FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear was re-elected
Tuesday, becoming the second Democrat to win a U.S. gubernatorial
race this year amid lingering economic uncertainty that's already
proving worrisome to President Barack Obama's 2012 effort.
Beshear easily overcame challenges from Republican David
Williams and independent Gatewood Galbraith in a conservative state where voters routinely elect Republicans in national races. With 94 percent of precincts reporting, Beshear had 438,184 votes or 56
percent, to 271,257 votes for Williams or 35 percent. Galbraith had
70,244 votes or 9 percent.
Williams, the state Senate president, and Galbraith, an attorney
in his fifth run for governor, campaigned on claims Beshear didn't
do enough to create jobs in a state where one in 10 workers is
unemployed. Beshear countered by emphasizing that Kentucky was
emerging stronger from the downturn.
In his concession speech, Williams said he plans to report for
duty in Frankfort on Wednesday as "a new and improved" Senate
"My conviction and my faith has been made stronger by the
effort that I've gone through" he said. "... I feel I'm a better
man for this experience."
Democrats have lost only two Kentucky governor's races since
1950, and Beshear kept the win streak going, predicting on the
campaign trail that he would join West Virginia's Early Ray Tomblin
as the second Democrat to win a governor's race this year.
Tomblin won Oct. 4 in a special gubernatorial election after his
Republican challenger sought to paint as a mandate on Obama's
Williams also tried to make Obama a central figure in the
Beshear endorsed Obama for re-election while Williams blamed the
Democratic president for job-killing economic policies and for
environmental policies that have harmed Kentucky's coal industry,
which employs about 18,000 people. At campaign stops, Williams said Beshear had failed to set an agenda that puts people back to work, noting Kentucky has lost some 90,000 jobs since Beshear took office in 2007.
Beshear acknowledged that the economic gloom continues, but
insisted that Kentucky is emerging from lean times much stronger
than most other states.
Democratic Governors Association chairman Martin O'Malley
credited Beshear's win to strong leadership amid the global
"He remained committed to creating jobs, improving opportunity,
and making responsible spending cuts to ensure that Kentucky lives
within its means," O'Malley said. "And even in a competitive
environment, he stayed focused on these key priorities."
Outgoing state Auditor Crit Luallen said Democratic leaders at
the national level "should take notice" of the win by Beshear
because he has been dealing with the same issues at the state level
that Obama has faced on the national level.
"We didn't set the world on fire the last four years in
Kentucky, but we didn't go in a hole," Luallen said. "We kept the
state on solid ground. And we're going to be able to move forward
and recover from this recession."
Republican leaders quickly lined up to discount assertions that
the governor's race could be a harbinger for Obama.
"Steve Beshear will be up in the treetops screeching like a
buzzard, but there's nothing unusual about a Democrat being elected
governor in Kentucky," said Republican operative Larry Forgy, a
Kentucky attorney. He noted the state's historical record of siding
with Democrats for the job.
Beshear raised more than $10 million, gaining a huge
campaign-financing advantage from the get-go. Williams, the often
prickly small-town lawyer, had banked about $2 million, and
Galbraith less than $200,000, according to the last donor reports
filed with election authorities.
"This race was not about unemployment, not about Obama, not
even about Beshear," said Louisville businessman and Republican
operative Ted Jackson. "It was about David Williams. I think it
would have taken a miracle of biblical proportions for him to win
this race. The likeability factor is just so important today."
Matt Colwell, a bank employee in Fort Thomas and stalwart
Republican, said he's voted for a Democrat only twice in his life,
both times for Beshear for governor.
"I just don't like David Williams," Colwell said. " ... He
seems like an old-school, mean Republican. My mind was made up the moment he was nominated."
Truck driver Rollie Hubbard said he didn't allow Williams'
sometimes prickly disposition stop him from voting a straight
Republican ticket Tuesday.
"I don't much care for Williams, but maybe he can do a bit of a
better job than Beshear," Hubbard said. " ... I don't think
Beshear's done a whole hell of a lot. He hasn't brought jobs to
Kentucky - he's lost them."
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)