got to be able to have integrity. And I would encourage to ensure that the rolls are accurate, that the ways in which we tabulate votes are accurate, that there is recourse to be able to determine what was or was not cast.

CORNISH: Kentucky Public Radio's statehouse reporter Ryland Barton was at that press conference and joins us now. And Ryland, after Bevin appeared to essentially lose last week, he asked Kentucky to retabulate the votes, and that process happened today. What exactly did it show?

RYLAND BARTON, BYLINE: Yeah. So it's called a recanvass. It's this really simple retabulation of the votes, more or less. Local boards have to count up their votes once again, send them back, make sure that it's the same total that they had before, send them off to the secretary of state's office. Turned out to just be a one-vote difference, and it actually went to a write-in candidate.

And so we had not heard anything from the governor on what he was going to do after that. Everybody was wondering if he would pursue an election contest, which is a much more extreme count, which would actually be decided by the Republican-led legislature. But Bevin did not take that route, and he conceded.

CORNISH: What about Beshear? Has anyone heard from him yet?

BARTON: Yeah. So he held a press conference shortly after Bevin, saying he's excited to be able to move forward. Inauguration day is scheduled for December 10. At that point, Kentucky will have a divided government once again. He'll have a Republican majority in the State House, and Kentucky will return to having a Democrat governor. The last one was, of course, Beshear's father, Steve Beshear.

What we do know is that his priorities are health care and education. Also, he says in his first week he's going to restore voting rights to about 140,000 people with felony convictions, low-level felony convictions. His father had actually issued an executive order restoring those voting rights. Bevin rescinded that order as one of his first moves in office, and now Beshear, the son, says he's going to restore it as one of his first moves in office.

CORNISH: This was such a bitterly fought election, and the last week was contentious. I mean, what does this tell us, if anything, about what we can expect from 2020?

BARTON: I mean, the big takeaway is a really - is a pretty local one. Governor Bevin was just not well-liked in Kentucky. He was regularly rated one of the least popular governors in Kentucky - in the country, actually. Every other statewide Republican did manage to win on Election Day. So there's this sense in - that Kentucky just really wanted change at the top. This Republican defeat wasn't necessarily about President Trump.

I've also been talking to voting rights and security experts who were concerned about, you know, damage that Bevin may have done alleging voter fraud in the election, which he was - you know, which he was suggesting in this last week. And you know - and I have to say, there is a bipartisan group of lawmakers, from Mitch McConnell on down, who are really encouraging the governor to move on and, you know, especially without having any solid evidence of any voter fraud, to just move along. And you know, that's where we are now. Bevin finally has answered the call and just moved along.

CORNISH: That's Ryland Barton of Kentucky Public Radio, their statehouse reporter.

Thank you.

BARTON: Thanks, Audie.

(SOUNDBITE OF WOWFLOWER'S "SARO ABEND") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ryland is the state capitol reporter for the Kentucky Public Radio Network, a group of public radio stations including WKU Public Radio. A native of Lexington, Ryland has covered politics and state government for NPR member stations KWBU in Waco and KUT in Austin.