Beshear hit on a path to victory in a solidly red state, buoying Democratic hopes beyond the commonwealth
Gov. Andy Beshear fended off a challenge from Republican Attorney General Daniel Cameron Tuesday night, providing what some Democrats hope is a blueprint for their party to thread the needle in deep-red states in 2024.
In his victory speech to a packed house in Louisville, Beshear began by continuing a theme that he frequently invokes, saying Kentuckians made a choice: "a choice to reject Team R or Team D and to state clearly that we are one Team Kentucky."
While Republicans worked to tie Beshear to President Biden, who polls poorly in the commonwealth, Beshear bucked the trend that produced a red wave in the rest of the races for statewide offices by sticking to a bipartisan message.
But supporter Noah Young, from Mercer County, said afterward it wasn’t just Beshear’s words that mattered. It was his on-the-ground work in regions of the state sometimes neglected by Democrats – where the governor was praised for his response to record-setting floods and tornados.
"When you see the divide you have, the Jackson Purchase of far west Kentucky and then you also have the ancestrally Democratic areas of Eastern Kentucky, that really pulled together for him," Young said. "So the margins are what really counted in this election and I think they really pulled through."
Here’s a taste of the feel at Beshear central. Just spoke with a gentleman with Communication Workers of America who helped knock on more than 3,000 doors in Louisville. He’s optimistic, saying the split was about 70/30 for Beshear. #kygov pic.twitter.com/ugjPcq5us4— Josh James (@JoshJamesWUKY) November 8, 2023
That’s not to say a clear rural and urban divide wasn’t apparent, with Beshear running up big numbers in Lexington and Louisville and Cameron notching wins in plenty of rural areas.
But Cameron’s inability to overcome Beshear in a reliably red state, with the backing of former president Trump, is bound to be analyzed by Republicans and Democrats alike as the parties head toward 2024.
While Beshear’s win is being touted by Democrats as proof the party is still alive in Kentucky, the result doesn’t change the balance of power in Frankfort – which is heavily dominated by the GOP.
The election sets up a similar dynamic heading into the next four years on a number of issues, from public education to abortion and women’s rights. On the latter, Tamarra Weider with Planned Parenthood said the overturning of Roe v. Wade has changed the calculus but keeping the governor’s mansion in Democratic hands doesn’t halt the trends on the right.
"When you see the pledges that all the candidates took on funding for birth control, on abortion access, we have a lot of work to do moving forward," she said.
Beshear also represents an anomaly in current Kentucky politics, where Republicans boast supermajorities in the General Assembly, a strong hold on other statewide offices, and the ability to easily override gubernatorial vetoes.
Democrats also have a thin bench when it comes to future races – a challenge which may hurt Beshear’s chances of implementing policies that last beyond his administration.