LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Gov. Matt Bevin held off a challenge from state Rep. Robert Goforth in Tuesday’s Republican primary election, preserving Bevin’s bid for a second term in November.
Goforth mounted what some thought was a surprisingly strong bid, garnering more than 40% of the vote in early returns in eastern and central Kentucky. The AP called Bevin's win just before 8 p.m. on Tuesday before final results were in.
In a news conference, Bevin acknowledged Goforth's showing, saying the freshman legislator "did what you need to do" to have a chance to knock off an incumbent, sending mailers and logging miles to meet voters. He added that Goforth outspent him.
"The amount of money he spent, the amount of time he spent, it's maybe what you'd expect," Bevin told reporters, saying he wasn't surprised to see Goforth get "30-something percent" of the vote.
Goforth, the owner of pharmacies in southeastern Kentucky, almost entirely self-funded his campaign against Bevin. He was critical of Bevin’s tone in office and has said Bevin could have notched more accomplishments given that Republicans have had super-majorities in the state legislature since 2017.
Elected in 2015, Bevin has touted his record on business and economic issues – including historically low unemployment in Kentucky – and has made the state’s more-than $40 billion pension debt a focal point of his agenda.
Bevin told reporters that the focus now shifts to the November general election, where he is confident against Democratic nominee Andy Beshear, the state's attorney general and son of Bevin's predecessor in the governor's office, Steve Beshear.
Bevin immediately appealed to Kentucky's social conservatism, saying Beshear is associated with Hillary Clinton and NARAL Pro-Choice America.
Bevin also played up his connection to President Trump, who is popular in Kentucky, calling him a "good friend and a strong supporter." He said Trump "will be here" to campaign for Bevin.
"It's going to be a remarkably stark contrast between the two tickets," Bevin said. "Conservative versus liberal. Black and white. Night and day."
In a statement, the Kentucky Democratic Party said Bevin's lack of a resounding primary victory is telling.
"The controversial first-term Governor heads into November weakened and vulnerable to defeat," the party said.