Lyon County voters turned out in force last week to back Republican candidates across the board, helping to sweep five into statewide office but losing their preference for the governor's mansion. They also gave their approval to an unopposed magistrate appointed last spring to fill an unexpired term.
Andy Beshear, elected Kentucky's Democratic Attorney General four years, appears to have a new job starting next year. He defeated incumbent Gov. Matt Bevin, a first-term Republican, in the Nov. 5 election by just more than 5,000 votes among 1.44 million statewide ballots. Bevin at press time had yet to concede and is seeking a recanvass of votes, claiming thousands of absentee ballots may have been illegally counted.
According to The Associated Press, Secretary of State Alison Lundergan-Grimes has scheduled the recanvass for Thursday. Bevin has 30 days to formally contest the outcome once the State Board of Elections certifies it.
Local balloting favored Bevin by a 1,779-1,253 margin over the apparent governor-elect, with and additional 43 votes cast for Libertarian candidate John Hicks. In fact, Bevin earned more votes in 98 of Kentucky's 120 counties, but Beshear had a collective wide margin of victory in population centers like northern Kentucky, Lexington and Louisville, and as far west as Henderson and Warren counties.
Beshear, who is the son of two-term Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear (2007-15), ended the GOP's hope of re-electing a Kentucky governor for the first time ever. Beshear's lieutenant governor is Jacqueline Coleman.
Party no issue
Wade White, Lyon County's Republican judge-executive since 2011, said the switch in party in the executive branch does not change how he will approach his job.
"The people have chosen their governor, and I plan to work with him the same way I worked with Gov. Steve Beshear and Gov. Matt Bevin," he said after the election. "To me, after the election is over, it's not the party, it's getting things accomplished for Lyon County."
He cited his work with the senior Beshear in rebuilding the county's middle school, economic development and the 2013 Freedom to Fish Act.
"I have worked closely with Gov. Bevin, and I plan to work with Gov. Beshear and the rest of the Republican elected officials," White added. "The party of the governor doesn't change the work I do for the county."
Republicans control both houses of the legislative branch.
While voter registration in Lyon County favors Democrats nearly 2-to-1, local voters backed Republicans in all six statewide races in all six precincts by margins ranging from 2-to-1 to 2-to-3.
Among those Republican winners is Cameron Daniel, the state's first African-American attorney general and first to represent his party in the office in more than 70 years. Daniel is only the second African-American to be elected to statewide office in the Commonwealth. He follows Jenean Hampton, the state's current lieutenant governor.
Another first-term Republican will be Michael G. Adams, who defeated former Miss America Heather French Henry for secretary of state.
Other winners in statewide races last week were all GOP incumbents - Auditor of Public Accounts Mike Harmon, Treasurer Allison Ball and Commissioner of Agriculture Ryan. F. Quarles. All won in landslides by more than 200,000 votes. Ball was the top votegetter in the state and won all but three counties, as did Quarles. Harmon lost only four counties.
Voters in Lyon County Magisterial District 2 gave Quin Sutton 850 votes as the only candidate to fill the seat he was appointed to fill earlier this year upon the resignation of Danny Walker. Sutton will serve until 2022. He is the only Republican magistrate.
Replacing Lyon County native and Kuttawa resident Bill Cunningham on the Kentucky Supreme Court will be Shea Nickell of Paducah, who defeated state Sen. Whitney Westerfield by almost 20,000 votes in the 1st Supreme Court District. Lyon County voters favored Nickell in the non-partisan race by a 2-to-1 margin.
Cunningham resigned his seat as a Supreme Court justice on Feb. 1 after 12 years. Nickell will fill the unexpired term that ends in 2022.
Forty-seven percent of Lyon County's 6,549 registered voters cast a ballot last week, higher than the statewide rate of 42 percent, the highest for a gubernatorial race in 24 years. Statewide turnout in the May primary was only 20 percent and was less than 31 percent when Bevin was elected four years ago.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.