BY CATHERINE HINES – STAFF WRITER
The results of statewide elections in Kentucky could not have been predicted based upon the polls leading up to Election Day. Perhaps the most remarkable result was found in the gubernatorial race, where Republican Matt Bevin won the election by an 8.7% margin over his competitors, Democrat Attorney General Jack Conway and Independent candidate Drew Curtis. Bevin will be only the second Republican governor in 48 years.
This, however, was not the only race taken by conservatives. Four out of the six independently voted offices resulted in Republican victories. These results “suggest that Kentucky state-level elections are becoming more nationalized and that Kentucky sentiments toward whoever is president will impact support for state-level candidates,”Assistant Professor of Politics Dr. Benjamin Knoll said.
Looking specifically at Bevin’s victory, Dr. Knoll said: “I think that the results have less to do with his resume and more to do with his political party. Voters care about resumes but not as much as they care about policy positions and partisan influences. Kentucky has a history of split-ticket voting for Republicans at the national level and Democrats at the local and state levels.”
“We need a fresh start and the task before us has just begun,” Governor-Elect Bevin said in his victory speech. He made it plain that he is ready to change the expectation of the typical person as to what politics looks like.
As Governor-Elect, Bevin will be quite busy in the upcoming months, filling around 800 positions in his cabinet. In a press conference, Bevin noted that he is in no rush to fill these positions, because he wants to be certain that he is choosing the right people and intends to “surround [him]self with people who have years of real world experience.”
Upon commencing his new position, Bevin intends to immediately remove the county clerk names from marriage licenses in order to satisfy the request of the clerks who have religious oppositions to signing their names on same-sex marriage forms. While there has been controversy over this plan, Bevin seems quite confident in his ability to complete it successfully. Bevin has also stated his plan to dismantle Kynect, which is the state run health benefit exchange, and switch Kentuckians from Kynect to a federal plan by the end of 2016.
Dr. Knoll noted that Bevin’s victory could be credited to the political attitudes of Kentuckians on a national scale.
“The Boyle County Exit Poll fielded by my students this semester showed that the single largest factor in voting for Bevin—in Boyle County at least—was political partisanship, followed closely by attitudes toward President Obama,” Dr. Knoll said. “This suggests that state-level elections in Kentucky are following wider trends throughout the country in becoming more nationalized.”
Overall, the results of these elections (in comparison to the polls), is “still a headscratcher for many,” Dr. Knoll said.
“Public opinion polling has gotten better and better over the last several years but it’s not perfect by any means,” he explained. “In this case, every single poll by several different organizations all had roughly the same answer which suggests that the problem wasn’t with the polling methodology but rather possibly who they defined as a ‘likely voter’ which will need to be reassessed.”
Click here for more from the Cento on Governor-Elect Bevin’s victory.