- Associated Press - Tuesday, November 3, 2015

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Democrat Andy Beshear, the son of Kentucky’s governor, was elected as the state’s next attorney general by a razor-thin margin Tuesday, surviving a Republican onslaught that cost Democrats the governorship and the state auditor’s office.

Beshear defeated Republican lawmaker Whitney Westerfield by 2,194 votes with all the state’s precincts reporting.

Beshear - the son of two-term Gov. Steve Beshear, himself a former Kentucky attorney general - had the advantage of a familiar name in overcoming bitter setbacks for Democrats, who lost at the top of the ticket with Republican Matt Bevin’s election as governor.

The GOP’s momentum reached into down-ballot races, with Republicans retaining the state agriculture commissioner’s job and wresting the treasurer’s office away from Democrats. The other victorious Democrat was Alison Lundergan Grimes, who was re-elected as secretary of state.

In his victory speech, Beshear said “outside groups took their best shot at us” - a reference to millions spent on attack ads by the Republican Attorneys General Association. Beshear raised more than $3 million, tapping into his father’s deep fundraising connections, while Westerfield raised less than $300,000.

“Throughout all this night, I had faith that Kentucky families and not (Washington) D.C. special interests would choose their next attorney general, and they did,” said Beshear, who was joined on stage by his family, including his parents.

In the auditor’s race, Republican state Rep. Mike Harmon overcame incumbent Auditor Adam Edelen’s massive fundraising advantage to pull off the upset for the job as Kentucky’s chief financial watchdog. Harmon touted his conservative credentials in his underfunded campaign. Edelen was seen as a rising Democratic star and had been mentioned as a potential challenger to Republican U.S. Sen. Rand Paul in next year’s Senate race.

Edelen said the auditor’s election was influenced “by forces beyond my control.” Democratic candidates in Kentucky have struggled to overcome the unpopularity of President Barack Obama.

“The degree to which the national party is out of step with mainstream Kentuckians has created an environment where it’s extraordinarily difficult for a Democrat to win statewide,” Edelen said.

In the most-watched race on Kentucky’s down ballot, the big-spending campaign for attorney general turned into a verbal sparring match between Beshear and Westerfield over qualifications, a critical job evaluation and one candidate’s familiar last name.

Beshear, a private practice attorney, insisted he would stand on his own record as a candidate. But Westerfield urged voters to reject “dynastic politics” and said his opponent capitalized on his last name to rake in huge piles of cash.

Beshear, 37, said his priorities would include combating child abuse, drug abuse and scams targeting older people.

“Together, let’s make this the safest state to raise a family,” he said Tuesday night.

Westerfield, 34, chairman of the state Senate Judiciary Committee, pointed to his efforts for legislation to combat heroin addiction and to allow victims of abusive dating relationships to seek emergency protective orders.

The candidates wrangled over how state leaders responded to the case of Kim Davis, the county clerk who chose jail time over issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Westerfield said the governor should have issued an executive order to exempt Davis and other clerks from issuing licenses to same-sex couples due to religious objections. Absent that, Westerfield said, Beshear should have convened lawmakers in special session to take up the issue.

Andy Beshear countered that the governor cannot change a section of law by executive order. He said a special legislative session would be a waste of taxpayer money.

Meanwhile, attacks focused on each candidate’s credentials.

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