After Tuesday’s convincing win, local state lawmakers expect Gov. Steve Beshear to again push for expanding gambling and explore modernizing the state’s tax structure during his second term.
Beshear, a Democrat, unofficially beat Republican challenger David Williams by 20 points Tuesday, garnering 464,635 votes to Williams’ 295,434. Independent candidate Gatewood Galbraith got 74,923 votes, or 9 percent.
Statewide, 28 percent of registered voters went to the polls.
Rep. Derrick Graham, D-Frankfort, said he anticipated Beshear would bring the issue of expanded gambling back to the forefront now that the election’s over.
“We’ve got to do something to save one of the most important industries in the commonwealth,” Graham said, referring to horse racing.
“At the same time, we’ve got to look at ways in which we can generate revenue into the state coffers, and I think all options should be on the table in terms of how we can generate additional revenue for the upcoming biennium budget.”
Expanded gaming was a key peg in Beshear’s 2007 campaign platform, but so far only the House has approved a measure that would allow video slot machines at racetracks. Beshear has said he’s open to proposing a state constitutional amendment, leaving the issue up to voters.
Rep. Carl Rollins, D-Midway, said there could be progress on the gambling issue as well as tax reform in Beshear’s second term.
“If nothing else, maybe David Williams (who serves as president of the state Senate) will let some things at least come to a vote on the Senate floor that he’s held up in the past,” Rollins said at the state Democratic party’s election celebration at the Frankfort Convention Center Tuesday.
“There could be some progress on both tax reform and expanded gaming. There’s no guarantee they would pass, but I think David Williams may let them come to a vote.”
But Sen. Julian Carroll, D-Frankfort, doesn’t expect expanded gaming to pass the Senate with Williams as president.
“I don’t think David Williams is going to change his position on it,” Carroll told The State Journal by phone today. “My hope is that the Senate Republicans will remove him.”
That doesn’t appear likely soon. Senate Majority Leader Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, said on Kentucky Educational Television Tuesday that Williams would serve his current term as Senate president, which ends in 2013.
Williams alluded to as much in his concession speech at the Griffin Gate Marriott in Lexington, saying he planned to resume work today as Senate president.
Rollins said he expects new initiatives – especially in tax reform – from Beshear, who told cn|2’s Ryan Alessi that this election would be his last bid for public office.
“Tax reform is one,” Rollins said. “We all know we need it and we need the governor’s leadership to get it done, and even then there’s no guarantee it would be done.
“But I would hope, especially on that issue, that he would provide a lot of leadership.”
Carroll agreed, calling the state’s current tax code complex and convoluted.
“He (Beshear) doesn’t have to worry about reelection anymore,” Carroll said. “He can take some chances now and do some things that need to be done that would leave him a history of the kind of governor he really was, and I would be hopeful that he would take some stronger leadership in regard to such things as our tax code.”
But after a sometimes bitter campaign, can Beshear and Williams work together moving forward?
“I just talked to Gov. Beshear,” Williams said in his concession speech Tuesday. “… We had a nice conversation. We both decided we were fatigued and need to wait a few days, and we’re going to get together and talk to each other.
“We’re going to try to find common ground to work together, and I think all of you expect us to do that.”
Beshear called his double-digit victory a mandate for the General Assembly work together and avoid partisan gridlock similar to that in Congress.
“I urge members of the General Assembly, Democrats and Republicans alike, to put party labels aside,” Beshear said.
“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.”
In other races
The Democratic slate almost swept statewide elections, with only Bob Farmer, candidate for agriculture commissioner, losing to Republican James Comer by more than 27 points.
Comer received the most votes of any candidate with 520,708.
Alison Lundergan Grimes got the most votes on the Democratic side with 450,079, beating Republican Bill Johnson in the secretary of state race by about 21 points.
Adam Edelen won the auditor’s race by more than 11 points over Republican John Kemper.
Attorney General Jack Conway was reelected over Republican Todd P’Pool by almost 10 points, and Treasurer Todd Hollenbach narrowly beat Republican challenger K.C. Crosbie by little more than two points. Libertarian candidate Kenneth Moellman Jr. received 37,309 votes in that race.
Locally, Beshear received 9,896 votes, Galbraith came in second with 4,020 votes and Williams finished third with 2,686.
Turnout here was 51 percent, second most behind Crittenden County’s 58 percent.
All results are still considered unofficial.