Kentucky GOP leader threatens to overturn election to keep Gov. Matt Bevin in office


Kentucky voters want Gov. Matt Bevin ousted, but Kentucky's Republican Senate leader says he has a way to overturn the will of the voters.

Kentucky voters want Democrat Andy Beshear, currently the state's attorney general, to be the next governor. After all the votes were tallied following Tuesday's election, Beshear leads Bevin by 5,086 votes, or 0.4%. But Republicans in the Kentucky state Senate are saying there's a way to keep unpopular Gov. Matt Bevin in office.

Kentucky Senate President Robert Stivers, a Republican, told the Louisville Courier-Journal that he has a way to keep Bevin in office for another four years.

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

Stivers is referring to a Kentucky statute that allows the state legislature, currently dominated by Republicans, to determine an election outcome if the election is "contested." Any candidate can contest an election but must specify reasons for doing so. Thus far, Bevin has complained about voting "irregularities" but provided no evidence to back up such claims.

Kentucky Republicans would not be alone in attempts to thwart the will of voters. In 2018, after GOP Gov. Scott Walker lost in Wisconsin, Republicans in the state legislature passed a swath of legislation diminishing the power of the governor's office before Democrat Tony Evers was sworn in.

The Wisconsin Republicans were following the example of North Carolina Republicans, who pulled the same move in the state in 2016 after Democrat Roy Cooper was elected to be governor. Days before Cooper was sworn in, Republicans changed state laws about election boards, drastically reduced the governor's power to appoint his or her own cabinet, and ensured Republican political appointees would stay in their position despite the change in administrations.

In Kentucky, Stivers seems intent on possibly thwarting the will of voters. He told the Courier-Journal that Bevin's refusal to concede the election was "appropriate" and stated that the 2% of votes for libertarian candidate John Hicks would have gone to Bevin if Hicks had not run, and thus Bevin would have won.

In reality, Hicks did run, and 28,000 Kentuckians voted for him. The Libertarian Party of Kentucky adamantly rejects Stivers' prediction. The party said on their Facebook page, "we are always happy to split the vote in a way that causes delicious tears. Tonight there are plenty of delicious tears from Bevin supporters." Later in the post, the group added that they "could not be more thrilled" to have split the vote.

Voter turnout in Kentucky on Tuesday was more than 42%, significantly higher than the last gubernatorial election in 2015, when less than 31% of voters turned out.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.