LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Kentucky Republicans basked in their statewide election victories on Saturday but warned conservatives to guard against the types of mistakes that plagued the party the last time they were in power.
Republican Matt Bevin was elected governor with more than 52 percent of the vote in a three-way race to become the state’s second Republican governor in more than 40 years. Three other Republicans followed him in statewide office, giving the party four of the six statewide offices along with a commanding majority in the state Senate.
Republicans had a similar grip on power just eight years ago with Gov. Ernie Fletcher, whose term ended in scandal as he and many of his young leadership team were indicted for violating state laws regarding hiring practices. That allowed Democrats to retake the Governor’s mansion and maintain their hold on the state House of Representatives.
“There are those who quite literally are looking forward to us making mistakes, perhaps those that have been made in the past, perhaps new mistakes,” Bevin told the state Republican Party Central Committee in Louisville. “Our primary task is not only to do the job before us but to do it in a way that represents the will of the people.”
About 180 Republicans confirmed the election of their new state chairman, Mac Brown. The vice president of the Louisville-based Brown-Forman Corp. is also the chairman of Bevin’s transition team.
“Gov. Bevin’s victory is truly an opportunity and a challenge to build the party that will generate the leadership Kentucky needs,” he said.
Republicans were in a jovial mood, giving standing ovations and holding hands in prayer while Bevin and other statewide elected Republicans addressed the party’s leadership for the first time since the Nov. 3 election.
Party leaders say their top priority is to win control of the state House of Representatives, where Democrats have been in power for more than 100 years and who enjoy an eight-seat majority. However, Republicans must first defend two of their seats being vacated by Ryan Quarles, the new state agriculture commissioner, and Mike Harmon, the new state auditor.
“Until we take the House we can’t fully change the rudder on this ship,” Harmon told the committee.
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