LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Republican Gov. Matt Bevin on Thursday conceded the election for governor to Democrat Andy Beshear after a statewide recanvass of votes showed no significant change to Beshear's razor-thin victory.
Acknowledging the recanvass wouldn't change the outcome of the Nov. 5 election, Bevin said he wouldn't escalate the dispute to the legislature.
"We’re going to have a change in the governorship, based on the vote of the people. What I want is to see the absolute best for Kentucky," Bevin said during a 14-minute news conference in Frankfort. He took no questions.
As he bowed out Thursday, Bevin continued question the integrity of the state's electoral system, which he said lacks "checks and balances." He said incoming Secretary of State Michael G. Adams, a Republican, has a lot of work to do to "clean up" the state's rolls of registered voters.
Beshear, the state’s attorney general, edged Bevin by 5,136 votes following the recanvass, according to the Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Grimes' office. Beshear captured 49.2% of the vote, to Bevin’s 48.8%.
Bevin refused for more than a week to concede, claiming there were “irregularities” that included absentee ballots that were illegally counted and reports of voters incorrectly turned away from voting booths. He provided no evidence for those accusations.
He also contended that some ballots in Jefferson County may not have been counted because of faulty machines, but Louisville officials denied that claim. Jefferson County Clerk Bobbie Holsclaw, a Republican, is Louisville’s top elections officer.
Bevin, who was seeking a second term, formally asked for a recanvass last week. That triggered a process that began Thursday morning and involved each county clerk double checking local vote totals.
Under Kentucky's constitution, Bevin could have taken the dispute to the state legislature, which is dominated by Republicans, by filing an election contest.
But several Republican lawmakers have publicly expressed reservations about overturning the election's result, saying the governor would have to present evidence of extraordinary voting problems to succeed in a contest.
“It isn’t fair to throw that on our legislature, to try to find something that there just isn’t,” Bevin said.
Beshear and Lt. Gov.-elect Jacqueline Coleman are scheduled to be inaugurated on Tuesday, Dec. 10. Beshear has named Deputy Attorney General J. Michael Brown as the chair of his transition team and promised to make a "major announcement" about the transition on Friday.
Speaking about an hour after Bevin, Beshear said he hadn't yet spoken to the outgoing governor but indicated that the Bevin administration already has begun taking steps to aid in the transfer of power.
"This was a tough race, but it is now over," Beshear said. "I appreciate the fact that his administration was already moving forward for a smooth transition.”
He didn't directly answer a question about whether he will keep state government appointees from the Bevin administration, but he said he would look to keep good programs established by his predecessor.
Beshear also said his team would be reviewing the lawsuits Bevin filed.
In some of his last public remarks as governor, Bevin touted his administration’s work, particularly its funding of public pensions, and made the case for his appointees and other state workers to keep their jobs under Beshear.
“Seeing that continuity continue I think would be wise. It would behoove us. We’ve got as well-operating a government as we’ve ever had,” he said.
Bevin was seeking to become the first Republican governor to win reelection. His campaign emphasized the state’s economic growth and low unemployment and his efforts to make Kentucky more business friendly by cutting and modernizing regulations.
At times brash and outspoken, Bevin feuded with teachers, routinely criticized reporters and made decisions occasionally at odds with members of his own party. He apologized last year after he said teachers who descended on Frankfort to rally against possible pension changes put children at risk of being sexually assaulted.
Bevin's loss came even as voters delivered convincing victories to the other five other Republicans on the ballot, and after President Trump implored Kentuckians to turn out for Bevin at an election-eve campaign rally in Lexington.
Republican Party of Kentucky chairman Mac Brown said in a statement, "Kentuckians can be proud of all Gov. Matt Bevin accomplished for our state in bringing jobs and opportunity to Kentucky in record-breaking fashion. Thanks to Gov. Matt Bevin’s leadership, Kentucky’s future is brighter than ever before."
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