Gov. Andy Beshear, flanked by Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman and his family, takes in the celebration at his reelection party, Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2023, at Old Forrester’s Paristown Hall in Louisville. (Kentucky Lantern photo by Austin Anthony)
LOUISVILLE — After a heated and expensive campaign, Kentucky voters have decided — they’ve given Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear another four-year term.
The governor won the election against his Republican challenger, Attorney General Daniel Cameron, with 52.5% of the vote to Cameron’s 47,5%, according to unofficial returns. The Associated Press called the race at about 9 p.m.
Speaking to a joyous crowd at Old Forester’s Paristown Hall in Louisville, the soon-to-be two-term governor thanked state employees, campaign staffers, his personal friends and family — including former Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear, his father.
Beshear, who often touts bipartisanship, vowed to continue being “a governor who serves all of our people regardless of your party and regardless of who you voted for.”
“It was a victory that sent a loud and clear message, a message that candidates should run for something and not against someone,” Beshear said.
In his concession speech, Cameron said he’d spoken with Beshear that night when he “called the governor to congratulate him.”
“We all want the same thing for our future generations,” Cameron said. “We want a better commonwealth, one in which it can ultimately be a shining city on a hill, a model, an example for the rest of the nation to follow.”
In his victory remarks, Beshear noted Kentuckians have come together to face hard times, but said he was looking forward to the state’s future. He called for funding educator raises and universal pre-kindergarten, as well as signaling optimism for the state’s economic development. He did not speak to reporters at the end of the night, but he and Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman will have a press conference Wednesday morning in Frankfort.
Beshear, 45, ran a campaign highlighting his leadership through difficult times — devastating floods in Eastern Kentucky and tornadoes in Western Kentucky, as well as the coronavirus pandemic, during which he held daily press conferences speaking to Kentuckians virtually in their homes. The governor also consistently expressed optimism about Kentucky’s future, pointing to economic growth during his administration, new businesses opening and infrastructure projects in progress, such as the Brent Spence Bridge in Northern Kentucky.
The Democrat’s win sets the stage for his strained relationship with the Republican-controlled General Assembly in Frankfort to continue, ahead of a state budget session to begin in January. On the campaign trail, GOP lawmakers and Cameron often criticized the governor for vetoing their legislation, though Republicans have overridden his vetoes. Beshear often emphasizes bipartisanship as a response, noting he has frequently signed lawmakers’ legislation.
The win also shows that Kentuckians are not entirely red at the state level, as Democrats have continued to hold the state’s highest office. Kentucky voters twice overwhelmingly voted for Republican Donald Trump for president. Trump endorsed Cameron and held a “tele-rally” conference call with Cameron on Monday night.
The gubernatorial election was an expensive race. Together, the two campaigns and outside groups spent $65 million to sway voters.
Endorsed by and singled out as a rising GOP star by former President Donald Trump, Cameron tried to sway Kentucky voters by arguing that he would better reflect their conservative values than Beshear has.
Cameron, who handily won a contested Republican primary election this year and is a protege of U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, focused his message on preventing transgender women and girls from competing on female sports teams, getting “woke” agendas out of Kentucky’s public schools and reducing violent crime in the state. The election also put a spotlight on Cameron’s handling of the Breonna Taylor case, as only one Louisville police officer was initially indicted in the 2020 fatal shooting.
This story has been updated with more recent unofficial returns.
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