DYCHE | If Bevin win holds, Conway beware - WDRB 41 Louisville News

DYCHE | If Bevin win holds, Conway beware

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John David Dyche John David Dyche
By John David Dyche
WDRB Contributor

It appears that 17.3 percent of Kentucky's registered Republicans have by 83 votes nominated Matt Bevin to be the party's candidate for governor. We will not know this for certain, however, until the recanvass requested by apparent runner-up James Comer is completed, and perhaps after that if there is an actual recount.

Democrats nominated Jack Conway. His opponent, a complete unknown who did not mount a serious campaign, nonetheless got more than one out of every five votes cast.

Conway supposedly wanted Bevin to win. He got his wish and will soon regret it if Bevin's well-run primary campaign and impressive election night victory speech are any indication.

Bevin was widely reported to be the best speaker on the GOP campaign circuit, did well in every debate and panel, and ran good television ads. As for his celebratory address, commentator Al Cross said it best on Kentucky Educational Television.

"That was a heck of victory speech and a marvelous way to introduce himself to Kentuckians. Conway has his hands full."

Conway, the Al Gore of Kentucky politics, will try to portray every Bevin idea as a risky scheme. But Bevin can make the campaign one about sensible conservative change versus the stagnant Democratic status quo.

It will be hard for Democrats and their allies in the state's large liberal newspapers to demonize Bevin the way they usually do. Bevin's running mate, African-American female military veteran and businesswoman Jenean Hampton dazzled in her statewide debut and the beautifully diverse Bevin kids provide an incomparable example of family values.

Bevin has also shown a capacity to learn from past mistakes. He wisely praised his rivals and other Republican candidates for constitutional offices, but even more importantly finally signaled openness to a rapprochement with U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who soundly beat him in last year's primary.

According to WDRB's Lawrence Smith, Bevin said he expected to talk to McConnell and values his advice. Bevin added that no one knows more about winning elections than McConnell. The consummate political professional and a loyal party man, expect McConnell to do the right thing.

In fact, Bevin may be the best situated of the four Republican contenders to unite the party for the general election. It is hard to see how the GOP could have completely come together if either Comer or Hal Heiner had won.

The wounds left over from their fierce battle, characterized by abuse allegations against Comer by a former girlfriend and the Heiner camp's role in pushing that story, may never heal. The claims clearly hurt Comer, but so did his stammering answer to a question about his “bad vote” on legislative pensions.

Comer knew for months that the abuse allegations were circulating behind the scenes and on the web. He could have acted earlier to preemptively address them, but made a tactical decision not to.

Instead, those charges, came out at a time and in a manner not of his choosing. It is a case study for campaign consultants to study, and the second-guessing will go on for years.

Heiner spent at least $4 million of his own money and probably more. That still leaves him second to businessman Billy Harper, who spent $6 million to get 27,092 votes in 2007, for the dubious distinction of highest price per vote. 

When the others were not on the air, Heiner surged early with good ads. But his last ad, which referred to the abuse charges, attacked Bevin, and then invoked "Christian values," was deservedly unhelpful if not downright counterproductive. 

Republicans must not only be united to win, but must also poach plenty of Democratic votes. The fact that so many Democrats deserted Conway, the party's anointed and well-known nominee, is obviously encouraging to the GOP on the latter front. 

It will be interesting to see if Conway decides to run on any issues. Whatever they are you can rest assured that they will be the product of poll-testing rather than personal conviction. 

He has to pursue populist causes, probably including a much higher minimum wage, because of the one issue on which he has actually taken a controversial position: gay marriage. Conway is effectively for court-ordered gay marriage in Kentucky, whereas polls suggest that most Kentuckians either oppose gay marriage outright or prefer leaving the issue to the democratic process. 

Bevin must immediately anticipate and prepare for a much more hostile mainstream press. The state's large liberal newspapers went easy on him when they thought he might weaken McConnell for a Democrat last year and they were too busy with Comer and Heiner to focus on him during this primary. 

But their knives will come out now that they realize Bevin could defeat their dream boy Conway. Those knives can be plenty sharp, as Comer can attest. Newspapers may disappearing before our very eyes, but the desperate can be the most dangerous. 

But, for now, hold all tickets. The Republican race is not yet official, and track stewards are still scrutinizing the photo finish. 

Things are already really interesting. If the recanvass changes the result they may rapidly become even more so. A full-blown recount could blow-up Republican unity regardless of who wins it.

John David Dyche is a Louisville attorney and a political commentator for WDRB.com. His e-mail is jddyche@yahoo.com. Follow him on Twitter @jddyche.
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