Earlier in the week we talked about the extremely close GOP primary battle in Kentucky to determine who the nominee for governor would be. James Comer was counted out of the race until there was a sudden surge from the western portion of the state in the closing hours when he pulled into a statistical tie with Matt Bevin. The race was sent to a recount of the precinct reports and that process has now concluded. It was beyond close given the total number of votes, but Bevin came out on top.
Matt Bevin (R-Ky.), a former Tea Party challenger to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, has officially secured the GOP nomination for governor after his main opponent conceded defeat Friday morning in a primary battle that turned ugly.
Bevin led state Agriculture Commissioner James Comer by a razor-thin margin in last week’s primary, which triggered a recount.
That recount finished Friday and confirmed that Bevin won by just 83 votes.
Considering how bitter the fight was from beginning to end, props to Comer for taking the classy route off the battlefield when it was over.
“Within minutes of receiving the results of the recanvass, I called Matt Bevin to concede and congratulate him on a hard fought victory,” Comer said in a statement, according to the Kentucky Courier-Journal.
One problem with a particularly heated primary battle – depending on exactly how heated it gets – is that the other party won’t be quite so willing or quick to let bygones be bygones and get on with their lives. There were a number of particularly strident moments in the campaign and the Democrats have been saving up all the clips from the internecine battle to use as fodder in the general election.
Democrats and Bevin’s political opponents also rehashed Bevin’s charged Senate bid against McConnell last year, where one of McConnell’s aides referred to Bevin as an “East Coast con-man” and a pathological liar.
The state’s Democratic Party echoed those criticisms in a statement Friday in response to Bevin’s victory. It announced a new website, BevinSelfPortrait.com, which plays up those and other comments from state Republicans.
“We agree with top Kentucky Republicans who have said that Matt Bevin is a ‘pathological liar,’ an ‘east coast con man,’ and a ‘selfish, angry’ politician who is only ‘running to satisfy his ego,’ ” Kentucky Democratic Party Chairman Patrick Hughes said in a statement.
That makes for a few quick attack ads, but in reality it’s more of a gimmick than anything that’s going to move the substantive policy discussion forward. Still, you don’t want to load up the Democrat in the race anymore than he already is. The real question now is how well the rest of the state’s Republican Party structure (as well as their two senators) will be able to play with Bevin as he attempts to gain traction in the general. That’s not a particularly easy job to begin with, since Kentucky has only elected a number of GOP governors that you could count on one hand in the last century. But Republicans have been doing better in statewide elections of late, as demonstrated by their senators, so you can’t count Bevin out of this. The job will be made a lot easier, though, if he gets the vocal support of both McConnell and Rand Paul.
The bottom line seems to be that the wounds inside the party of the last few years haven’t healed entirely yet. Maybe getting everyone lined up behind Bevin is just the medicine they need heading into 2016.