Gov.-elect Andy Beshear knelt at the edge of the stage, shaking hands with his supporters just after finishing his victory speech.
Beshear and running mate Jacqueline Coleman narrowly defeated incumbent Republican Gov. Matt Bevin on Tuesday, according to unofficial results. The pair celebrated at C2 in Louisville, showered in balloons and confetti with hundreds of screaming supporters. Bevin, in remarks at a hotel a few miles away, refused to concede defeat.
“We will be ready for that first day in office,” Beshear promised in his victory speech.
Beshear made a further promise to the slightly more than half of voting Kentuckians who did not cast their votes for him.
“If I did not earn your vote today, rest assured: I will work hard to earn your trust,” Beshear said.
In many ways, Beshear’s and Coleman’s victory speeches echoed what they have said in stump speeches and debates.
Both emphasized public education, for example — Coleman said the war on public education has ended, and Beshear told teachers and Kentuckians that “the doors of your state Capitol will always be open.”
Many across the nation were looking to this race as an indicator of how President Donald Trump’s reelection next November may play out, though Beshear and Coleman did not focus on partisanship in their victory speeches.
Coleman said there is “nothing partisan” about their kitchen table plan, which is a series of initiatives meant to make life better for Kentucky families.
Beshear said that Kentucky voters sent a message — that elections can be about “right versus wrong” instead of right versus left.
Frankfort resident Debi Gall said that she believes voters spoke out on “kindness, rightness” in voting for Beshear.
At a Monday night rally just hours before polls opened on Election Day, Trump stumped for Bevin and other Republican candidates and associated himself with the Kentucky election results.
“You got to vote because if you lose, it sends a really bad message…” Trump said to thousands of his supporters in Rupp Arena in Lexington. “You can’t let that happen to me.”
It may reflect somewhat poorly on Trump — someone yelled “Suck it, Trump” during Coleman’s speech — but this was far from an overwhelming victory for the Democrats. Beshear’s victory over Bevin was narrow, and Republicans won the races for attorney general, agriculture commissioner, auditor, secretary of state and treasurer.
“I don’t think this is a national election,” Gall said. “I think this is a statewide election, and I think we should keep our issues in the state statewide.”
Bevin’s supporters awaited election results just a few miles down the road at the Galt House in Louisville, and earlier in the night, some had been hoping for a Republican clean sweep — which they got, minus the top of the ticket.
Before final results came in, Bevin supporter Helena Pitcock said that this race would be a 2020 indicator. Though Trump was nowhere on the ballot, many at Bevin’s party were sporting Trump memorabilia — including Pitcock, who had on a blazer printed with Trump’s face in red, white and grey.
Trump weighed in about the Kentucky election results — but about newly-elected Attorney General Daniel Cameron, not the governor’s race. Trump congratulated Cameron, whom he had invited on stage with him the night before and called a rising star — “a star is born,” Trump said.
Beshear closed his victory speech with a call to action.
“I want everybody to have a lot of fun tonight, after tonight, this election is over,” he said. “After tonight, we move forward with every other Kentucky citizen as Team Kentucky.”
Bailey Vandiver, a University of Kentucky journalism student, is covering the 2019 gubernatorial race for The State Journal.