In an extraordinarily close election, Democrats claimed they had won a narrow victory over the incumbent Republican in the Kentucky gubernatorial race Tuesday night.
With 100% of the precincts reporting, Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear appeared to have edged Republican Gov. Matt Bevin, 49.2% to 48.9%. The state’s Democrats declared victory, though Mr. Bevin did not concede and major news organizations did not call the race as of deadline.
In a speech to supporters Tuesday night, Mr. Beshear said he was ready “for that first day in office” and introduced “my wife Britainy, your next first lady.”
In addition, the state’s Democratic secretary of state said Mr. Beshear’s election-night lead of almost 5,000 votes would hold up.
“The lead is substantial enough that we don’t think it can be made up by Gov. Bevin,” Alison Lundergan Grimes said on CNN in an interview during which she referred to “Gov.-elect Beshear.”
Mr. Beshear’s fractional edge appeared to have been built, in part, on Libertarian candidate John Hicks who got 2% of the vote, according to the unofficial count.
Things went better for the GOP in the night’s other high-profile gubernatorial race, as Republican Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves comfortably led Democratic state Attorney General Jim Hood.
With 51% of the precincts in the Magnolia State reporting, Mr. Reeves was ahead by about 30,000 votes, leading Mr. Hood by 53.6% to 45.2%.
But the Kentucky result is a blow to recent Republican dominance in the state, where President Trump rallied Monday night on Mr. Bevin’s behalf. Mr. Beshear’s father had held the same governor’s mansion before Mr. Bevin, and a Democratic win would give them back a seat they had held for 36 of the past 40 years.
The governor’s race was a bitter one, with Mr. Bevin’s presiding over an economic surge but doing so with an occasionally pugnacious style.
Suggesting that the governor’s race was about Mr. Bevin, the state attorney general race went as expected as Republican Daniel Cameron, a former aide to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, took about 60% of the vote and will become the state’s first black attorney general; and the first Republican to hold the post since 1948.
The Mississippi election was a less heated affair than the Kentucky one, but it nonetheless pitted two politicians who had appeared destined to go head-to-head for governor. Mr. Hood is the last statewide elected Democrat, but he has accomplished that across multiple elections.
Democrats in both states steered clear of President Trump, neither backing the House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry nor condemning it. At times, it was hard to see much difference between Mr. Beshear’s and Mr. Hood’s positions.Faced with a popular president and surging economies, the Democratic candidates looked to boost their edges in metropolitan areas.
“I am pro-life, pro-gun, and I’ve worked to keep partisanship out of all my decisions in representing the state for my entire career as attorney general,” Mr. Hood said in one of his last fundraising blasts Oct. 31.
Republicans, however, did all they could to tie the state races to the national agenda. The Trump administration stumped hard for Mr. Reeves and Mr. Bevin.
Mr. Trump held rallies in Mississippi and Kentucky in the campaign’s closing days. Vice President Mike Pence also made appearances in both states.
The Republican candidates bet the leftward lurch of the Democratic Party would be a millstone around their Democratic challengers if they could attach it. In debates and ads the Republicans painted their opponents as sympathetic to unpopular coastal left-wingers.
Kentucky media predicted Tuesday the race could be settled in the “split seven” counties where the electorate is more purple than most in the Bluegrass State.
Pollsters were unable to discern a clear leader before Tuesday, declaring the race a toss-up, although a handful of Kentucky political scientists told The Washington Times the race seemed to be trending in Mr. Bevin’s favor in the closing days.
In Mississippi, both sides flogged turnout, with Democrats hoping the state’s large black population could play a significant role in a win for Mr. Hood.
The Clarion Ledger predicted heavy turnout Tuesday morning among the Mississippi’s 1.9 million registered voters, basing its call on the 58,000 absentee ballots that were requested, a 40% increase from the total in the 2015 statewide races.