- Associated Press - Thursday, November 5, 2015

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Republican Matt Bevin is turning to a pair of former rivals to help him as he transitions to become Kentucky’s next governor.

Thursday, Bevin named former Republican primary opponent Hal Heiner as one of 21 people on his transition team. And Friday he will meet with U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who crushed Bevin in the 2014 Senate primary.

“We’re going to meet tomorrow afternoon and share thoughts about getting started,” McConnell told The Associated Press in an interview. “There’s a very short transition period in Kentucky. You get elected and a month later you’re sworn in.”

Heiner spent more than $4 million during the Republican primary, more than Bevin spent for the entire election cycle. The two often sparred in public debates over Bevin’s property tax issues and Heiner’s record as a former Louisville Metro councilman. A pro-Heiner super PAC even aired negative TV ads against Bevin which inflamed their relationship late in the campaign.

But the two men soon patched things up, with Heiner campaigning for Bevin in Elizabethtown four days before the election. McConnell held several fundraisers for Bevin and endorsed him publicly at the annual Fancy Farm picnic.

Heiner is advising Bevin on transportation issues. Brown-Forman Vice President J. McCauley “Mac” Brown will lead Bevin’s transition team, which includes current and former state lawmakers along with veterans of former Gov. Ernie Fletcher’s staff, the last time Kentucky had a Republican administration.

Other members include former state Sen. Julie Denton of Louisville, former state Supreme Court Justice John Roach, state Reps. Jerry Miller of Louisville and Tom Kerr of Taylor Mill and Paducah businessman Billy Harper, a 2007 Republican primary candidate for governor.

“We have been given a clear charge by the people of the Commonwealth to lead with conservative principles,” Bevin said in a news release.

Bevin defeated Democrat Jack Conway with more than 52 percent of the vote in Tuesday’s election. McConnell credited the Republican Governors Association for its series of TV ads making the race a referendum on Democratic President Barack Obama, a strategy McConnell employed to win big in his 2014 re-election campaign.

“I think that was critical in defining the race in a way that people could understand and Conway had the dilemma of having not participated in the efforts of other attorneys general to take down Obamacare,” McConnell said. “I think Matt did a smart thing at the end, since he was under such an assault, to do the commercials with his family to try to mitigate whatever the effectiveness of the attacks had been.”

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