Gabe Bullard, Phillip Bailey, Devin Katayama, Erica Peterson, Shelly Baskin and Stu Johnson contributed to this report.
Democrats won five of the six statewide races on the ballot in Kentucky Tuesday.
At the top of the ticket, incumbent Democrat Steve Beshear beat Republican challenger David Williams by nearly 20 points.
In his victory speech, Beshear said Kentucky voters rejected the “politics of obstruction and intolerance.” He added that he’s optimistic about the future, and said it’s time for members of both parties to put aside their differences to keep the state moving in the right direction.
“Let’s reject the political philosophy that says that you have to oppose an idea simply because your political opponent proposed it or because your political leader tells you to,” he said
In his concession speech, Williams said he will return to work as the state Senate President, adding that he’s ready to switch from campaigning against Beshear to working with him.
“We are gonna try to find common ground to work together on and I think all of you expect us to do that, all Kentuckians, and I look forward to talking to him,” he said.
Beshear was criticized for not being more public in his campaign and declined to attend all but a handful of debates and forums in the general election. The governor’s opponents and several news outlets speculated that Beshear was not running on a strong platform, but his running mate, former Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson, disputes that claim.
“The agenda has been to manage this government while you cut a billion dollars out of this budget, balancing it nine times,” says Abramson.
Independent Gatewood Galbraith won nine percent of the vote. In the campaign, Galbraith claimed Beshear had not balanced the state budget, and only moved money around rather than bring expenditures in line with revenue. Galbraith has run for governor several times and he says if this is not his night, it will be somebody’s else’s turn to take on the two major political parties.
“If my ideas and our forthrightness and honest and solutions do not appeal to the people in the face of the other tickets, then I can’t get the job done,” he says.
Down the ticket, incumbent Attorney General Jack Conway defeated Republican challenger Todd P’Pool, who had sought to nationalize the race by promising to fight the president’s healthcare overhaul law and take a stronger stance against federal environmental regulations.
In the race for Secretary of State, Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes beat Republican challenger Bill Johnson. Grimes attributes her victory partly to a platform of granting all Kentuckians the right to vote.
“We discussed the need, friends, to make sure that we are engaging businesses that we’re streamlining the process and that we are putting Kentuckians back to work and I’m here to tell you hope and help is on its way, we will put Kentucky first,” she says.
Grimes ran a campaign promoting business and non-profit opportunities in the state. She also supported voting rights for the homeless, which Johnson did not.
In one of the closest races of the evening, incumbent Democrat Todd Hollenbach won re-election as Kentucky treasurer over GOP challenger K.C. Crosbie.
Hollenbach had 49 percent of the vote, to Crosbie’s 46 percent. Libertarian candidate Kenneth Moellman–who campaigned on a platform of eliminating the office of the treasurer–won five percent.
In the race for state auditor, Democrat Adam Edelen took 56 percent of the vote, besting Republican John Kemper, who finished with 44 percent.
The only Republican victory of the night went to James Comer, who beat Bob Farmer in the race for Agriculture Commissioner. Farmer, from Louisville, was criticized for his lack of agriculture experience, and for jokes he told that mocked eastern Kentuckians in his career as a comedian.