Top Republican backpedals on threat to overturn Kentucky governor election


Kentucky Republican Senate President Robert Stivers now wants Gov. Matt Bevin to just concede the race.

Days after suggesting the state legislature could just overturn the decision of Kentucky voters, Republican state Senate President Robert Stivers abruptly reversed course.

"It's time to call it quits and go home," Stivers told the Louisville Courier Journal on Friday about Gov. Matt Bevin's loss to Democrat Andy Beshear. Bevin should "say he had a good four years and congratulate Gov.-elect Beshear," Stivers added.

That sentiment is a far cry from what Stivers said on Wednesday, following Bevin's 5,000 vote loss. At that time, Stivers griped about the narrow loss and suggested there was a legislative way to keep Bevin in office.

"There's less than one-half of 1%, as I understand, separating the governor and the attorney general," Stivers said at the time. "We will follow the letter of the law and what various processes determine."

Bevin has already called for the state to recanvass the election results, which would ensure all the vote totals were properly reported. Experts agree that it is unlikely a recanvass will change the election outcome. But Stivers was alluding to a different method to keep Bevin in power.

The Kentucky state constitution calls on the legislature to determine the outcome of "contested" gubernatorial elections. Republicans control both chambers of Kentucky's legislature, meaning legislators could disregard voters and declare Bevin the winner of the election.

Stivers reversed his position on this tactic after receiving angry calls and messages for suggesting a legislative coup to disenfranchise Kentucky voters, he told the Courier Journal.

While Stivers seems to be backing down, he still insisted that the legislature may have a role to play.

If Bevin decides to contest the election results, Stivers told the Courier Journal that "it's a constitutional mandate" that the legislature come together and make a decision. But Stivers said that even if the legislature meets on the issue, it does not mean the legislature would side with Bevin.

"It's a pretty high bar," Stivers said, adding that there would need to be compelling evidence of fraud or malfeasance. While Bevin has complained of voter irregularities, he has thus far not produced any evidence to back up his claims.

"Any attempt by Gov. Bevin to undermine these results in the legislature is wrong and should be viewed as a direct attack on the democratic process," Kentucky Democratic Senate Leader Morgan McGarvey said on Wednesday.

Republicans across the country have a history of using the legislature to thwart the will of voters if they begin to lose power.

When GOP Gov. Scott Walker lost his 2018 reelection bid in Wisconsin, Republicans in the state legislature swiftly passed legislation weakening the office of the governor before Democrat Tony Evers took over.

Two years earlier, Republicans in North Carolina did the same thing when Democrat Roy Cooper won a close election to become governor

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.