LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Kentuckians elected political outsider Matt Bevin as the state’s 58th governor on Tuesday, returning the executive branch to Republican control and choosing a Louisvillian for the top office for the first time since the 1950s.

With 99 percent of precincts reporting statewide, Bevin had captured 52.5 percent of the vote to 43.8 percent for Democratic Attorney General Jack Conway of Louisville. Lexington entrepreneur Drew Curtis, who ran as an Independent, had 3.7 percent. About 31 percent of registered Kentucky voters cast ballots.

Bevin, 48, is set to succeed Gov. Steve Beshear, a Democrat who served two terms as governor.

The win caps a swift and dramatic rise for Bevin, who lost to U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell in the Republican primary last year in his first bid for public office. In his second campaign, he edged out an 83-vote win over Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer in the GOP gubernatorial primary this spring.

Speaking at Louisville's Galt House Hotel, Bevin heralded a “great night for conservatives” in Kentucky, but he pledged to unify people from across the state.

“This is your Kentucky. This is our opportunity. We will seek the future together but we will do it as one Kentucky – Republican and Democrat alike. Independent. Those who did not even vote," Bevin said.

Conway told supporters in Frankfort that it was a "bitter" night but said he respected the voters' decision.

"I hope we can always work together in common purpose. I love our state. I love its diversity. I love everything about it. I love Kentucky," he said. 

Bevin's running mate, lieutenant governor-elect Jenean Hampton, made history by becoming the first African-American to win a statewide office.

In what was largely a two-candidate race for governor, Bevin and Conway sparred over education, Medicaid expansion and the state’s struggling public pension system in recent televised debates.

Bevin, a father of nine and former U.S. Army captain who made his personal fortune founding and investing in businesses, campaigned on a platform that included supporting right-to-work legislation; lowering taxes; placing new state employees in a 401(k)-style plan; and slashing the size of state government.

Conway, a lawyer who served in the administration of former Kentucky Gov. Paul Patton before entering politics, pushed for expanded early childhood education; a new office advocating for small businesses; legislation allowing “public-private partnerships” for infrastructure projects; and making state government more efficient.

Both candidates also pledged to fight U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulations they claimed harmed Kentucky’s coal industry.

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