A Breakdown of the Kentucky Gubernatorial Election

Credit: New York Times

Aria Balani

The gubernatorial election that took place on November 7th was quite tense and divisive, with Daniel Cameron (R) narrowly losing to incumbent Andy Beshear (D). The margin of this poll was slim, with Beshear coming in first by only 5%. Although Kentucky is currently considered a red state, the state has had only Democratic governors since 1974 (with the two exceptions being Matt Bevin’s four-year term that began in 2015 and Ernie Fletcher’s 2003 term). Many question why the Kentucky governor’s political affiliations have historically not adequately reflected the views of many Kentuckians. 

A bit about the two gubernatorial candidates: 

Kentucky Attorney General, Daniel Cameron, has held his position in office since 2020 and is the state’s first Black attorney general. He is also the first Republican to hold this job since 1948. The policies of Cameron and Beshear differ greatly. Current Attorney General Daniel Cameron’s website states that he is a strong pro-life advocate, is against the “woke agenda”, and has a plan to take on the drug epidemic in Kentucky. 

The other candidate, Andy Beshear, was elected to be the Governor of Kentucky in 2019. Andy—son of former Governor Steve Beshear, who served his term as governor from 2007 to 2015–prioritizes creating solutions and working through the following issues: protecting abortion access, fighting inflation, and expanding access to clean drinking water.

So, how was Andy Beshear able to attain such success as the minority party in his state? According to polls conducted by Emerson College in early October, Beshear had been ahead of Cameron by 16 points. Executive Director of Emerson College Polling notes that “Governor Beshear not only holds the majority of Democratic voters’ support at 85%, but also 44% of independent voters’ support and 28% of Republican voters’ support.” Additionally, Beshear held 85% of Democratic voters’ support while Cameron had only 53% support of Republican voters

One aspect of Beshear’s campaign that grew his support was his ability to successfully separate himself from President Joe Biden. Our nation’s current president is not very well regarded in the eyes of many Kentuckians. So, Beshear’s strategic distance between himself and the President, as well as his moderate-leaning stance, is proving to work well in the Bluegrass state. 

Another large factor that influenced voting demographics was the area in which voters live. The election map shows highly concentrated areas of blue voters surrounded by a majority of red voters. Kentucky’s largest cities are Lexington and Louisville with just over 620,000 and 320,000 people in each city, respectively. Traditionally, in more urban areas, voters are more likely to be Democratic voters, while in more rural areas, voters are more likely to vote Republican. A statistic on the population growth in the state reports that “since 2000, more than one-third of the growth in the state has occurred in the Louisville area, and this is expected to continue.” Coupled with Beshear’s success in distancing himself from Biden, this population growth in urban areas increased Beshear’s chances of a second term. 

Both Beshear and Cameron based their campaigns on resolving the issues facing Kentucky and creating solutions for their growing state. But looking to the future, this will be Andy Beshear’s second, and final, term as Kentucky governor. So, the next question is: who will fill his shoes in the future?

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